Greenwich Village struggles to hold on to historic aesthetic
Local residents are preparing to throw proverbial stones at a looming glass house in the Village.
A developer is hoping to replace a one-story building in a historic area with a modern seven-story tower, featuring an entire exterior wall of glass and a two-floor glass penthouse at 130 Seventh Avenue, on the corner of Charles Street.
According to the developer’s plans, they would knock down the existing white building that once housed a nightclub, and that residents call a real eyesore to the community. The problem, neighbors say, is that the proposed building would be an eyesore of a different kind. It would be erected right in the middle of the Greenwich Village Historic District, where most of the 2300 buildings on the 45 protected blocks are low, made of brick and don’t follow the modern, glass skyscraper aesthetic of other neighborhoods.
“There’s a constant struggle in our neighborhood against inappropriate development,” said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Preservation Society. “Typically, they come in areas that don’t have landmark protection, and because of that I’m cautiously optimistic it won’t be approved.”
At the most recent Community Board 2 meeting, the board rejected the application for the building, and suggested that the developer, Continental Ventures, re-apply without the glass addition. The community also hopes to decrease the size of the proposed building. Because the building is in a historic district, the developer will have to go through the Landmarks Preservation Commission before anything is finalized.
The first Landmarks hearing took place on July 9th, where most people testified against Continental Ventures, according to Tom Lamia, whose building shares a wall with the site, and who started the group Compact for Urban Site Development or CUSP, against the development. The upcoming vote date has not yet been set.
At the hearing, said Lamia, the developer said that the new building will be more aesthetically pleasing and a better neighbor than the current building, which used to be a loud, raucous nightclub. Lamia said that the developers promised there would be a dialogue between residents, but besides demanding phone calls made last year to nearby neighbors asking them to sell their air rights, Lamia claims that there has been little to no communication.
“We call the group CUSP because the neighborhood is on the cusp of becoming part of larger Manhattan,” said Lamia. “Anything that’s bad for the Village is bad for New York. There are tourists everywhere at all times of the year and they come here to see the Village.”
But unfortunately for the Village, this is just one example of developers poking their heads into a neighborhood that is by and large protected, and at the same time well-known for its historic appeal, and throwback to old New York, according to the Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society.
Berman cited a similar development issue 15 blocks south in the South Village, where residents have been fighting a proposed 18-story development on Sullivan Street and 6th Avenue. The area, he said, is not landmarked, but they are fighting to get it landmarked before it is too late. For another building in the Meatpacking District, there’s already a variance for a large, glass office building that Berman said towers over the buildings in the area.
“The fear is the proverbial death by a thousand cuts,” said Berman. “We are not in danger of swaths of developers coming in all at once. But we are seeing slow erosion of our community.”
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