The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

8 May 2015


NYU Lawsuit Update

City Council Bill Would Hamstring Landmarking Efforts

Op-Ed: Real Estate’s Attempt to Co-opt the Affordable Housing Discussion

Pushing the Envelope In the West Village

GVSHP Benefit House Tour A Huge Success

NYU Lawsuit Update:

The lawsuit by GVSHP and a coalition of community, preservation, and civic groups and elected officials against NYU’s massive expansion plan is reaching its final stage, the Court of Appeals in Albany.  We were thrilled earlier this year when the court chose to accept our case, challenging the city’s approval of the 2 million square foot, twenty-year construction plan.  
We are happy to report that an impressive bi-partisan coalition of state legislators, environmental groups, legal scholars, and civic leaders have filed amicus briefs in support of our case – read the press release here.  Those submissions address the tremendous issues at stake in the case, the manner in which public parks, playgrounds, and other open space can (or cannot) be given away to institutions like NYU by the City.  In January 2014, Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills agreed with our lawsuit and said that the City illegally alienated park space without the approval of the State Legislature -- a ruling which NYU and the City appealed, and which was overturned.  The Court of Appeals will now decide the final outcome in this case. Arguments are scheduled to begin June 2.

City Council Bill Would Hamstring Landmarking Efforts:  
Intro. 775, introduced by City Council Landmarks Chair Peter Koo and Land Use Chair David Greenfield, purports to help streamline the landmarking process. But the bill would actually require that the Commission act within a certain limited period of time or the site, building, or neighborhood under consideration is automatically not landmarked and cannot be considered for landmark designation for five years thereafter – read more about the bill here and its potential impact here, and read the bill here.

Thus as currently written, Intro. 775’s true impact would be to encourage stalling and delays by developers, create a “pocket veto” for landmark designations, place a chilling effect on consideration of new landmark designations that might seem too complicated or controversial to meet the proscribed deadlines, and tie the hands of Landmarks Preservation Commission in cases where legitimate delays or strong resistance to designations prevents the agency from acting within the required limited time frame. Sites, buildings, and neighborhoods under consideration for landmark designation throughout the City would be blocked from being considered for landmark designation if the Commission is not able to act swiftly enough, though the bill provides no additional resources or assistance to ensure that designations can meet the “do or die” deadlines it imposes. 

Op-Ed: Real Estate’s Attempt to Co-opt the Affordable Housing Discussion:  
Gotham Gazette recently published an op-ed by GVSHP about the Real Estate Board of New York’s attempts to influence public policy and discourse about affordable housing and preservation measures, though their words often contradict the considerable money and resources they have put into influencing legislation and elections affecting these issues – read the op-ed here.
The op-ed comes on the heels of GVSHP’s publication of its report “Check the Facts and Consider the Source: Campaign Cash and REBNY’s Real Record on Affordable Housing.”  The issues are made especially relevant by recent revelations regarding REBNY’s possible connection to recent corruption scandals in Albany, as reported by the New York Times and other media outlets.

Pushing the Envelope In the West Village:  
GVSHP is carefully monitoring three developments in the West Village, each of which seeks to go beyond the rules typically governing development and preservation in the neighborhood.
At 74-76 8th Avenue/254-56 West 14th Street, a developer has filed an application for a variance to allow a larger development than zoning currently allows – a 12-story office building -- on a site currently occupied by three low-rise buildings on the southeast corner of the intersection. Under the law, owners are entitled to be exempted from zoning restrictions if they can prove that they do not allow them to make a “reasonable return” on their properties, and that the conditions creating this “hardship” are not self-imposed, and are unique. They also must show that the variance from the zoning they are requesting would not harm neighborhood character, and is the minimum variance necessary to provide the required relief and allow them to make a “reasonable return.”  You can read the developer’s variance submission here. The first public hearing on this variance application will be at Community Board #2’s Land Use Committee on Wednesday, May 13th at 6:30 pm in the Community Room of 505 LaGuardia Place (Bleecker Street), which anyone can attend to find out more or provide feedback or testimony. The application will eventually be decided by the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals. GVSHP is carefully reviewing the application to ensure it comports with the requirements of the law.
At 51 Carmine Street (at Bedford Street), a developer has filed building permit applications to construct a six-story plus penthouse structure on a site currently occupied by one and three-story buildings. The site lies within GVSHP’s originally proposed South Village Historic District, the first phase of which was landmarked by the City in 2010, but this site and a few adjacent lots were cut out of the district by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. While the proposed new building is no larger or taller than some surrounding buildings, it does appear to be larger than current zoning for the site allows for the planned residential and commercial structure. GVSHP has called this to attention of city officials to ensure that no permits are issued here which violate zoning restrictions. It is possible that the application is simply a procedural precursor to a future zoning variance application like 74-76 8th Avenue (which would require filing an application for the development which does not comport with the zoning, having the application rejected, and then filing a zoning variance application); if so, such a variance application would eventually require public hearings and review. But this application could also be an attempt (intentional or otherwise) to skirt zoning restrictions, and thus GVSHP is closely monitoring the application and calling the discrepancy to the attention of the city.
823 Greenwich Street/66 Horatio Street was sold earlier this year after a lengthy probate process, and lies within the Greenwich Village Historic District. This means that no buildings within its boundaries can be demolished or substantially altered without public hearings and review, and a finding of “appropriateness” by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. An exception to this rule is if serious safety concerns or structural instability require emergency measures be taken, and GVSHP has discovered that inspections have recently found that as a result of bulges and cracks, poor condition of the mortar, and joists pulling out, it has been determined that the sidewall of the building must be removed for public  safety concerns.  We have been in touch with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has been involved with this process and determination, and they have asked the owner’s team to document the sidewall so it can be reconstructed with the salvaged original bricks wherever possible.  GVSHP will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure that the utmost care is taken, the safety of the public is protected, and as much as possible the historic integrity of this building is preserved and restored.

GVSHP’s 2015 Benefit House Tour A Tremendous Success!: 

Perfect weather was an ideal backdrop for the 17th Annual Village House Tour, our most successful benefit ever.  Tour goers were treated to the interiors of some of the most charming, impressive and innovative homes in the West Village, as well as one of the most incredible private art collections anywhere in New York City, followed by a delicious reception hosted by Ristorante Rafele – see pictures of the tour and reception here. Always the first Sunday in May, circle May 1, 2016 on your calendar for next year’s tour!
The house tour is GVSHP’s major annual fundraiser, and proceeds support GVSHP’s education, advocacy, and research work.  In addition to the homeowners and reception hosts who graciously opened their doors to us, GVSHP wishes to thank the Salmagundi Club for serving as our kick off site, Studio Usher for donating exquisite graphic design services for the tour, Frederick Wildman and Sons for the wine donated to our reception, Kass Glassworks and Angelica Flowers & Events  for the lovely gifts for our homeowners, and Gourmet Garage, Murray’s Cheese, Nourish Kitchen + Table, and Two Boots for donating lunch for our volunteers.  We also wish to thank our incredible Benefit Committee for their hard work and dedication, especially co-chairs Leslie Mason and Cassie Glover, Vice-Chair Kyung Choi Bordes and Volunteer Coordinator Kate Bostock Shefferman, the GVSHP staff, especially tour coordinator Drew Durniak, our nearly 150 volunteers, and our sponsors, patrons, and everyone who bought a ticket or made a donation – you made this event such a success.


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