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Thread: Push for Historic District in Soho & Village

  1. #46


    Oh yeah, that's right

    Take what used to be some of the worst slums in the city, and just when they're starting to improve, slap big bureaucratic roadblocks on them. The city needs the housing wherever the developers are willing to build it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Empire State View Post
    That's a pretty damn hideous building. Frankly, I am all for putting historic districts in some of NYC's finest neighborhoods. Most of what is being built here is a sin. Bed-stuy and harlem should get the same protection. Build new housing in the places that need it, like Brownsville.

  2. #47


    N.Y.U. support for new historic district goes south

    A map showing the full South Village Historic District
    in the proposal backed by the Greenwich Village Society
    for Historic Preservation and South Village Landmark Association.

    By Lincoln Anderson

    Four years ago, when New York University expressed its initial approval for creating a South Village Historic District, there was an understandable incredulity among local community leaders and preservationists. N.Y.U. endorse designating a new historic district? The same university that, just a few years before, had built a massive new law school building in the South Village on the site of the former Poe House on W. Third St.? (A facsimile of the Poe House’s facade was reconstructed in the new project, but for all intents and purposes, the historic building had been razed.)

    Yet, at a meeting at Our Lady of Pompei Church four years ago between community members and Michael Haberman, then-N.Y.U. director of government and community affairs, specific boundaries for a South Village Historic District had been proposed. And, surprisingly, N.Y.U. had accepted them.

    Still, N.Y.U.’s fully supporting a new landmarked district somehow seemed too good to be true. Now, it appears, N.Y.U.’s pledge may have been just that.

    N.Y.U. recently hired a new planning team. These planners reviewed the South Village Historic District proposal and have decided it’s too large and that certain areas should be removed from it.

    In a March 9 letter, Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. associate vice president for government and community affairs, informed Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, of the university’s revised position. Hurley’s letter cc’ed Robert Tierney, chairperson of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    In her letter, Hurley states, “N.Y.U. supports the study of this general area to investigate a possible historic district…. However, the [designation report] does not necessarily demonstrate that the entire area weaves together as a single cohesive historic district. The proposed historic district abuts three existing districts and subsumes one existing district (Sullivan Street Historic District) [sic] Given the four other historic districts in this area, it seems worth considering whether it is more appropriate to seek expansions of existing districts that share characteristics with the proposed area and create a smaller South Village Historic District that embodies the working-class and immigrant neighborhood outlined in the report. Additionally, the relatively large area, 40 blocks, covered by the proposal may include certain areas, such as portions of Sixth and Seventh Aves., which would not necessarily merit incorporation within a historic district.”

    Four days later, Hurley sent a brief letter to Landmarks Chairperson Tierney stating that N.Y.U. supports the landmarking initiative. Hurley stated in this second letter that the university looks forward to “a full review of the study area…with an eye toward eventual designation.”

    Berman, whose G.V.S.H.P. has spearheaded the South Village Historic District effort, was incensed upon receiving Hurley’s initial letter. He said Hurley’s subsequent letter to Tierney was just an attempt at damage control on N.Y.U.’s part. In reality, Berman feels, N.Y.U. is trying to play it both ways — claiming to support the proposal, but, in fact, working to undermine it.

    “I’m almost speechless,” Berman said in a recent interview. “It’s like ‘1984.’ N.Y.U.’s doublespeak is appalling. I feel like the clock is about to strike 13.”

    Berman blasted Hurley’s recommendation to expand abutting, existing historic districts — such as the Soho Cast-Iron Historic District — instead of creating a new historic district.

    “That is absurd,” he fumed, “because there are no cast-iron buildings in the area to extend the Soho Cast-Iron District into. It’s apples and oranges. It’s ludicrous.

    “They seem to be saying they support a district as long as it’s not the boundaries that we proposed,” Berman continued. “We all know what their promise was and we know that they’re breaking their promise. They’re doing this because they want to control the boundaries — I assure — to protect their interests. They’ve broken their word, as they have so many times in the past. Surprise, surprise.”

    Andrew Dolkart, one of the city’s most respected architectural historians, prepared G.V.S.H.P.’s South Village Historic District designation report. The proposed area would be the city’s first tenement-based landmarked district, and is unified by its history as an immigrant enclave, particularly for Italian immigrants.

