The Greenwich Village Societyfor Historic Preservation

Pushing for Restoration of Landmarked Properties Owned by Annie Leibovitz

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                PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release                                Contact:  Andrew Berman

 October 7, 2003                                                        212-475-9585 x38

                                                                             or 917-533-1767


On First Anniversary of Dangerous Illegal Work

GVSHP and Neighbors Call Upon Annie Leibovitz and City

to Finally Repair Landmarked Houses

And Prevent “Demolition By Neglect”

Greenwich Village – The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) was joined today by dozens of Village neighbors for a picket in front of celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz’ houses at 755-75 Greenwich Street and 311 West 11th Street in the West Village.  The protest marked the one-year anniversary this week of the illegal work done by Ms. Leibovitz which resulted in serious damage to the two landmarked 1830’s houses she owned (755-57 Greenwich Street) and a neighboring house (311 West 11th Street, which, following settlement of a lawsuit with the prior owners stemming from the illegal work, she now owns as well). 

Carrying signs saying “Not A Pretty Picture” and “Happy Annieversary,” GVSHP and the picketers sought to call attention to the fact that a full year after the initial damage was done, Leibovitz has done no work to restore the properties and continues to allow them to deteriorate. 

“This is a sad anniversary for the Village and for Annie Leibovitz,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman.  “A full year after performing illegal work which nearly destroyed three historic, landmarked houses, Leibovitz has done nothing to bring them back to their original condition, and allows them to crumble and deteriorate further every day.  This is shameful and inexcusable behavior – it is not being a good neighbor, nor it is showing much respect for the law or for New York City’s history or heritage,” added Berman.

On October 11, 2002, after receiving approval to do renovations to her properties at 755-57 Greenwich Street, Leibovitz’ workers performed work contrary to their permit, resulting in the undermining of a shared structural wall with neighboring 311 West 11th Street, which lead to the collapse of a chimney which filled 311 West 11th Street with poison gas.  311 West 11th Street was then declared unsafe for occupancy, and the owners were forced to evacuate the building, never to return (they sued Ms. Leibovitz, and as part of the settlement she has now purchased the building).  Only after protests by GVSHP did Leibovitz then, after more than two months, install exterior bracing to shore up the compromised houses and prevent collapse (CLICK HERE FOR LETTER). 

For many months, no measures were taken to prevent very serious potential damage to the buildings -- during some of the heaviest snow and rainfall in recent memory, the houses were left open to the elements with no windows covering the window openings; in freezing temperatures, full pipes in 311 West 11th Street were not flushed, running the risk of their freezing and bursting.  While the City has issued Leibovitz a violation for the original illegal work, so far, according to the Department of Buildings’ website, it has only resulted in a $500 fine (CLICK HERE FOR TIMELINE).                                   

“It is outrageous that Ms. Leibovitz has been allowed to let landmarked structures deteriorate for so long without any action being taken to protect them,” said Berman. “Bricks fall and walls crumble on what now looks like a bombed out shell of a building, and the City has only levied a $500 fine against the wealthy celebrity responsible?  What sort of a message does this send?  We fear that Leibovitz is seeking to destroy a treasured part of our City beyond repair – and the City is just letting her,” opined Berman. 

GVSHP has asked the City to either force Leibovitz to make repairs to the buildings or to do it themselves and charge her for the repairs.  In September, GVSHP sent a letter to the Department of Buildings Commissioner and the Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair expressing extreme concern about the lack of progress after 11 months, and asking that actions be taken to prevent further deterioration of the buildings and ensure that work is done properly and expeditiously.  They stressed the desire to see the historic buildings restored to their original condition and not torn down with facsimiles built in their place (CLICK HERE FOR LETTER).  The City has not yet responded.

“The landmarks law was enacted to prevent ‘demolition by neglect’ – an owner getting rid of a historic property by allowing it to deteriorate to the point of no return.  We are not there yet, but after a year we may be soon if Leibovitz or the City do not act,” warned Berman.  “Leibovitz should not be allowed to get away with being such a flagrant scofflaw just because she is a celebrity,” he added.


Daily News Coverage

New York Post Coverage

Report from The New York Times, 9-8-03

The Villager Coverage


Greenwich Village Society
for Historic Preservation
232 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003


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