Richard Blodgett, president of the Charlton Street Block Association, stands in front of a gutted building on Sullivan Street in the Village. The adjacent building in the complex was designed in 1853 by Calvert Vox, a co-designer of Central Park, explained Blodgett. He knows the building in front of him will soon be transformed into a luxury high-rise, but he hopes the Vox building, with its distinct architecture and rich historical significance, will at least be spared.
“Architecturally,” said Blodgett, “it’s one of the best.”
“A lot of the Village is gone,” he added. “A lot is left, but if it’s not preserved, a lot more will be gone.” At this he indicates a nearby hole in the scenery where a building was destroyed six years ago by developers who are still undecided on how to proceed.
Blodgett is but one of many community members who worries that the impending rezoning of Hudson Square, which has yet to be voted on by the City Council, will have negative fallout for surrounding areas, as well as the Hudson Square area itself, without the necessary safeguards. Blodgett fears further destruction for the nearby South Village. There’s no doubt the Hudson Square rezoning will happen, he says, but as far as the particular repercussions, everyone’s unsure and wary of what to expect.
The plan to rezone Hudson Square into a more “mixed use” area was discussed at the only City Council hearing on the issue last week, after passing the City Planning Commission in late January. A study issued by the Department of City Planning in 2002 recommended rezoning the area for optimal residential use, retention of current manufacturing zoning and in order to guide future growth and land use in the area. The rezoning plan, which would impact City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s district, has seen backlash by groups like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), which fears the subsequent impact on the South Village.
Some worry development in the area will be out of context with Hudson Square’s character, while developers meanwhile stress the importance of taller buildings for greater affordability and insist contextual appropriateness is still achievable. David Reck, the former chairperson of Community Board No. 2’s Land Use Committee told The Villager, however, residents of Hudson Square are overwhelmingly in favor of the rezoning.
Those in favor of rezoning say it brings promise of more affordable housing and open, recreational areas. Trinity Real Estate, which owns 40 percent of property in the area according to the Wall Street Journal, says the rezoning efforts would transform the area from what is essentially a deserted ghost town at night into a more livable and popular social hub. On its official website, Trinity explains: “The neighborhood’s continued evolution is threatened by its antiquated zoning…Trinity and its neighbors can protect the neighborhood’s historic character while helping it evolve into a unique and vibrant community.”
Community members and advocates for the preservation of the South Village fear the rezoning of Hudson Square will bring spillover and ambitious developers to the Village, which has not been transformed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). They urge the Council not to approve the rezoning until the South Village has been appropriately transformed. The city is stalling on the decision, say GVSHP representatives, because of pressure from both sides. Many residents and community members want to preserve the Village’s aesthetic and history, while developers see it, like Hudson Square, as an ideal market, ripe for rebuilding.
Blodgett says Speaker Quinn, who did not make an appearance at the City Council hearing, has been all but unresponsive on the issue.
While the LPC has stalled on landmarking the area for years, advocates hope the rezoning plan will perhaps serve as a catalyst to keep the Village intact.
However, Blodgett describes a paradox. Those who visit and live in the Village appreciate it for its character, but this popularity is what drives developers to the area, he explains.
“It’s sad to imagine,” he said, of an area he knows as a historic gem. “It could be destroyed.”
The City Council will cast its vote on the rezoning in March.
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