East Village Historic District Approved!
We want to share with you the wonderful news that the proposed East Village Historic District was just approved with slight modifications by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, taking immediate effect! Three hundred thirty 19th and early 20th century buildings between the Bowery and Avenue A, St. Mark’s Place and 2nd Street, now enjoy landmark protections — view map of original district HERE and images of some of the buildings HERE. This is a very significant advance over the two small historic districts and several individual landmarks which were the previous extent of landmark protections in the East Village.
I want to thank the elected officials, community and preservation groups, and the hundreds of people who wrote and testified in favor of these designations – today’s victory would not have been possible without you! I also want to thank everyone who supported the efforts by GVSHP and our fellow community and preservation groups in getting the City to expand the proposed historic district last year.
The new East Village Historic District includes many key sites which GVSHP and our allies have fought to landmark and preserve: Congregation Mezritch Synagogue at 415 East 6th Street, the East Village’s last remaining tenement synagogue, which came very close to demolition in 2008; the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 59 East 2nd Street, for which plans had been filed to build a condo-tower above; Community Synagogue at 323 East 6th Street, built in 1847 as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew, from which many of the General Slocum Disaster victims came; and 101 Avenue A, an elaborately-detailed late 19th century tenement with a ground-floor gathering space that was the site of labor rallies in the 19th century and the groundbreaking Pyramid Club in the late 20th century.
Thanks also go to the Preservation League of NY State and the NY State Council on the Arts. In 2008, they awarded GVSHP a grant to assist with our research on the history of every building in the East Village. That research was key in our advocacy for expanding and securing today’s East Village Historic District, and the research was used by the Landmarks Preservation Commission itself in their documentation of the area.
Today’s landmark designation follows the rezoning of almost the entire East Village in 2008 and 2010, an effort spearheaded by community groups including GVSHP, the Community Board and Councilmember Mendez. The rezonings have helped tremendously to prevent out-of-scale high-rise development, especially of dorms and hotels, and to encourage preservation of existing buildings. Read more in GVSHP’s report Keeping In Character: A Look at the Impacts of Recent Community-Initiated Rezonings in the East Village.
Landmark designation will go a long way towards ensuring that historic buildings are preserved, while allowing necessary changes and reasonable in-character additions and new development. Tax breaks are available for restoration work on privately-owned historic buildings and grants and loans for non-profits and religious institutions, which GVSHP can assist in seeking. The landmarks law’s hardship provision ensures that owners who cannot afford to maintain their building, and non-profits that find landmarks requirements financially prohibitive or interferes with fulfillment of their mission, are not forced to abide by any requirements which they cannot fulfill. However, because private and non-profit owners generally thrive under landmark designation, this provision is rarely necessary or used.
While today’s vote is significant progress, the effort to preserve the East Village is far from over. Today’s designation covers only a fraction of the neighborhood, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission only considered buildings within the southwestern quadrant of the neighborhood, south of St. Mark’s Place and west of Avenue A. GVSHP will be working with fellow community and preservation groups, local elected officials, and the Community Board to advocate for expanded landmark protections throughout the East Village.
Thank you for your help and support in making today’s designation possible! To learn more about East Village preservation efforts, click HERE, and to support this or other work of GVSHP, click HERE.