City Approves Destruction of Historic East Village Houses As Advocates and Elected Officials Gather to Call for Landmark Designation
On Tuesday, GVSHP, the East Village Community Coalition, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, the Historic Districts Council, the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, and dozens of neighbors and preservationists held a press conference calling upon the city to landmark the endangered 170 year old houses at 326 & 328 East 4th Street (see photos HERE, the joint press release HERE, and coverage at DNAinfo.com, Curbed, and City.com).
For months, we have been calling on the city to landmark these buildings — the only to ever stand on these sites — due to their incredible surviving architectural detail, their connection to the builder of the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, their significance to the history of Hasidic Judaism in the United States, and their having been ruled eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In spite of the tremendous support for landmarking these houses from the public, elected officials, and preservationists, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission refused to hold a public hearing on considering them for landmark designation, even as we had made them aware that a new owner was seeking permits to alter the houses beyond recognition.
Unfortunately, as we gathered in front of the houses on Tuesday to make this last appeal to the city to consider landmark designation, the city was issuing permits to the developer to allow the houses' destruction, effectively foreclosing the possibility of landmark designation (see approvals and plans HERE). This was a tragic mistake by the city, allowing these wonderful pieces of the East Village and the city’s history to be destroyed, especially given the very poor track record of the architect in this case (also see HERE).
Nevertheless I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the elected officials, the preservationists, and the hundreds of individuals who wrote to the city in support of saving these buildings. Though the city chose to ignore our arguments in this case, I believe we did the right thing by standing up for protecting our neighborhood and our city’s history and character.
In spite of this tragic loss, GVSHP is moving forward with our project to thoroughly document the history of every building in the East Village as part of a broader effort to push for expanded landmark protections in this historic, under-protected neighborhood. This has already led to some victories, and we hope to see it lead to many more in the near future.
If you would like to find out more about the process by which GVSHP is researching the history of the East Village to identify potential landmark designations, watch this video presentation by GVSHP Director of Preservation and Research Elizabeth Finkelstein in two parts HERE and HERE. You can find out more about GVSHP’s East Village preservation work HERE, and if you would like to be informed of preservation issues in the East Village, please email us.