May 23 RALLY AT CITY HALL TO SAVE THE FAR WEST VILLAGE
Contact: Andrew Berman 212/475-9585 x38 or 917/533-1767
For Immediate Release May 23, 2004
SAVE ENDANGERED HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD
FROM DEMOLITION AND OVERDEVELOPMENT
Manhattan -- The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation was joined today by State Senator Tom Duane, the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port, the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, representatives of City Council Member Christine Quinn and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and more than 120 Village residents and preservationists for a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall. Those in attendance called upon the City to immediately institute landmark protections for historic buildings threatened with demolition in the Far West Village, and to move ahead quickly to implement broad landmarking protections for all historic buildings in the area. They also called for zoning changes to ensure that the ongoing wave of new development in the area matches the scale and character of the existing neighborhood.
“There is no more time to waste – the City must act now to protect this neighborhood, or soon it will be history,” stated Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman. “We have waited 35 years, and we cannot wait any longer,” he added, referring to the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District in 1969, which excluded the Far West Village, a fact Villagers have been lobbying to change ever since. There are over 20 early 19th century and over 35 late 19th century buildings in the dozen or so block area of the Far West Village.
A letter was released at the press conference to the Landmarks Preservation Commission urging that they immediately designate an 1830 house at 163 Charles Street in the Far West Village recently slated for demolition and replacement by a new high-rise (CLICK HERE TO VIEW). Though still committed to securing historic district protections for all of the historically significant buildings of the area, those gathered singled out this imminently threatened building to call for its immediate protection. “If the City doesn’t act very soon, we will lose another historic building, and many more will undoubtedly follow, “ said Berman. “They must act immediately to prevent this loss, and follow that soon by extending protections to all worthy historic buildings in the area. Otherwise, we’ll constantly be racing against the wrecking ball,” he added.
A picture of the endangered building at 163 Charles Street (CLICK HERE TO VIEW), and an example of some of the recent egregiously out-of-scale new construction in the area were displayed at the press conference. Since 1985, sixteen new high-rises have been built in the Far West Village, half of them in the last 5 years. Five more are under construction or rumored to be in the works. Current zoning allows dramatically out of scale high-rises, as much as 20 stories or more, in an area that previously largely consisted of 2 to 6 story buildings.
“We are grateful that the City has expressed a willingness to begin a dialogue with us about the zoning for the area and our contention that it allows development that is completely inappropriate. But we need them to act swiftly and decisively to bring the zoning in line with the character of the neighborhood, to ensure that we have no more massive high-rises towering over 4-story 19th century houses and narrow cobblestone streets. That’s not a way to build a neighborhood; it’s a way to destroy it,” stated Berman.
"The current development trends and pressures in the area west of the Greenwich Village Historic District are out of scale and inappropriate. I am committed to working towards the rezoning of this area and the landmarking of its valuable historic buildings," stated City Council Member Christine Quinn, who represents the area, in a statement released at the press conference. Though unable to attend the conference, Council Member Quinn has worked closely with GVSHP and other groups in the Save the Far West Village effort, as have State Senator Duane, Assembly Member Glick, and Congressman Nadler, who also represent the area.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has been waging its ‘Campaign to Save the Far West Village’ as its top priority for 2004. Thus far the campaign has scored a major victory in getting the City to overturn a ruling which would have allowed a 450-ft. tall tower at 13th and Washington Streets, as well as other high-rise residential developments in light manufacturing zones (found throughout the Far West Village). Today's press conference is the third in a series of monthly demonstrations calling attention to the campaign to save this endangered neighborhood; a March 10 Town Hall meeting and an April 18 March and Rally each attracted hundreds of participants. The campaign has generated thousands of letters, postcards and e-mails to the City urging that protections be put in place to help preserve the Far West Village. For more information about the Campaign to Save the Far West Village, CLICK HERE.