The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
20 January 2011

In This Issue

Financial District Office Vacancies and NYU Expansion

Astor Place/Cooper Square Design Changes

Rosie Mendez Stands Up for Preservation

Financial District Office Vacancies and NYU Expansion

Earlier this month office vacancy figures were released for the Financial District, as well as for the rest of Manhattan. While vacancy rates have been declining across Manhattan, the already-elevated rates in the Financial District have continued to rise. With the anticipated addition of millions of square feet of new office space downtown from the World Trade Center, this vacancy rate may only continue to go up.

GVSHP has long argued that it would be better for the city, for the Village, and for NYU if the university were to look towards the Financial District rather than our neighborhood to accommodate its massive expansion plans. These troubling figures regarding the Financial District's office vacancy rate only serve to undergird this argument.

That is why GVSHP wrote to key city officials to again highlight the benefits of getting NYU to focus its expansion plans on the Financial District rather than the Village — read the letter HERE. These officials will not only decide whether or not NYU receives the raft of zoning changes and special approvals they are seeking allowing them to add over two million square feet of space (the equivalent of the Empire State Building) around Washington Square Park, but could play a key role in getting the university to consider the Financial District instead. We are hopeful that these officials will consider that there are much better alternatives for New York’s economic future than NYU continuing to oversaturate the Village.

The next stage in the public review and approval process for NYU’s plan will be the beginning of the ‘scoping’ process for their rezoning application, in which the scope of the study of the potential environmental impact of their proposed changes is determined. We expect that process to begin in February, and will let you know when hearings on the issue have been scheduled.

Astor Place/Cooper Square Design Changes

Earlier this month, the City presented revised plans for a redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, changing and expanding green spaces and pedestrianizing some streets. View images of the City’s proposed plans HERE.

GVSHP is generally very supportive of expanding and enhancing public spaces and making our streets more pedestrian-friendly, and these intersections present many good opportunities to do so. However, one strong concern we have with the plan is that in pedestrianizing parts of Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street, the City’s plan would more or less make parts of these streets — among the oldest and most historically significant in the city — disappear. Stuyvesant Street was laid out by the original Dutch settlers of New York to traverse Peter Stuyvesant’s land, and rather than following the Manhattan street grid, is actually the only true East-West street in Manhattan. Astor Place is also one of New York’s oldest streets, dating back to the era of Dutch settlement and following an Indian trail. 

Rather than eliminating these pieces of our history, we believe that any redesign or pedestrianization of the area should memorialize and maintain these historic street patterns, even if they are closed to vehicular traffic. Read GVSHP's letter to the Department of Transportation HERE. The City’s plan will come before the Public Design Commission for review and approval in either late January or February. If you would like to find out when the hearing is scheduled or submit comments on the City’s plan now, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Rosie Mendez Stands Up for Preservation

In an unfortunate development, yesterday the City Council voted to strip landmark designation from the historic Grace Episcopal Church Memorial Hall in Queens. This is the fourth time in the last several years that the Council has voted to remove landmark status from a historic property designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

The lone vote against removing the landmark designation was East Village/Greenwich Village Councilmember Rosie Mendez. Mendez was also the lone vote against de-landmarking the property when it came before the Landmarks Subcommittee of the City Council, of which she is a member. 

Councilmember Mendez has long been a good friend of historic preservation and sensible planning issues — from spearheading the rezoning of the East Village, to helping convince the City to rezone 3rd and 4th Avenues, to supporting landmark designation of 326 & 328 East 4th Street, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 59 East 2nd Street, 101 Avenue A, and 128 East 13th Street, among others. Rosie deserves our recognition and gratitude for standing up for principle and swimming against the tide; if you would like to contact her office to thank her (or for any other reason) CLICK HERE.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
232 East 11 Street, New York, NY 10003 : 212.475.9585 :


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