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GVSHP Exec. Dir. Andrew Berman was joined by more than 40 demonstrators in the freezing
temperatures to protest another planned high-rise that would threaten the historic buildings and character of the Far West Village.
For Immediate Release Contact: Andrew Berman, Exec. Dir., GVSHP
January 25, 2005 212/475-9585 x38 or 917/533-1767
VILLAGERS DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE HOME/STUDIO OF
PROTESTING PLAN TO BUILD HIGH-RISE TOWER
ATOP HISTORIC BUILDING IN HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD;
Protestors Call Upon Schnabel to Drop Plan and City to Enact Long-Awaited
Landmark and Zoning Protections for Neighborhood
Manhattan -- Village residents and preservationists joined the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), The Preservation League of New York State, the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, and the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port for a demonstration today outside the home/studio of artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. Protestors called upon Schnabel to drop plan his plans, recently discovered by GVSHP, to erect a 9-story, 110-ft. tall tower above his 3-story home. Protestors also called upon the City to move ahead with plans to landmark and rezone the area to protect its historic character and scale (CLICK HERE for map of proposed landmark district).
At a total height of 167 ft. tall, the new building would be by far the tallest on the block, and one of the tallest in the Village waterfront area. Schnabel's current building is a historic turn-of-the-century former stable, which community leaders and preservationists had proposed be preserved as part of a landmark district – a proposal which the City is currently considering (CLICK HERE for picture of and info on building). Today’s demonstration comes on the heels of a demonstration in December, when residents protested in front of the home of another art world figure, gallery owner Kenny Schachter, who was demolishing his 1830's home and studio to make way for a new glass and steel apartment tower to be erected on the site (CLICK HERE for more info).
“We are here to say to Julian Schnabel ‘Don’t Sell Out Your Neighborhood’,” stated GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “Mr. Schnabel has thus far profited from -- and contributed to -- the historic character of this special neighborhood; we hope he will not ruin that with a single, gigantic act of greed. As an artist, we hope he can appreciate the value of preserving this special neighborhood, which so many of his neighbors worked to do. If not, we say shame on you.”
In light of this latest threat, GVSHP has called upon the City to take action as soon as possible before plans such as these undo what the proposed landmarking and rezoning plans would accomplish (CLICK HERE for letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Landmarks Commission Chair Tierney, and City Planning Chair Burden).
“This again speaks to the need for the City, and especially the Landmarks Preservation Commission, to follow words with deeds and take action to preserve this neighborhood,” said Berman. “The Mayor has said he supports our proposal for landmarking and rezoning the area; City Planning says they will downzone the area as we have urged; and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has given us encouraging signals about landmarking. But we need action, and we need it now. An 1832 rowhouse was demolished last month due to the city’s inaction; now a historic turn-of-the-century stable will have an enormous tower erected atop it. And six other buildings are known to currently be in danger of demolition for high-rise construction. If the City really cares about protecting this neighborhood, it needs to act now, or it will be too late.”
Berman also warned the City that leaving landmarking and rezoning plans in limbo is encouraging a development rush along the Greenwich Village waterfront. “For the City to publicly state that they are considering landmarking and zoning changes to this area and then wait months before taking action is like waving red meat in front of developers,” stated Berman.
When GVSHP first discovered plans by Mr. Schnabel to erect this enormous tower over his existing building, it reached out to Mr. Schanbel to ask him to meet with them, reconsider his plans, and instead join with many of his neighbors who are fighting to preserve the neighborhood through landmarking (CLICK HERE for letter to Mr. Schnabel). Mr. Schnabel has not responded to the letter.
Instead, during that time period, Mr. Schnabel raced ahead in pursuit of expedited approval for his plans. Rather than applying for a new permit for this project, which would have taken weeks, Schanbel applied for -- and just days prior to the demonstration received -- a much simpler and quicker approval by getting an amendment to a 1995 permit. However, that 9-year old permit, issued to a different owner, was for a small two-story addition to the building, as opposed to the 9-story, 110-ft. tall addition Schnabel plans, and demonstrators questioned the appropriateness of the City issuing such a permit in this case.
"It seems questionable at best for the City to give permission for a new project by a new owner that is five times the size of the original based on a 9 year old permit," said Berman. "It doesn't look good for either Mr. Schnabel or the City when Schnabel races ahead to get short cut approval for this project and the City grants it, at the same that we are fighting for landmark status and trying to reach Mr. Schnabel to discuss his plans before they are finalized," he added.
The six other buildings within the area proposed for landmarking which GVSHP has identified as threatened with demolition and inappropriate development are:
· 178 Christopher Street, an 1885 multiple-dwelling (for pictures and info, CLICK HERE).
· 303 West 10th Street, a modernist 1930’s warehouse covering nearly a full city block; purchased by Lehman Brothers (CLICK HERE).
· 70 Bethune Street, a 1919 factory with twin 100+ ft. tall smokestacks built as a Nabisco cracker bakery; purchased by Related Co. (CLICK HERE).
· 393 West 12th Street, an 1897 lead foundry (CLICK HERE).
· 389 and 383 West 12th Street, an 1856 former factory and New York City Police Department stable; currently headquarters and showroom for designer Diane von Furstenberg, sold to Russian heiress Anna Anisimova and real estate company, Coalco New York (CLICK HERE).
The Far West Village has seen an enormous amount of development in the last several years. Close to twenty high-rises have been built in the 15-block area since 1985, with almost half in the last five years. Seven more high-rises are now planned. Though much of the Village enjoys the protection of being in a designated historic district, which prevents demolition of historic buildings and requires Landmarks Preservation Commission approval for alterations or new development, the Far West Village/Greenwich Village Waterfront has been excluded from that district since its designation over 35 years ago. However, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, working with community groups and elected officials, has proposed a landmark district which would include all of the historic buildings of this area.