The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) now has a new blog, Off the Grid.
I'm glad to see this now in place...
New York Times: *April 13, 2003**
Building A Fifth Column to Preserve Landmarks
By DENNY LEE
It's not quite Operation TIPS. But a preservation group in Greenwich Village wants residents to tattle on neighbors for suspicious paint jobs, dubious demolition work and clashing window trims.
The idea behind "Preservation Watch" is to mobilize armchair preservationists in the Sisyphean quest to protect the neighborhood's architectural provenance from being chipped away.
"There are countless outstanding violations in the neighborhood," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which started the campaign two weeks ago. "You want to catch the violation before the damage is done."
That, of course, is the duty of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. But the commission has only three staff members, whose full-time job it is to keep tabs on the city's landmarks. "This could be incredibly useful," said Robert B. Tierney, the commission's chairman. "We do rely on self-enforcement and peer enforcement."
Potential informants are told to look for certain clues. The first is to be sure the property is a designated landmark, since only those structures are bound by the preservation laws. Maps of historic districts are available on the group's Web site, www.gvshp.org. The group also suggests checking to see if the required permit is on file in front of the job site; even if that rooftop swimming pool seems out of place, the commission may have decided otherwise.
A report can be filed with the preservation group, asking it to investigate further, or directly to the commission.
Residents of Morton Street, who are currently feuding with neighbors over plastic fences and air-conditioning units, are ready to do their part. "Just last week, I received a list of eight violations," said Albert Bennett, president of the block association.
Others say the idea reminds them of the failed plan by the United States Department of Justice to enlist cable guys in the fight against terrorism. "If my neighbors were doing something wrong, I would talk to them first," said Marilyn Dorato, president of the Greenwich Village Block Associations. "I wouldn't go behind their backs."
Then there is the matter of enforcement. "You can report them, but there is very limited staff who can respond," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council. "Last I heard, there are 23,000 landmark properties."
Copyright 2003*The New York Times Company
Jane Street Triangle Redesign Update
A rendering of one of the revised proposals from DOT
This past Wednesday, representatives from the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) came before Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee to present a revised plan for the Jane Street Triangle redesign. DOT hopes to permanently pedestrianize this small piece of West 4th Street which has been closed to traffic for years. In response to suggestions and comments made by the committee and the public at a hearing last month, two new options for the redesign were formulated by DOT.
The revised plan (full presentation available here) references the historic street grid with distinctive paving inlays, offers some revised seating and planting options, and adds a trio of new bike racks along Jane Street to act as a visual cue to drivers approaching from West 4th Street.
Because the site falls within the boundaries of the Greenwich Village Historic District, DOT’s proposal will have to be submitted for a public hearing before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. When the project comes up for review, we’ll inform you about it on our Landmarks Applications Webpage.
One of the distinctive features of the redesign is the addition of two paved inlay strips that will highlight the former path of West 4th Street through the site. Though West 4th Street has cut through this corner for years, as it transformed from low-scale commercial buildings into the 18-floor Rembrandt apartments at 31 Jane Street in the early 1960s, this small portion of the street was closed to traffic with bollards and planters in the 1990s.
(click to enlarge)
(l.) 8th Avenue & Jane Street in 1933, courtesy New York Public Library;
(r.) The intersection today
Edward Hopper’s Drug Store
We’ll be the first to admit it: We have Edward Hopper fever. Those who were present at our recent lecture on the artist’s work know the extent of the research we have put into locating the subjects of Nighthawks at the Diner and Early Sunday Morning, two of Hopper’s most iconic Village paintings. But these are far from the only Hopper works that portray life in the neighborhood that the artist called home. Greenwich Village was a great muse of Hopper’s and is portrayed in a great number of his masterpieces, including his 1927 painting Drug Store.
Edwards Hopper's Drug Store, 1927
After the lecture I was approached by Bob Egan, a friend of GVSHP, who thought he might hold some clues as to the whereabouts of the storefront portrayed in this painting.
Bob speculates that Drug Store may have been based on the building at 184 Waverly Place (aka 154 West 10th Street). The building is currently home to the bookstore Three Lives & Company, which GVSHP honored with a Village Award in 1991. Not only does the address (No. 184) match the numbers shown in the painting, but the cast-iron corner column also survives to this day.