    The proposal is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State. It also has been championed by local politicians Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Tom Duane and Martin Connor and Assemblymember Deborah Glick. G.V.S.H.P.’s South Village proposal is also backed by more than two dozen local community groups, including the Soho Alliance, Central Village Block Association, Greenwich Village Block Associations, Bedford Downing Block Association, Thompson Sullivan Coalition and the Morton St. and W. Houston St. block associations.

    “Yet N.Y.U. thinks that their ‘expertise’ in preservation is better than these folks,” Berman scoffed, “which is ridiculous.” (Berman also noted with frustration that in her letter to him, Hurley incorrectly called the landmarked MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District the “Sullivan Street Historic District.”)

    In addition, 40 community and business leaders are firmly behind the proposal, including Lucy Cecere, founder of the Caring Community: Rob Kaufelt, owner of Murray’s Cheese; Karen Cooper, director of the Film Forum; Pi Gadner, director of the Merchant’s House Museum and a MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District resident; and the presidents of the boards of several co-ops in the proposed district.

    The G.V.S.H.P. director has asked Hurley to write a “retraction letter,” in which N.Y.U. would pledge support for the full proposed South Village Historic District, but so far she has refused.

    “N.Y.U. undermining a preservation effort would not be a story,” Berman said. “But for four years, N.Y.U. explicitly promised to support this proposal — and now they’re going back on their word…. There are 200-year-old buildings on Sixth Ave. that need protection.”

    “I don’t think this is a story,” Hurley responded. “To be clear, N.Y.U. favors the designation of a South Village Historic District. When we approached G.V.S.H.P. about participation on their advisory board, hoping to join the conversation about the proposal as it moves forward, it was misconstrued as our not being supportive.

    “It’s disappointing and regretful that this has turned into anything other than our request to G.V.S.H.P. to be part of a very important conversation,” she added. “I know this is New York City, but not everything has to be a fight, and particularly when we actually agree on the substance of a matter.”

    But Berman says, at this point, he really has no idea what areas N.Y.U. would actually want to include in the new district — or expanded existing districts.

    In fact, N.Y.U. never put any specific commitment in writing four years ago. Yet, Berman and others say they had the clear impression that N.Y.U., at that initial meeting, agreed to the same boundaries the community wanted.

    Two local community activists who were at the Our Lady of Pompei meeting four years ago clearly recall N.Y.U. committing to support the full South Village Historic District proposal.

    Stuart Waldman, a longtime advocate for landmarking Greenwich Village’s waterfront, attended the meeting. He recalls N.Y.U. giving wholehearted support for the G.V.S.H.P. proposal.

    “They came out [in support] by themselves,” he said. “There was no question. The boundaries, to my memory, they were really for it. Absolutely, it was set there — there were large boundaries.

    “It seems to me, when an institution makes a commitment, they should keep it,” Waldman said. “I live right in the district — and I’m disappointed. If they support it, they should support it the way they did four years ago.”

    Yet, he said, “I’m not surprised that N.Y.U. would say one thing and do another. They imply that you’re wrong to criticize them. They have an arrogance about them, as anyone who lives in the Village knows — and I had two sons who went to N.Y.U. They’re a corporation. They might be a nonprofit corporation, but they’re a corporation.”

    “Sure I remember. It was my meeting!” said David Gruber, head of the ad-hoc group SoVilLA (South Village Landmark Association). “I was surprised — these were our boundaries. And, in my mind, N.Y.U. had agreed to these boundaries. And I don’t understand why N.Y.U. would now take Sixth Ave. out. It’s my feeling that maybe this wasn’t 100 percent thought out — that maybe they’ll want to go back to the original district, because Sixth Ave. is the most obvious.”

    Gruber said the, in his view, garish strip of tattoo and sex shops on Sixth Ave. is one of the area’s most glaring quality of life problems. Landmarking wouldn’t disallow these uses, but would ensure building facades adhere to a tasteful standard — “so it wouldn’t look like Coney Island,” Gruber said.

    “Our position is this is an historic area,” Gruber said of the South Village. “It should have been landmarked in the ’60s, when the rest of Greenwich Village was. What I would like N.Y.U. to do is come out with a strong, unequivocal statement saying, ‘We support the boundaries of the landmark district as proposed.’ ”

    Meanwhile, Haberman, N.Y.U.’s former director of government and community affairs, after a stint as an outreach official with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, is now president of PENCIL (Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning). Reached on Tuesday, Haberman was not forthcoming about what he may or may not remember about the Our Lady of Pompei meeting four years ago at which he allegedly said the university stood behind the boundaries of the full South Village Historic District proposal.

