Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Last night, in the main gallery of the Salmagundi Club on 5th Avenue, GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman gave a lecture/slideshow about the state of historic preservation. Over the past 10 years we have seen a lot of changes in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. The purpose of last night’s program was to review the last 10 years, and take a look at current events and the future.
The evening began with an overview of the historic districts that were created by the Landmarks Preservation Commission – all of them either proposed or supported by GVSHP. These include the Gansevoort Market Historic District (2003), Greenwich Village Historic District Extension I (2006), Weehawken Street Historic District (2006), NoHo East Historic District (2003), NoHo Historic District Extension (2008), Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II (2010), East 10th Street Historic District (2012), East Village / Lower East Side Historic District (2012), and the South Village Historic District (2013).
Next Andrew spoke of individual landmarks, which include such notable structures as Westbeth, LaMaMa (a 2014 Village Award winner), the Horse Auction Mart at 128 East 13th Street, PS 64 on East 9th Street (one of the C.B.J. Snyder schools) and Webster Hall.
Contextual zoning was the next topic, and Andrew commented that, while not as good as historic district status, “downzoning” is important to keep oversize buildings from destroying the character of our neighborhoods. Some areas that have been “downzoned” are the Far West Village, the East Village, and 3rd and 4th Avenues, between Wannamaker Place and 13th Street.
The audience appreciated seeing slides of some of the projects that were proposed but not built, as a result of the actions of GVSHP. One particularly hideous structure was a 500-foot-tall condo tower that was proposed for 848 Washington Street. GVSHP fought hard to block both a zoning variance and approval from the Department of Buildings. Whew! Another plan that was proposed by developers was a “Las Vegas on the Hudson” concept for Pier 40, along the West Side Highway near Houston Street. The artist rendering for this project actually made people laugh, but the fight to keep this behemoth from becoming a reality was no laughing matter. Can you imagine?
Next Andrew showed some images of proposed or current projects that we weren’t able to block completely, but did manage to get reduced in size. One of these is the Chelsea Market expansion, and another one the Greenwich Lane residential project on the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. Partial victories both, and bittersweet at best, but considering the original proposals that were completely inappropriate, these are victories nonetheless.
Of course we are always sad to know that some losses of historically significant structures do occur, despite fighting the good fight. The Superior Ink Factory, the Tunnel Garage, and the Variety Theater are all gone but not forgotten.
And as we look to the future, there are still major threats to preserving our neighborhoods. The NYU expansion plan suffered a defeat when New York State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills agreed with us that the city illegally ceded public park land to NYU, but NYU and the City have filed an appeal. And although the Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to consider the final phase of our proposed South Village for landmarking, we will continue to push for that. We also continue to watch closely for developments in the ongoing issue of sale and transfer of air rights for Hudson River Park piers.
So while we have accomplished a lot, and can be very proud, there is still much work that needs to be done. Here at GVSHP we try to keep everyone informed on the state of preservation issues, so if you’re not currently receiving our newsletters and e-mails, please sign up on our website today!