184 Waverly Place today
Two more views:
184 Waverly Place today, courtesy of Google
At Bob’s request we did a little research into this building, which we found was constructed prior to 1828 (note the paneled Federal style lintels and Flemish Bond brickwork). The storefront is clearly a Victorian-era addition that was altered in the early to mid-20th century. The ca. 1940 tax photo (a very poor photocopy of which is below), indicates that a delicatessen was present in the building at that time. But this would have been 13 years after Hopper finished the painting.
ca. 1940 tax photo, courtesy NYC Department of Records
Now, for a few reasons we’re hesitant to say with absolute certainly that Hopper based Drug Store on 184 Waverly Place. For one, the storefront in the painting is of a very typical late 19th-century style, and there were likely many similar storefronts existing in Greenwich Village in 1927 that have since been demolished. And certain elements of 184 Waverly Place – such as the doorway to the left of the storefront and the number of window bays on the second floor – do not match those in the painting. Then again, our research on Nighthawks at the Diner and Early Sunday Morning shows that Hopper was known to alter his subjects, sometimes a great deal, using elements from a number of different scenes in and around the Village.
That said, this does make us wonder. Could Drug Store have been based on 184 Waverly Place?
Hopper experts: Leave us your thoughts!
What a lovely little building.
Anderson Cooper Shows a Handsome Face on West 3rd
by Pete Davies
The last time we looked Anderson Cooper and crew had stripped off a century of paint from the upper floors of his little old firehouse in Greenwich Village. Back then everything down at street level was still painted over in shiny red and white. But now that's gone and the natural bricks are back. Over the arched entryway, a freshly-scrubbed terra cotta bust of Vulcan keeps an eye on passers-by. This is all part of the massive makeover that AC undertook after he bought the 1906 Fire Patrol No. 2 for a sizzling $4.3 million. Then he hired architect Cary Tamarkin to spruce it all up, and promised to keep lots of the historic old bits intact. Now, despite a hiccup along the way, the restorative renovation is nearly complete.
The word on the street is that the 4-floor interior, with original spiral staircases and brass fire poles, has been fitted out in granite and assorted stone, with lots of wood exposed. Inside there's 8,997 square feet to play with, so no doubt Cary and Cooper have come up with some homey touches, too. Records on file with the Department of Buildings show that an elevator has been added, which required some boring work and soil tests, all documented with pages of hand-done drawings of the dirty work.
Greenwich Village Locals Continue Fight to Save 186 Spring Street Townhouse
by Adel Manoukian
A historic house at 186 Spring Street may be torn down by owner and Canadian developer Nordica, but not if the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) has anything to say about it.
The GVSHP has recently discovered that the 1824 house, formerly owned by Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, has historic significance in early gay and AIDS activism. It served as a “gay commune” right after the 1969 Stonewall Riots—a series of violent demonstrations against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. Residents of the house in the early 1970s included Jim Owles, the first openly gay candidate for city public office and Dr. Bruce Voeller, the co-founder and director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This organization was the first to advocate gay and lesbian rights and was able to remove “homosexuality” off the list of mental disorders among other accomplishments.
The house is also located within GVSHP’s South Village Historic District, which the organization is trying to preserve as a whole.
The Canadian developer Nordica is planning to build a seven-story building that will have two floors of retail, three single-floor apartments and a duplex penthouse at 182 Spring Street, according to DNA Info.
Because of these recent discoveries, GVSHP has been able to get letters of support from political representatives like State Senator Tom Duane and City Councilmember Danny Dromm. The organization also urges residents and people in support of the fight to write letters to the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC). Due to the continued support, the City has not yet issued demolition permits for the space and GVSHP is trying to keep it that way.
David W. Dunlap/The New York Times A three-house row on Spring Street dates to the early 1800s.
The house at left, No. 186, is to be demolished to make way for a seven-story apartment building at Spring and Thompson Streets.
Demolition Awaits a Spring Street Row House With a Beastie Boy Connection
Behind Those Old Bricks on Spring Street, Memories of a 1970s Gay Hub