    “I’m not going to speak on this — talk to N.Y.U.,” Haberman said. He said it was the first he had heard of the flap. “I haven’t thought about it for three years,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on something that happened five years ago.”

    Community Board 2 has scheduled a public hearing on G.V.S.H.P.’s South Village Historic District proposal for Tues., April 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Pompei Hall, at Bleecker and Carmine Sts. (Enter on Bleecker St. and go downstairs.)

    The Villager is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
    © 2007 Community Media, LLC

  3. #48
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Clearly something fishy was going on at 159 Bleecker ...

    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post

    I want to see NYC saved from POS like this \/ which was recently erected at 159 Bleecker (atop the old Circle in the Square Theatre building)
    Soft Market? What Soft Market?

    Big Deal

    159 Bleecker Street

    May 13, 2007

    The Dalton Dorm Mystery

    One of many mysteries buried deep in the file cabinets of the Department of Buildings is the case of the student dormitory of the Dalton School, a private day school on the Upper East Side that has thrived for most of the last century without the need for a dormitory or residence for students in kindergarten through high school.

    But last October, a Greenwich Village developer filed a restrictive declaration promising to turn over six apartments in a eight-story building at 159 Bleecker Street to the school for use as a student dormitory. “The units for Student Dormitory will be occupied by students only, and not their family,” said the declaration, submitted by Emmut Properties, the developer.

    The document surfaced when the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation began looking into how the apartment building, constructed atop a two-story structure that once housed the Circle in the Square Theater, had gotten permission to be so tall and bulky. It towers over the small tenements surrounding it and has balconies that extend over the street.

    The building, it learned, received a bonus allowing it to be built larger, often up to 20 percent larger, in exchange for providing “community facilities” — space for doctor’s offices, schools or dormitories — under a provision of the zoning code.

    When the preservation group objected, the Department of Buildings held up occupancy of the building. But the agency reversed itself and issued a temporary certificate of occupancy, after the developer promised that the units would be used as a Dalton student dormitory.

    Ellen Stein, the head of school at Dalton, and Edward Pinger, the chief financial officer, did not respond to several phone calls last week and an e-mail message seeking comment about the filing. John Young, a principal at Emmut Properties, also did not return calls.

    But Andrew Berman, the preservation society’s executive director, said that when he checked with Dalton he was told the apartments would be used for faculty housing, a use he said was prohibited under zoning-code changes designed to eliminate abuses by developments.

    “The community facility regulations are being abused as a way to make buildings bigger,” he said. “If the building is in fact larger than it is allowed, they should remove the illegal square footage.”

    The developer originally put 16 condominiums on the market, but when the market softened last year, the building was switched to a rental structure. Apartments are being marketed by Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy.

    Mr. Berman has also objected to the size of the balconies and questioned whether the building was too large even with the community-use bonus.

    Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, confirmed that faculty housing is not an approved community use. “The Building Department is requesting an inspection to ensure the dorms are being used as outlined in the restrictive declaration,” she said. In an earlier audit, she added, the department objected to the balconies and the developer “addressed the objection and resubmitted the plans,” which were approved.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  4. #49
    The Dude Abides
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    Really weird^. I know a few people who went to Dalton for grammar school, and my impression was that the place was a very Upper East Side-heavy institution. I couldn't imagine this building being used as a dorm for those students. The whole connection sounds unusual. Maybe someone at Dalton is in the family of the developer?

  5. #50
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003


    That building is HORRIBLE, but seeing the building next to it, it is not far off of the "standard" that was made by some previous people.

    Sometimes you have to, in a market as compeditive as this, require a builder to IMPROVE on a neighborhood rather than just use it. Buildings like this are built to make the most $$ for the least output ($). With buildings going for as much as they do now in NYC, we should not be forced to build crap for the sake of "renewal".

  6. #51
    The Dude Abides
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    Greenwich Pillage

    Before NYU puts up another eyesore, the South Village seeks protection

    by Kristen Lombardi
    May 15th, 2007 10:40 AM

    Andrew Berman is standing beneath the iconic arch in Washington Square Park, facing south toward Lower Manhattan. Not so long ago, the leader of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation would come to this spot to take in the downtown skyline. But no more.

    "You can see why this building is so hideously ugly," he says, motioning to a hulking structure called the New York University Kimmel Center. Its curved-glass and yellow-stone facade interrupts the horizon, standing out among nearby brownstones. Berman points to another building rising up behind an old church, dwarfing it in size. That's the NYU law school, once the site of Edgar Allan Poe's house, now home to what looks like, in his words, "a grain silo tipped on its side."

