Business of the Month: Village Tannery, 173 Bleecker Street

Your input is needed! Today we feature our latest Business of the Month — help us to select the next.  Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village or NoHo: click here to nominate your favorite.  Want to help support small businesses?  Share this post with friends.

Need a bag of any kind? Or a wallet, pouch or belt?  One business on Bleecker Street surely has just what you need, or they will custom make what you want.  And with a name like Village Tannery, you won’t be surprised to know their method of work is still very “primitive,” as partner/owner Semih Tokat says from behind the counter. Located at 173 Bleecker Street, at Sullivan Street, they are our November Business of the Month.

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My Favorite Things: Andrew Berman Edition


Andrew Berman, Executive Director of GVSHP

This post is part of a series about our favorite things in and about the Village.

Andrew Berman, GVSHP’s Executive Director since 2002, has a plethora of favorite things about our neighborhoods, so it’s hard to press him for a discreet list.  But there are a few things that Andrew feels particularly passionate about, and we thought we would share them with you today Off the Grid.

There are two things that draw me to the Village. Physically, it’s incredibly beautiful; it’s this intimately scaled amalgam of 19th and 20th century architecture that amazingly has stayed intact and preserved for over 200 years. And then there’s the culture that has been a breeding ground for so many wonderful movements in terms of arts, literature, politics, social change, and music, all of which I really admire. It doesn’t matter where I live or end up, I’ll always feel a strong sense of connection to the Village and what it represents.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s house at 75 1/2 Commerce, the narrowest house in New York

The Twins, 39 and 41 Commerce Street

Grove Court

My favorite buildings in the West Village are legion, however few places can be said to exemplify the eclectic charm of the West Village as completely as the quirky and picturesque apartment building at 102 Bedford Street known as “Twin Peaks.”  In fact, I’d put it right up there with the Edna St. Vincent Millay House at 75 1/2 Bedford Street (“the narrowest house in the Village”), the twin houses at 39 and 41 Commerce Street, and Grove Court as the embodiment of the West Village’s peculiar magic. The 2 1/2 story building was raised to 5 stories, and given a sort of Tudor/Medieval/Swiss Chalet facade, including the twin peaked roofs, from which its name is derived.  The building was specifically intended to attract artists, with 10 one-room studios with casement windows, similar to the “artists’ studios” which had been popping up on the top of houses throughout the Village during this time.  According to Christopher Gray (citing the NY Herald Tribune) the building was originally painted black, green, orange, and blue — a color scheme which has long since been replaced and of which there seems to be little or no photographic record.


Twin Peaks before paint change

Twin Peaks is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District, designated in 1969, and thus, fortunately, for the last forty-two years at least, any changes to the exterior of the building have been carefully regulated.  GVSHP will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District throughout all of 2019.  We hope that everyone will join us for the many programs we are planning for the year.  They will be both fun and informative.   You can read the brief section in the Greenwich Village Historic District designation report about Twin Peaks HERE.”

SIDE NOTE:  It has been a while since GVSHP first pointed out to the Landmarks Preservation Commission that permits were incorrectly issued allowing a battleship grey and beige/cream makeover of the iconic West Village landmark “Twin Peaks.” The Commission has still not taken action to rescind the permits or correct the stultifying paint job which has removed the building’s defining exuberance and whimsy.

In early June of 2017, GVSHP provided the Commission with irrefutable evidence that the permits it issued at staff level without a public hearing were not a “restoration of historic conditions” as claimed.  The building, long a symbol of Greenwich Village Bohemianism and high-spiritedness, originally had a “rainbow-hued” paint scheme. More than a half century ago, it received the “chalet-style” paint scheme most of us know it by. The new dark grey and beige/cream paint job has no historic precedent and no relation to the unique spirit and character of this building.  Local elected officials joined GVSHP in calling upon the LPC to correct this serious mistake.

102 Bedford after paint change


3 West 13th Street

“As for modern buildings, there is a common misconception that preservationists hate all modern architecture. As a matter of fact, preservationists have a great deal of respect for modern architecture that’s done well. In the last 10 to 15 years we’ve seen some good examples of new modern buildings going up in Soho, Tribeca, and the Ladies Mile Historic Districts where the architects did a good job of reinterpreting and updating the contemporary take on a loft building. One favorite example is 3 West 13th Street by Avi Oster Studio– it’s largely glass and metal, but it fits in with the historic buildings discreetly while contrasting them in a respectful way.”

Historic and picturesque South Village Historic District

GVSHP has had some very significant victories over the past decade and a half.  But some of the sweetsest victories were designation of the South Village Historic District, The Sullivan Thompson Historic District, which was the third phase of the South Village Historic District,  and the designation of the Van Tassell and Kearny Horse Auciton Mart.

The South Village Historic District was designated at the end of 2013, and it was particularly meaningful for a variety of reasons. There’s so much cultural history there. We managed to get several NYU buildings included within the district that the city initially excluded. This will prevent a 300-foot-tall dorm from being built on Washington Square South. And finally, it was very clear that the city was not going to approve the district, but we used the leverage we had with the Hudson Square rezoning and demanded that the City Council not approve the rezoning unless the South Village designation moved ahead because changes to Hudson Square would have impacted the neighborhing South Village.

