Considering New Buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District

On January 4, 2017, GVSHP released its report cataloging for the first time in one place all new buildings approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in the Greenwich Village Historic District since its designation in 1969 — click HERE to see the report.  It’s been updated since its release and to date, we have recorded forty-two such approvals, though not every approved building was constructed. The report documents each application including renderings or pictures of proposed buildings, architect, links to permits, date of approval and location. Additionally, it features an overall timeline and map of the buildings making for a comprehensive study of a historic district which is nearly as old as the New York City Landmarks Law itself, which was enacted in 1965.

GVSHP’s New Building in the Greenwich Village Historic District report

Our purpose in creating this report was to take a comprehensive look at what can and has happened within a historic district, where applications for changes and new buildings are filed all the time. This is especially important because the criteria for the Landmarks Preservation Commission approving a new building in any historic district is simply that the Commission must deem it “appropriate” for the site.  This obviously leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and we thought it important to take a look at how the Commission has interpreted and carried out that mandate over the years — whether we supported, opposed, or had mixed feelings about their decision — to help inform our efforts to continue to try to preserve the character of our neighborhood.

I worked on this project directly, and while I thought it was a fascinating study, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of response it generated and continues to generate both from colleagues and the community. That interest has been particularly gratifying because research for this report was not as straightforward as one would assume. Records from the Department of Buildings and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) were inconsistent, and we found that the older approvals especially required some sleuthing, relying on additional resources including 1980’s tax photos and old issues of The Villager when permits were not found.

Map of the Greenwich Village Historic District illustrating locations of new building approvals since 1969

 

Part of the timeline from the report illustrating approvals between 1969 to 1992

 

Page 10 of the report showing the Weathermen House at 18 West 11th Street

The report shows new buildings approved in the district as early as 1972, not long after its initial designation.  Some were rather hum-drum like a new gas station at 8th Avenue and 13th Street, while others had significantly more drama attached to them, like the new St. John’s Church, which replaced the old one which had burnt down in a fire, or 18 West 11th Street, the house which replaced the one blown up by the Weather Underground bomb factory located in its basement in 1970.  The new buildings range from private homes, like this one on Greenwich Street, to giant multi-building institutonal complexes, like the expanded St. Vicent’s Hospital in the 1980s (here, here, and here).

The report had been updated since its initial release a year ago to include other buildings which have been approved since then: 703-711 Washington Street (aka 145-149 Perry Street) and 11-19 Jane Street, the latter of which changed a fair amount as it went through the landmarks approval process, including a height reduction and change in materials (though GVSHP ultimately strongly objected to the final design, which we still felt was not appropriate in scale or character for the site or district).

Original proposal for 11-19 Jane Street

 

Approved proposal for 11-19 Jane Street

There may be another addition to the report soon.  We are still awaiting the return to the LPC of the application for 538-544 Hudson Street (at the corner of Charles Street). This application called for a new seven story building when it was presented in July to the LPC. The applicant was asked to make changes at that hearing and present a revised proposal at a future public meeting. The requested changes included modifications to the design, reduction of the massing and elimination of the visibility of the penthouse — all of which GVSHP had called for. Stay tuned!

Proposal for 538-544 Hudson Street presented to LPC July, 2017. No action was taken.

This and a few dozen other reports GVSHP has generated over the years can be found on our website here — check them all out.

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Sarah Bean Apmann