    When it comes to development, he adds, "NYU does not have a good track record."

    Which is part of the reason Berman and his 2,000-strong organization have submitted a proposal to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission that would make the South Village a historic district. The district would consist of 800 buildings and 40 blocks, covering those south of West 4th to Broome streets, between La Guardia Place and Seventh Avenue.

    Since Italian immigrants settled here in the 1870s, the neighborhood has served as an epicenter for most of New York's great countercultural movements, from bohemian in the 1920s to Beatnik and folk in the '50s and '60s to gay and lesbian in the '70s. If approved, the area would mark the city's first tenement- and immigrant-based historic district. Backers are hoping to prevent big and boorish development—luxury condos, glass hotels, and, of course, NYU buildings.

    Locals tick off the names of lost buildings as if reciting the names of the dead. The old Circle in the Square Theater is now an uninspired 10-story apartment building. The historic Sullivan Street Playhouse has just been replaced by a glass-fronted condominium tower. The 1920s art-deco parking garage known as the Tunnel Garage has become a hole in the ground. Construction crews are currently laying the foundation for swank housing.

    Though South Villagers worry about these developments, they're especially worried about NYU. Folks still remember an exploratory meeting on the GVSHP proposal four years ago, when Berman outlined existing boundaries. Back then, an NYU official had surprised the crowd and embraced the idea.

    "They basically said, 'These boundaries are fine,' " recalls Stu Waldman, who lives on Bedford Street and who attended that 2003 meeting.

    While some residents are now accusing the university of backpedaling, a spokesman for NYU, John Beckman, says the university has always had questions about the boundaries.

    "This whole kerfuffle deserves to be in the annals of misinterpretation because we all support the same goal," Beckman said. "I know that as New Yorkers we all like to fight over everything, especially real estate and development, but in this case we all agree [on the need for a district]."

    Berman is gearing up for the next hearing on the proposal in June, calling residents and business owners, urging them to sign on to the movement. But he suspects that NYU—and any big developer who has designs on property here—has already gone straight to City Hall. In response,

    Beckman says NYU has been in contact with the city: "We wrote a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission supporting the district; that's the extent of it."

    Copyright © 2007 Village Voice LLC, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003

  7. #52
    The Dude Abides
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    Historic South Village in limbo

    By Justin Rocket Silverman, amNewYork Staff Writer

    May 21, 2007

    From 1820s Federal style homes, to the early 20th century site of one the city's first lesbian bars, to the Beat poet cafes of the 1950s, the southern end of Greenwich Village is easily among the most unique slices of urban history anywhere in the United States.

    Yet most of the area lacks the landmark status granted almost 40 years ago to the rest of Greenwich Village, leaving structures like the Edgar Allan Poe House, demolished in 2001 to make way for NYU Law School, defenseless against the wrecking ball.

    "The South Village was really the heart of the immigrant, especially Italian immigrant, section, while the rest of Greenwich Village was a little more genteel, a little more upscale," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which is spearheading an effort to landmark the South Village.

    Defined as a 35-block area roughly south of West 4th Street, between LaGuardia Place and Seventh Avenue, the South Village was part of the original Greenwich Village Historic District application in 1969.

    But the area didn't make it into the final protected district, leaving the neighborhood vulnerable to a temperamental real estate market and profit-hungry developers.

    "Most of the neighborhood is still remarkably intact," said Berman, "and we'd like to keep it that way."

    The South Village was recently given a layer of protection when it was made eligible for inclusion on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Now no public money can be used to build structures that would be out of character with surrounding blocks.

    NYU, by far the largest presence in the South Village, can no longer use state financing to build dormatories. University spokesman John Beckman says a full historic designation could "make it more complicated" to build new campus facilities, but that NYU recognizes the value of the area's historic character and fully supports efforts to make a South Village historic district.

    Berman, however, says NYU has raised the ire of many area residents by raising issues about the appropriate boundaries for the neighborhood.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission is reviewing the request to landmark the South Village, a lengthy process that includes evaluating each building and contacting nearly every landlord.

    Spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said there is no estimated time frame for when the commission might act, but that letters in favor or opposed to the designation can be submitted through

    Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

  8. #53
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    A REMINDER to please write to the LPC to SUPPORT Landmark designation for this neighborhood:

    ... letters in favor or opposed to the designation can be submitted through:

  9. #54


    South Village is certainly worthier of designation tha Sunnyside Gardens --also up for designation. The latter may be "historic" in that it became the darling of Lewis Mumford and other utopian socialists, but it's dull and has only negative lessons to teach about urbanism.

