Villagers And Preservationists Demonstrate to Save Historic 1832 House from Demolition
GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman (center) is joined by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (right) and dozens of Village residents and preservationists to protest the demolition of 163 Charles Street (behind scaffolding).
Manhattan — Village residents and preservationists joined the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Congressman Jerrold Nadler for a demonstration today outside of 163 Charles Street, an 1832 house that activists have fought to have landmarked, and which workers have begun to demolish. The house is part of a proposed Far West Village/Greenwich Village Waterfront Historic District, which if enacted would protect this and other historic structures from demolition. Advocates are calling upon the City to act swiftly to save this house, as well as six other currently endangered historic buildings in the area (click here for letter), and to designate the entire district they have proposed, which would cover an additional 100 buildings over 12 blocks.
For months, Village preservation advocates have called upon the City to act swiftly to protect this area, citing the impending danger of demolition of historic properties; in fact, as early as last Spring, they had identified this very house as endangered to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and urged action to protect it (May 21, 2004 letter). Advocates have staged multiple events in recent weeks to call the City’s attention to the urgent danger to this area. This Monday, advocates held a demonstration on the steps of City Hall, where they approached Mayor Bloomberg with their plea for immediate protection for their neighborhood; the Mayor stated that he “fundamentally agreed” with their call for swift action to preserve the area, and promised to speak to the LPC Chair about the issue.
Advocates are asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission to immediately intervene to save this house, and six other currently endangered historic buildings, which have been purchased for demolition and development:
178 Christopher Street, an 1885 multiple-dwelling.
303 West 10th Street, a modernist 1930s warehouse covering nearly a full city block; purchased by Lehman Brothers.
70 Bethune Street, a 1919 factory with twin 100+ ft. tall smokestacks built as a Nabisco cracker bakery; purchased by Related Co.
393 West 12th Street, an 1897 lead foundry.
389 and 383 West 12th Street, an 1856 former factory and New York City Police Department stable; currently headquarters and showroom for designer Diane von Furstenberg, sold to Russian heiress Anna Anisimova and real estate company, Coalco New York.
163 Charles Street also includes a rear-stable (since converted to an art gallery by famed artist Vito Acconci), which faces tiny, cobblestoned Charles Lane — one of the Village’s quaintest and most historic streets. 163 Charles was the home and gallery of art dealer Kenny Schachter for many years, who sold it for the current development as a 9-story glass and steel apartment tower. The house was originally built for a cartman and carpenter in 1830, and later housed a marine repair shop, reflecting the maritime history of the area. Charles Lane, which the rear stable faces, is one of the oldest streets in New York (dating to 1797), is one of the narrowest streets in New York (about 15 feet wide with no sidewalks), and contains what are believed to be the oldest street paving stones in New York.
The 163 Charles Street house and its rear stable are one of more than 20 surviving early 19th century buildings in the proposed landmark district; one of more than 20 surviving 19th century houses in the proposed district; and one of more than a dozen surviving stables in the district. The house is part of a surviving row of three 1830s houses on the street; on the next block of Charles Street, also proposed for landmark designation, is an 1820 clapboard house (132 Charles Street — the oldest structure in the area) and a perfectly preserved 1834 federal rowhouse (131 Charles Street). The district contains one of the largest collection of surviving stables in New York City; one of the only collection of surviving maritime hotels and monumental Romanesque warehouses in New York City; and an impressive array of residential, maritime, and industrial structures from the early 19th through the early 20th century. The Preservation League of NY State, the Municipal Art Society, the NY Landmarks Conservancy, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Tom Duane, City Council Member Christine Quinn, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick have all called for preservation of the area.
“Time is up — we have no more time to wait,” stated GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “We told the City that if they did not act soon it would be too late. Now, we are staring down the wrecking ball. We have been patient for as long as we can. If the City fails to act now, all their supportive statements will have been in vain — we will lose one of our City’s great, historic neighborhoods, while it was within their power to do something about it.”
Today’s demonstration was sponsored by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, and the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port.