The South Village embodies New York at the turn of the last century when it was awash with immigrants who, from modest beginnings, transformed our city.  We want to preserve and honor that rich history, the charming architecture, and the human-scaled streets, and not watch it give way to anonymous oversized development as we have seen in so many other places.”

Van Tassell and Kearny Auction House, later the Frank Stella Studio

The other one is the Van Tassell and Kearny Horse Auction Mart at 128 East 13th Street. It was days away from the wrecking ball, and we rushed to the LPC and urged them to act quickly. They did calendar it quickly, but it took six years to landmark. The building’s history is so unique and reflective of the development of the neighborhood. Built in 1903, it started as place where horses were sold to wealthy families, and then when the East Village became gritty and industrial, it was used as an assembly line training school for women during WWII. That’s why we used the Rosie the Riveter image as an icon for the preservation campaign. And in the 1970’s it served as Frank Stella’s studio. How many building have those three incredibly different but rich layers of history?

In all honesty, what’s NOT to love about the Village?  There are so many favorites that we could write infinite posts about the subject.


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Spiral Group: From Greenwich Village to the Brooklyn Museum

A recent visit to the powerful exhibit Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at the Brooklyn Museum surprised me with its deep Greenwich Village roots. The show begins in 1963, before the emergence of the Black Power Movement later in the decade, with work by members of the Spiral Group arts collective. This group of New York–based painters, which included Romare Bearden, Reginald Gammon, and Emma Amos among others, worked in diverse styles and explored the role of Black artists in the fight for civil rights.  They regularly met at 147 Christopher Street.

Romare Bearden (American, 1911–1988). Pittsburgh Memory, 1964. Mixed-media collage of various printed papers and graphite on board, 8 ½ x 11 ¾ in. (21.6 x 29.8 cm). Collection of Halley K Harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld. © 2018 Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

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Stephen Crane: A Greenwich Village “Genius”

On November 1, 1871, one of America’s most influential writers, Stephen Crane, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He is probably best know for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, which he wrote from his home at 61 Washington Square South, part of what was known as  “Genius Row” — so named for the incredible concentration of artists and writers who made the red brick houses between West Broadway (now LaGuardia Place) and Thompson Street on the south side of Washington Square home in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today Crane is credited by critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation; his depictions of places in our neighborhood such as the Bowery and the Minettas resonate strongly to this day.

Portrait of Stephen Crane, 1869

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Halloween Has Gone to the Dogs!

The Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade has been a much-loved event in the East Village since the 1990s.  This year’s parade was initially canceled, but then moved to the East River Park Amphitheater.  Read the rest of this entry »

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My Favorite Things: Tom Birchard Edition

Tom Birchard, Owner of Veselka, 144 2nd Avenue

We decided it was high time for some of our most ardent and vocal supporters to have a say here on Off the Grid.  To that end, we have invited one of our favorite East Villagers, Tom Birchard, owner of Veselka, to let us know his favorite East Village spots.

We at GVSHP highly endorse going out during this fine fall weather and trying out Tom’s Top Picks.

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Remembering Hurricane Sandy

On Monday, October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy a.k.a. “Superstorm Sandy” made landfall in New York. It was one of the most devastating natural disasters to ever hit New York. It inflicted $19 billion in damages and killed 43 people in New York City. Many neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens were flooded by the 14-foot storm surge, which was compounded by the timing of the high tide following a new moon. While Lower Manhattan was flooded extensively and left without power for several days, and billions of dollars worth of buildings and personal property were damaged, many in the outer boroughs would never return to their homes. Over 100 homes in Breezy Point burned to the ground and 600 families in low lying areas of Staten Island took buyouts for their properties from New York State. It was more cost effective for the state to purchase these homes and return the land to nature than build them back and risk flooding and destruction in a future storm.

The areas in lower Manhattan that were most affected were in low lying areas along the waterfront and areas that had been reclaimed over the past 300 years via landfill. The map below shows the large sections of lower Manhattan that were flooded during Sandy.

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Map Every Street Tree — Which is Your Favorite?

Fall is the time to notice the sublime changing colors of the leaves on the trees. Or smell the fallen nuts of a gingko tree that some harvest in parks to eat.  Did you know that there is a great  online map of every street tree in NYC?  Which one do you walk by and admire?  Now you can look it up!

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Basque & Bank

82 Bank Street in 2011. Photo by Juan Salas.

October 25th is the Day of the Basque Country, the national holiday of the Basque Autonomous Community.  But did you know that 82 Bank Street was once a major hub for the Basque community in NYC? Read the rest of this entry »

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“An Intimate and Unconventional Space:” Caffe Cino

Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street was a community, a haven, the birthplace of countless theatrical careers and movements, and the origin of off-off-Broadway theater. In November 2017, Caffe Cino was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which is a great symbolic honor for the Caffe, which opened in 1958 and closed its doors in 1968. GVSHP and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project joined forces for a program marking these one year, 60th, and 50th anniversaries respectively. Some highlights of what we learned are within.

Caffe Cino, 1962. By Brian Merlis

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