  10. #55
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post

    Clearly something fishy was going on at 159 Bleecker ...

    159 Bleecker Street

    The Dalton Dorm Mystery
    Dalton Dorm Saga Over

    November 11, 2007

    Big Deal

    THE Dalton School, the prestigious private school on the Upper East Side, has dropped out of the dormitory business, public records show.

    A year ago, the developer of an eight-story building at 159 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village received a bonus that allowed the building to be larger than what otherwise would have been allowed at the site, where the Circle in the Square Theater once stood, by promising to provide dormitory space for Dalton to be “occupied by students only.”

    The only problem was that Dalton does not have any boarding students. A preservation group, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, complained about the oversized building to the Department of Buildings.

    An amended application filed last month by the developer, Emmut Properties, proposed to change dormitory space on the third floor into two conventional apartments.

    In a letter to the Department of Building, Andrew Berman, the executive director of the preservation group, said city officials had confirmed that the school had terminated its agreement with the developer of the building.

    Mr. Berman said that without the bonus space provided by the dormitory it was not clear how the developer could justify such a large building. The amended application has, so far, been marked as “disapproved” in the city’s online records.

    Ellen Stein, the head of school at Dalton, did not respond to a telephone call and an e-mail message seeking comment about the filing. John Young, a principal at Emmut Properties, also did not return calls.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  11. #56


    After 2 Years, a Meeting on Village Landmarks

    Published: May 11, 2009

    In January 2007 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission received a proposal for the creation of a new South Village Historic District to protect what advocates say is an area important for its architecture and its place in the city’s heritage.

    Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    Scaffolding for alterations at 12 Leroy Street, a two-family town house in the proposed South Village Historic District.

    In the months after, as the commission studied the proposal, owners of buildings in the area began filing for permits to alter or demolish their properties. At 12 Leroy Street, an 1835 town house with elements of both the Federal and Greek Revival styles, the owner obtained a permit to alter the existing two-family home; part of the facade has already been destroyed.

    At 178 Bleecker Street, part of a strip of 1861 houses that included Le Figaro Cafe and the top-floor studio of the author James Agee — where he wrote “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”— the interior has been gutted, and the owner has obtained a permit to demolish the building.

    Now, more than two years after the original preservation proposal, the commission has scheduled a community meeting on Tuesday to discuss the designation of the district: a swath of the city extending south from Washington Square Park and West Fourth Street to Broome Street, and bordered by La Guardia Place to the east, and Seventh Avenue South to the west. But some preservation advocates say too many properties have already been lost or are at risk.

    “One of the frustrations is there is such a long period between proposing a district for designation, and the commission moving on it,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which made the proposal. “Inevitably a lot of properties are lost during that time period.”

    The Landmarks Commission said it had been using the time to evaluate the area, conducting a walking tour of each of the 38 blocks in late 2007, surveying the area in the spring of 2008 and meeting with preservation advocates, elected officials and other interested parties to discuss the boundaries and timetable.

    “There are hundreds of requests for historic districts, and you have to weigh them,” said Robert B. Tierney, the chairman of the commission, pointing out that his agency was also in the midst of evaluating for possible designation Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Ridgewood, Queens; and Audubon Park in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

    “I haven’t gone and checked every building every few weeks to see if there have been alterations or demolitions,” he said of the proposed South Village district. “But the integrity of the overall study area and proposed designation have not been compromised.”

    Mr. Tierney said he believed that few property owners try to alter or demolish buildings before they can be designated. “If one could ever prove that it was directly in an effort to thwart preservation, then that’s not only regrettable, it’s terrible,” he added. “On the other hand, we need to function as a governmental agency, and we need to respect the rights of citizens and homeowners.”

    The city’s landmark laws protect structures only after the Landmarks Commission has scheduled a hearing on a district or property. Before that, owners are free to file for demolition or alteration permits. And if a permit is secured before a hearing is scheduled, the work may proceed without penalty, even if a building ultimately attains landmark status.

    In the South Village area, New York University has already started work on 133-139 Macdougal Street, the home of the Provincetown Playhouse theater. The theater was considered “the birthplace of modern American theater,” according to the Village preservation society, where luminaries like Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edward Albee and John Guare started their careers. N.Y.U. is now turning the site into a research center for its law school; it will preserve the building’s facade and use part of the interior for theatrical events.

