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Tin Pan Alley, popular music’s birthplace, could become NYC landmark

The buildings comprising the complex are considered the birthplace of American popular music

The buildings of Tin Pan Alley span from 47 to 55 West 28th Street.

Five buildings on Manhattan’s historic Tin Pan Alley will be considered for landmark status after fielding years of threats from developers. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to calendar the stretch, which means there will be a hearing for the historic buildings and a public meeting at which the commission will vote for or against the designation.

The row of Nomad townhouses at 47-55 West 28th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway is considered the birthplace of American popular music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries owing to the area’s high concentration of sheet music publishers at the time. (Fun fact: The name Tin Pan Alley was coined in 1903 to describe the cacophony of piano music audible on the block.)

Tin Pan Alley represented the first time in the city’s history when music publishers were located in a close cluster, and it also served to push the city’s entertainment center north towards venues near Madison Square Park. The strip peaked with area 38 music publishers in 1907. The buildings themselves date to 1850, and retain much of their Italianate character.

The future of the buildings has been uncertain in years past: The five buildings were put up for sale in October 2008 with a listing that touted the site’s developable square feet along with a rendering of a tower that could rise on it one day. The $44 million price tag failed to woo a buyer, and the buildings were put up for sale again in 2013 with a similar listing.

Later in the year, rumors circulated that Yair Levy, the controversial landlord who the New York State Attorney General once called a “predator”, was the buildings’ buyer. That was more or less confirmed in 2017 when Levy started snatching up more properties near Tin Pan Alley.