Walk & Draw: MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens

On Saturday, GVSHP held a second Walk & Draw event, this time to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens historic districtRead the rest of this entry »

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Roundup of posts on immigration and the Village

The Statue of Liberty, an enduring symbol of the hope America provides for its immigrants. The base is inscribed with a passage from the poem The New Colossas by Emma Lazarus, who was also a Villager. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Photo courtesy of avvo.com.

Immigration is a core theme in the history of New York City, and in the Village this is reflected in both the architecture and remaining and past cultural enclaves.  People from all over the world come to our neighborhoods, adding to the vibrancy and life within them.  We here at GVSHP are proud of and celebrate the Village’s history of immigration and the legacy it has left behind.  Below is a roundup of some of our stories about immigration, historic cultural communities, and the changing faces of a neighborhood made richer by its openness to new peoples and ideas.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Glittering and Gritty History of 24 Bond

If you happen to look up while strolling down Bond or Lafayette Streets, you might come upon a curious sight – dozens of small, golden statues dancing along the wrought iron and brick of a traditional NoHo facade. Celebratory and airy, they’re a delightful addition to the heavy, industrial look of the rest of the area. Who do we have to thank for this artistic juxtaposition? Artist and 24 Bond resident Bruce Williams.

Williams and his wife have lived in the building for over twenty years, and he first began adorning his building’s facade in 1998. At the time, the NoHo neighborhood was much more off the beaten path than now, a small enclave for artists working in a variety of mediums. Since then, the neighborhood has gained quite a bit more distinction, glamour, and recognition. In 2008, 24 Bond Street was included in the NoHo Historic District Extension, officially recognizing the architectural significance of this 19th-century building. To celebrate, Williams added additional golden sculptures climbing up the side of his now-landmarked building. He did this, as he had always done, without asking for approval, but the new landmark status of his building required that he confer with the LPC. Despite a small ado requiring an official hearing on the outdoor art, the spritely statues were permitted to stay.

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MacDougal Sullivan Gardens celebrates 50 years as a Landmark!

On August 2nd, 1967, MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens were designated a New York City historic district. These 22 homes surround a beautiful private garden oasis, and this was one of the first historic districts to be designated in our area, prior to even the Greenwich Village Historic District in 1969 (only the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District was designated earlier, in 1966). The twelve homes along MacDougal Street were built in 1844 on 22 foot wide lots, followed by the ten narrower, 20′ foot-wide homes on Sullivan Street in 1850. All 22 were built in the Greek Revival style.

This special oasis and how it came to be has a rich history reflecting virtually every stage of the Village and New York City’s development — from the Dutch and the first freed black slaves, through the Village’s early 19th century development as a successful merchant neighborhood, to its late 19th century transformation, to a teeming and largely poor to working class immigrant district, to its rebirth in the 20th century as a home to artists and those connected to the arts, and beyond.

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St. Mark’s in the Bowery: Sam Shepard’s First Theatrical Home

Sam Shepard, age 20, when his plays were first produced by Theatre Genesis at St. Mark’s in the Bowery

 “…But who knows what is real anyway?
Reality is overrated. What remains are the words scrawled upon an unwinding panorama, vestiges 
of dusty stills peeled from memory, a threnody of gone voices drifting across the American plain. The One Inside is a coalescing atlas marked by the boot heels of one who instinctively tramps, with open eyes, the stretches of its unearthly roads.”

Patti Smith from her introduction to The One Inside by Sam Shepard.