    Alicia D. Hurley, the university’s vice president for government affairs and community engagement, said N.Y.U. was not trying to circumvent possible landmark protection.

    “Certainly we were aware of conversations that were happening about these historic districts moving forward,” Ms. Hurley said. “The timing for this building was much more linked to the law school’s planning efforts and needing to consolidate their research centers.”

    The owner of 178 Bleecker, John Wu, said in an interview that he planned to replace the building with a condominium, with space for a cultural organization on the ground floor. He added that the structure was not architecturally significant and that for preservationists to pressure developers like himself was “intruding on ownership rights.”

    Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
    133-139 MACDOUGAL STREET N.Y.U.: is renovating this longtime theater.

    Office for Metropolitan History
    30 GREAT JONES STREET: This NoHo factory, shown in 1942, was demolished.

    Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    178 BLEECKER STREET: Andrew Berman, a preservationist, in front of this building. Part of a strip of 1861 houses, it is slated to be razed.

    Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
    23 CORNELIA STREET: A nearly 100-year-old stable is undergoing changes.

    “Those tenement buildings are not meant to be historical, are not meant to stay for 100 years,” Mr. Wu said. “Those buildings are temporary buildings.”

    David Aldea, owner of the nearly 100-year-old stable at 23 Cornelia Street, which is now under renovation, said the timing of the work was unrelated to landmark considerations.

    As someone who cares about maintaining the integrity of the Village, Mr. Aldea said, he is not the enemy. “Why not spend time fighting the Donald Trumps who are putting up ridiculous hotels in SoHo?” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to stop.”

    Preservationists argue that the commission’s process gives owners too much time to pre-empt landmark protection of their properties. “Once the Landmarks Commission announces it is going into a neighborhood, that inevitably gives the green light to all sorts of individuals who could undermine that designation, and we all have examples of a rush for permits,” said Jeffrey Kroessler, a director of the Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group.

    Advocates cite other examples of what they consider pre-emptive alterations or demolitions, like the former screw factory at 30 Great Jones Street in the NoHo Historic District, which was taken down while an extension of that area — ultimately designated in 2008 — was under landmarks consideration.

    Similarly, just 12 days before the commission held a hearing on the Madison Square North Historic District in 2001, permits were obtained to convert the former American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals headquarters at 50 Madison Avenue, at 26th Street, into a condominium; the district was approved with the building excised.

    More recently, in March, the Consolidated Edison Company removed the last of six smokestacks from its IRT powerhouse on 11th Avenue at 58th Street, in Clinton. That building, completed in 1904 by McKim, Mead & White, has been under landmark consideration since 1979. The commission will hold its third hearing on the proposed landmark status on July 14.

    “There is a problem where there is a long lag between notification and action,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, an advocacy group, said. “It would make good public policy if an agency could act soon after notifying everyone they’re going to act.”

    At least two bills have been proposed in the City Council that would address the need to improve communication between the Landmarks Commission and the Buildings Department, but neither has made any progress.

    “I’ve lost my patience,” said Jessica S. Lappin, chairwoman of the Council landmarks subcommittee.

    The permit problem is exacerbated, advocates say, because the commission notifies owners well in advance of putting a property on its hearings calendar. In an e-mail message to Mr. Tierney on April 15, Mr. Berman expressed “strong concerns about the ongoing and accelerating rate of loss in the South Village.”

    In the message Mr. Berman urged the commission to schedule its first public meeting on the proposal at the same time that it put the district on its calendar for a hearing, so as not to encourage “bad actors to secure demolition or alteration permits which supersede any subsequent landmark designation.” (Once a property has been scheduled for a hearing, the Buildings Department will not issue any permits for up to 40 days without the approval of the Landmarks Commission. The commission can use that period to decide on a designation.)

    But the next day, April 16, the commission sent letters to all building owners in the area, notifying them of the community meeting, sponsored by various public officials, to be held on Tuesday.

    The commission has argued that it informs owners not just as a courtesy, but also to involve them in the landmarking process and to educate them on the possible benefits of designation, like possible tax breaks for restoring buildings.

    “Preservation works best when it’s inclusive, and people are partners or buy into what you’re trying to do,” Mr. Tierney said.

    To notify owners of a possible landmark designation only when a hearing is scheduled would exclude them from the process, Mr. Tierney said. “That sort of pre-empts the question,” he said. “It’s like shoot first and ask questions later.”

