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Home : Preservation : Far West Village : Latest News : 12/20/04

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Villagers present Mayor Bloomberg with giant holiday card saying “Season’s Greetings: All we want for the holidays is to save our neighborhood”

GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman (center) is joined by dozens of Village residents and preservationists at City Hall to protest the destruction of Greenwich Village.

Manhattan — Faced with the impending demolition of at least SEVEN historic buildings in an area proposed for landmark designation, more than fifty Villagers braved today’s arctic cold to join with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront & Great Port, and State Senator Tom Duane for a press conference at City Hall on Monday to present Mayor Bloomberg with a giant holiday card signed by hundreds of Village residents. The card read: “From: the West Village, To: Mayor Bloomberg. Season’s Greetings. All We Want for the Holidays is to SAVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.” Hundreds of personal messages from concerned Village residents adorned the card.

Organizers had planned to simply deliver the card to the Mayor’s office after the press conference, but when the Mayor approached City Hall while the press conference was in progress, GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman and State Senator Tom Duane approached the Mayor and delivered the card to him personally in front of City Hall during the press conference. A stack of hundreds of letters from Villagers to the City urging preservation of this endangered historic neighborhood, wrapped in a big red and gold holiday bow, was also delivered to the Mayor with a cover letter from the community groups and elected officials imploring the Mayor to act quickly. Attendees sang carols and held up pictures of endangered historic buildings in the area, in a final attempt to get the City to act on proposed landmark and zoning protections to save the Far West Village before year’s end.

After being approached by GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman and State Senator Tom Duane, who told the Mayor that swift action was needed to landmark and rezone the area to protect historic buildings and prevent inappropriate, out-of-scale new development, especially in light of several threatened demolitions and new developments, Mayor Bloomberg stated “I fundamentally agree with you...I will talk to the two agencies about it.” Berman later stated “It is heartening that the Mayor recognizes and acknowledges the need for swift action. We need his words to be followed by deeds. Landmarking and rezoning must move forward before the wrecking ball strikes.”

“With the holidays and New Year’s approaching, it is a time to consider what we cherish most and what we wish for in the coming year,” stated GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman at the outset of the press conference. “With our neighborhood under imminent threat, we use this occasion to wish the Mayor a joyous holiday season, and urge him to save the neighborhood that we love and hold dear,” he added.

GVSHP, the Task Force, the Federation, and Congressman Nadler, State Senator Duane, City Council Member Quinn, and Assembly Member Glick are all calling upon the City to extend landmark protections to protect the historic buildings of the Far West Village. Additionally, GVSHP and community groups and elected officials have been calling upon the City to rezone the area to impose stricter height and bulk limitations for any new development. Currently, absent the proposed landmark and zoning historic buildings can be demolished at will and new developments, such as the three recently built glass and steel Richard Meier towers along West Street, can tower over the neighborhood’s existing historic buildings. “Right now, we face the imminent loss of our neighborhood if the City does not act soon; we know of seven buildings are that are immediately threatened, who knows how many more we don’t yet know about or are waiting in the wings,” said Berman. The known endangered buildings are:

178 Christopher Street, an 1885 multiple dwelling listed for sale as “demolition-ready,” with the site listed as capable of supporting an 8-story structure.

303 West 10th Street, a historic, modernist 1930s warehouse covering nearly a full city block; under current zoning, it could be replaced by a 30+ story tower, and has been purchased by Lehman Brothers for the stated purpose of development of the site.

163 Charles Street, an 1831 rowhouse with rear stable facing tiny cobblestoned Charles Lane; the house is adjacent to the recently constructed third Richard Meier tower, and reportedly the current owner, disheartened by the rapidly encroaching development around him, sold this historic structure to make room for a 9-story glass and steel apartment tower.

70 Bethune Street, currently the Superior Ink Factory, built in 1919 by Nabisco as a cracker bakery; the building and its twin 100+ ft. tall smokestacks have long been local landmarks. The factory has been purchased by Related Co. for a residential development, which in this case would require a zoning change or variance, given the site’s manufacturing zoning.

393 West 12th Street, an 1897 building originally used as a lead foundry; new purchaser reportedly plans to develop the site.

389 and 383 West 12th Street, an 1856 factory later converted to a stable for the New York City Police Department, and its annex. Both buildings served for years as the headquarters and showroom for designer Diane von Furstenberg, but a recent sale to Russian heiress Anna Anisimova and her real estate company, Coalco New York, for a reported $23 million indicates that the 2-story buildings are likely slated for demolition and development.

Noting that the City has given some commitments and indications of support for the proposed preservation measures, Berman stated that “It is great that City Planning has committed to work with us on rezoning the area, and that signals from the Landmarks Preservation Commission have gotten increasingly more positive; we definitely feel like we are getting close to our goal. However, close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades — we need the City to act now if we are actually going to save our neighborhood.”

Advocates noted that this area of Greenwich Village was left out of the Greenwich Village Historic District when it was designated in 1969, and that they have been fighting to have this area protected ever since. In fact, as far back as 1963, pioneering Village preservation advocate Jane Jacobs called for the designation of this area as a historic district, noting its special character and historic significance. “It’s been over 40 years now, and if the City doesn’t act soon, we will have nothing left to save. Mayor Bloomberg, we implore you, don’t let 2005 be the year that the Far West Village is destroyed,” stated Berman.

Next: 12/23/04
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Home : Preservation : Far West Village : Latest News : 12/20/04

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