Sam Shepard’s is a legacy like no other American playwight.  An actor, musician, playwright, philosopher, Shepard’s career spaned the distance.  He brought a singularly unique voice to the theatre that trancsended time, place, and category.  And it all started at St. Mark’s in the Bowery. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Ashcan School and the Beginnings of the Whitney

John Sloan, “Backyards Greenwich Village.” (1914) The Whitney Museum of American Art

The streetscapes and street life of New York City are some of the most robust sensorial experiences. From towering skyscrapers to bright flashing lights to pungent (sometimes fragrant) smells and blaring sounds, the city runs on energy. It has been said that if the United States were a car, New York City would be its motor. The early years of the 20th century in New York City were a particularly visceral experience and provided a perfect palette for artists.  Rebelling against the current trends of the American Impressionists painting images of the haute bourgeoisie of Park Avenue, Central Park, and Washington Square, and out of a desire to create a more realistic view of the gritty urban environment, the Ashcan School was born. And from it, the institution which came to be known as the Whitney Museum. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Birthday Marcel Duchamp!

This is an updated reposting of a blog by former staffer, Lauren Snetiker, July 28th, 2015

Marcel Duchamp with one of his readymades. (Courtesy: youtube.com)

Today marks what would have been Marcel Duchamp’s 130th Birthday. Duchamp was born in France on July 28, 1887, trained as a painter in Paris until 1905, and spent much of his adult life living in Paris and New York City. His early work was Post-Impressionist, but in 1914, Duchamp introduced his readymades. These common objects, sometimes altered, presented as works of art, had a revolutionary impact on many painters and sculptors.

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Impeachment and the Village

Forty three years ago today, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that President Richard M. Nixon be impeached and removed from office.  And while many remember the two year saga which placed the executive office and country in turmoil, they might not remember that several prominent Villagers were at the forefront of this chapter in our history.

President Nixon gives his farewell speech. Courtesy of ABC News.

For those who are too young to recall, it all began with the burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C.  On June 17, 1972, burglars were caught breaking into the offices to wiretap phones and steal documents.  Nixon denied he or his staff were involved in the break-in, and most Americans believed him. He won the re-election bid in November of 1972 in a landslide.

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USPS’ Landmark Legacy: the Cooper Station Post Office

On July 26, 1775 the United States Postal System was established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General.  Franklin, in his turn, put in place the foundation of many aspects of today’s mail system.  Today, the U.S. Postal Service is one the nation’s largest civil employers, with over 40,000 offices throughout the continental United States and its territories.

Setting aside the mundane nuts and bolts of the USPS’ work or the expansive scope of their mandate, they also helped create one particularly striking and historic building in our neighborhood: the Cooper Station Post Office.

Photo courtesy of sideways.nyc

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How Zoning Shapes Our Neighborhoods

The classic downtown New York skyline in the pre-War years was shaped by the 1916 zoning resolution.

One hundred one years ago today, on July 25, 1916, New York City adopted the very first zoning rules anywhere in the country. This system for regulating the size, height, use, and other related characteristics of new development revolutionized the way cities looked and developed, and changed forever how we see property rights and our responsibilities and obligations to our neighbors and the broader community.

In short, before July 25, 1916, you could (more or less) build whatever you want, of whatever size and with whatever use you liked, as long as it remained within the bounds of your property (and you could even extend over your property line under many circumstances).

After July 25, 1916, there were for the first time limits.

The Equitable Building (1915) rose up almost unrelieved for 40 stories on Broadway in the Financial District, and became the poster-child for the need for zoning restrictions. The NYC Dept. of City Planning, which governs our zoning regulations, is now located in the building.

But the story does not end there. Our zoning system has been constantly updated since then, for the most part getting more elaborate, and more complicated.

But to put it in the simplest of terms, there have been three major stages of zoning in New York City: the original 1916 zoning, which created the “wedding cake” or “ziggurat” style of buildings; the 1961 zoning resolution, which created the “tower-in-a-park” or “tower-on-a-pedestal” model for new development; and the increasingly common modifications to our zoning text which began in the 1980s through “contextual zoning” or “quality housing” provisions, which encourage or require “contextual” development.

So on the occasion of this big anniversary of our zoning regulations, we thought we’d take a look at these three crucial stages of our zoning, by looking at some classic examples in our neighborhoods.

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