    But preservation advocates like Anthony Wood, author of “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks,” argue that there is nothing in the landmarks law that obligates the agency to obtain building owners’ consent, and that the commission’s current policy puts too much power in their hands.

    “You have a de facto situation where the landmarks law is applied based on owner consent,” Mr. Wood said. “Not legally but operationally.”

    Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

  12. #57
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    When these historic petitions are raised, the buildings should not be forbidden to get permits, but there should b some sort of middle ground or moratorium involved preventing the radical demolition/replacement or other alteration to the building.

    The VERY least that should be put on hold until the decision is made is the facade.

    Other things, such as historical restoration (redoing the brickwork and revitalization of some of the other facade features) should consequently be given MORE leeway than usual.

    Preservation, while honorable in its intent, should not be at the expense of any restoration or conservational development.

    (BTW, I know 80%-90% of these permit rushers are not insterested in preservation, just the bottom dollar.... )

  13. #58
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002

    Default 178 Bleecker Street

    Wintour freeze

    Halts condo to 'save' garden


    Not in my Wintour garden!

    Vogue editrix Anna Wintour is pressing city officials to stop a developer from erecting a condo building that would loom over her private Greenwich Village garden.

    Wintour, in a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, called the project "a totally out-of-scale, inappropriate eight-story building," adding that it would be an "unwelcome intrusion" to the neighboring historic district that she calls home.

    The editor in chief, who wrote the February 2009 missive on Vogue letterhead, also sent an appeal as recently as last week to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

    The proposed building on Bleecker Street would border MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens, a private oasis accessible only from the 22 townhouses, including Wintour's, that surround it. The garden features shade trees, manicured shrubs, a lawn, a walking path and a children's playhouse.

    The secret garden was created in the 1920s and, along with the surrounding 19th-century houses, designated a historic district in 1967.

    Wintour has lived in her four-story townhouse on Sullivan Street since 1992. Financier Ronald Perelman's daughter, Debra Perelman, is a neighbor.

    So was Richard Gere, until he sold his house for $12.8 million in 2007. A home on the MacDougal Street side of the garden is currently on the market for $8.8 million.

    Around the corner, at 178 Bleecker St., developer John Wu's plan to tear down an 1862 rowhouse drew immediate protests from preservationists.

    The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation fought the demolition and lost. The building was knocked down last year and Wu's building plan was approved by the city in October.

    The preservation organization is now campaigning to overturn the approval -- and this time, the protests have worked.

    The Department of Buildings sent a Jan. 7 letter to Wu saying it intended to revoke its approval of the project if its objections were not addressed.

    Among the objections are that the new building would be too tall, violating the city's "sliver law" which regulates height on narrow plots.

    Wu said he intends to fight the decision.

    He said the new building would house a jazz club or cabaret, an art gallery and six apartments, one of which he will live in.

    Wu said he collected signatures on a petition from area business owners and neighbors who supported his project.

    "My design here is very mild. It's not intruding," he said.

    Wu said he was unaware of Wintour's opposition, or what she does for a living.

    "She works for Vogue?" he asked.

  14. #59


    I think there is a danger of over romanticising the former pre 70s ethnic enclaves. Yes they had community but the demise or virtual demise of the enclaves speaks of the success communities have had integrating into the broader English speaking civic and national culture.

    My background is Irish. Back in the days Hell's Kitchen may have been a Little Dublin of sorts butthe descendents of those people livenear andafr and have been a great success. Same with little italy and the rest. By all means seek to presenve what is worth preserving but let's remember the enclaves existed because people were effectively excluded by lack of language acquisition.

  15. #60
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Bohemian Hub for Entertainment, Still Unprotected


    Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    The Bitter End on Bleecker Street, one of Greenwich Village's signature cafes, has survived. Others have not fared well.

    Connoisseurs of Greenwich Village may believe that it is a singular neighborhood that is well protected by landmark designations. But, in fact, preservationists say a vital piece in the Village jigsaw is still at risk — the raffish quarter of coffeehouses and nightclubs where Bob Dylan warbled, Lenny Bruce told off-color jokes, Allen Ginsberg tried out his poems and a variety of nonconformists and wannabes forged the nation’s avatar of bohemia.

    This week, the Preservation League of New York State named the South Village as one of the state’s seven most-endangered historic areas, saying it “boasts sites associated with the immigrant experience, bohemian and artistic achievements (especially in music) and countercultural movements.” The league said the neighborhood, made up largely of century-old tenements once occupied by Italian immigrants, faced threats from development, demolition and alteration.

