Another Columbus Day without Landmark Protections for the South Village
Monday, October 8, is Columbus Day, a day of recognition of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World 520 years ago as well as a day to celebrate the contributions and heritage of Italian Americans. Though the parade on Monday will be on 5th Avenue, when we think of Columbus Day we are reminded that the South Village, one of America’s oldest and most historic Italian-American neighborhoods, continues to go without landmark protections.
It was 5 years ago that GVSHP celebrated Columbus Day by releasing a fascinating report authored by scholar Mary Elizabeth Brown about the Italian community of the South Village. You can read the report, “The Italians of the South Village,” here. Not only does the report delve into what life was like for many Italian immigrants but it also provides details about the development and evolution of their institutions, businesses, and cultural and political leaders.
The South Village is a dynamic and thriving community which has a number of significant sites like the birthplace of former NYC Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia, the home Padrone Luigi “Papa” Fugazy, the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the oldest existing Catholic Italian parish in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a wealth of wonderful places to buy or eat food. To explore some of these sites and many others in the South Village, take a look at the map we created here.
It was just a year before in 2006 that GVSHP released the report “The South Village: A Proposal for Historic District Designation,” by architectural historian Andrew Dolkart, documenting the neighborhood’s more than 300-year history and its special significance as an archetypal immigrant community, as a cradle of the Italian-American community in New York, as a place of ferment and innovation in music, art, literature, and social and political movements of the 20th century, and for its incredible array of intact 19th and early 20th century architecture, especially housing and institutions for immigrants.
After years of advocacy in 2010 the LPC designated 1/3 of the area GVSHP had identified as a potential South Village Historic District, and we are still waiting for the Commission to designate the remaining two-thirds. In the meantime many significant sites are unsympathetically altered or destroyed. In addition, the South Village faces even more potential develpoment pressure from nearby rezonings from the NYU 2031 Plan and the Hudson Square Rezoning.
Just this year, the South Village was recognized by the New York State Preservation League as one of the state’s most important endangered historic sites. To learn more about the South Village and to find out how you can help preserve it please visit this page.