    The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has long been pressing to extend the village’s historic district so that it embraces 35 blocks primarily between Avenue of the Americas on the west, LaGuardia Place and West Broadway on the east, Fourth Street on the north and Watts Street on the south.

    Included in the enclave are resonant street names like Bleecker, Macdougal and Sullivan that have evoked the throb and electricity of the Village for generations of young people, and longtime or bygone gathering spots like the San Remo Cafe, Gaslight Cafe, the Fat Black Pussycat and the Bitter End.

    “Lots of people think this is the heart of the Village, the place where immigrants and artists lived, and we’re losing that history,” said Andrew Berman, the preservation society’s executive director.
    The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated much of the West Village — a swath of 2,035 brownstones and other buildings on leafy lanes— as a historic district in 1969. Forty-five buildings were added in 2006 and 235 more in 2010. But the commission has not safeguarded the core of the entertainment quarter.

    By some accounts, a largely unknown Bob Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the Fat Black Pussycat and could also be heard at the Gaslight, Cafe Wha? and the Village Gate. After gaining fame, he lived in a town house at 94 Macdougal, where the zealous Dylan aficionado A. J. Weberman sifted through and chronicled his garbage. Cafe Wha? is still there, but the long-shuttered Fat Black Pussycat on Minetta Street is now a Mexican restaurant and last year, the owner painted over the Pussycat’s faded sign.

    “The Village was freedom,” the restaurant’s owner said. “It wasn’t a concreted-over straitjacket.”

    The comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested in 1964 for using obscenities at Cafe au Go Go at 152 Bleecker and was convicted after a nationally publicized trial focused on the First Amendment. The club lasted until 1969 and was a showcase for acts like the Grateful Dead, but it is now a Capital One bank branch.

    In the 1950s, beats like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac idled at the San Remo at 189 Bleecker, a bar with a pressed-tin ceiling and all the bread and butter one could eat. Legend has it that a drunk Kerouac was once beaten up outside. The spot was most recently an Asian restaurant.

    Many legendary spots survive. Caffe Reggio, at 119 Macdougal since 1927, still has an intricately carved bench that belonged to the Medicis, a painting from the School of Caravaggio and a coffee machine that is said to have introduced cappuccino to America. Tobia Buggiani, its manager, supports preserving the district.

    “It’s part of our collective history as Americans, and to watch a lot of it disappear is sad,” he said.

    But in recent years, many sites have been demolished or replaced with little trace of the past. The Village Gate, the jazz and cabaret spot, is now a CVS drug store, with only a small corner sign recalling the much-admired Jacques Brel musical it hosted. The Bleecker Street Cinema, the art house that Truffaut called “the American Cinematheque,” closed in 1990 and is now a Duane Reade drug store and a FedEx outpost.

    A longtime home of the Circle in the Square Theater was torn down around 2005 to make way for a nine-story apartment house. The Provincetown Playhouse, which produced Eugene O’Neill’s early plays, is a New York University Law School building, though a portion of the facade has been preserved and a new theater built.

    A house where Edgar Allan Poe lived has been replaced by another law school building, though a Poe room is open for two hours a week.

    The row house that held the Sullivan Street Playhouse, where over 42 years “The Fantastiks” became America’s longest-running musical, has been turned into a glass-fronted apartment building.

    The tenements whose ground floors house the remaining nightclubs — as well as tattoo parlors, tourist trinket shops and pizza and falafel joints — were once home to 19th-century immigrants.

    Preservationists like Mr. Berman think that era, whose most stalwart emblem is the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua, should be honored, too.

    Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the landmarks commission, said it had not scheduled any hearings on expanding the Greenwich Village historic district, but she suggested there was no rush to do so.

    “While alterations to buildings in a potential historic district are a cause for concern,” she said in a statement, “our experience has shown that changes involving only one or a small number of buildings relative to the overall size of a large district do not diminish the integrity of the neighborhood as a whole, or affect the district’s eligibility for designation.”

    Other intrinsic factors protect the district, including its relatively low-rise zoning and rent-regulation laws that make it difficult for developers to oust protected tenants.

    Mr. Berman argues that time may indeed be important because the South Village will be affected by two nearby developments — a planned N.Y.U. expansion and a rezoning of Hudson Square west of Avenue of the Americas.

    “Our fear is that this neighborhood is going to get squeezed between these two massive rezonings,” he said, “and that will increase development pressure in an already fragile neighborhood.”

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