Thou shalt not build 15 stories; C.B. 2 rejects St. Luke’s tower

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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Last Thursday, Community Board 2 voted to recommend denial of the application for the Barrow St. tower part of the St. Luke’s project. There were 30 no votes and two recusals, the latter by board members who are parishioners.

There was no discussion among board members before the vote — which C.B. 2 member Coral Dawson later chalked up to the five hours of discussion about the proposal at the board’s Landmarks Committee meeting a few weeks prior.

The board’s main objection — as stated in the committee’s resolution — was that a 15-story tower is just too tall for the Greenwich Village Historic District. St. Luke’s argued that the site is on the district’s edge, so a high-rise there would be less obtrusive. But C.B. 2 said a tall tower at the spot could set off a “domino effect” of new high-rises being constructed in the historic district.

The board, however, approved the application by St. Luke’s School to add two stories on top of its current building, but with “reservations” about the use of yellow brick for the addition.

At least two speakers during the meeting’s public session said 15 stories would represent the second-tallest building constructed in the historic district since its creation in the 1960s, and that most new buildings in the district are barely  half as tall.

Speaking for the project were a number of parishioners. They praised the  proposed building’s design and said the parking lot now at the site is underused, and that the tower would enliven the corner. They also noted St. Luke’s, in designing the plan, has made every effort to preserve its gardens, which are open to the public.

Dawson said she’d be shocked if the Landmarks Preservation Commission now O.K.’s the tower. But David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, said it’s tough to know how L.P.C. will decide.

After the vote, Mother Stacey, St. Luke’s pastor, said she wasn’t surprised at the overwhelming rejection.

“Not particularly,” she said. “Understandably, people in our neighborhood tend to hate change automatically. It’s a struggle to think about continuity and change,” she said, “to preserve the most important things” but also to add to what exists.

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3 Responses to Thou shalt not build 15 stories; C.B. 2 rejects St. Luke’s tower

  1. Their own parishoners could not even vote for this. That speaks volumes. What is unfortunate is that there are not more rejections like this of new development. I mean, what's the use of having an Historic District if builders always get exceptions.

    Thanks to CB2 for holding strong on this, but it was a no-brainer. I hope they'll do more of this. Working in the arts, I've learned that "No" is the most creative thing you can tell someone. But of course, the designers of this building knew it would be rejected.

    Any bets on how long before they come back with a new design — the one they expected to get passed all along? Happens all the time — too often. This one was just a ploy to make the next version look like they're sacrificing. Very religious.

  2. It's nauseating and vilely self serving how Mother Stacey demurely says people in our neighborhood hate change.

    We love change. What we hate is when our neighbors destroy something that has stood since 1822 at a landmark site in exchange for a 16 story, money gushing eyesore. If economics were all that mattered, the whole of the Village should be converted to 16 story towers and we can all walk in the shadows.

    "The word “village,” absurd in some ways for the most deliberately and self-consciously urban of all the world’s urbs, nonetheless made sense when applied to the small parks, narrow streets, back gardens, front gardens with latch gates, and rows of shady and hardy trees. Rus in urbe, as the Romans used to say: a little hint of the pastoral in the heart of the town… It’s difficult to imagine an architectural or development coup that could change more landscape, and alter more long-evolved atmosphere, at one blow… these ugly and tedious and uninspired structures would impede the view and block the light of one of New York’s historic neighborhoods: a district that in a previous generation survived even Robert Moses and his plan to slam a neo-Brutalist urban highway through Bohemia.

    New York is supposed to have learned from that and from similar errors of the past, and to have understood that Brobdingnag is all very well—indeed is very desirable and impressive—in Wall Street and Midtown, whereas a touch of Lilliput is necessary on the Lower East and West Sides. And the strange and interesting thing is that all three other great bohemian quarters—the ones in London, Paris, and San Francisco—have already confronted a version of this mistake and resolved never to make it again.

    Those who don’t live in such threatened districts nonetheless have a stake in this quarrel and some skin in this game, because on the day when everywhere looks like everywhere else we shall all be very much impoverished, and not only that but—more impoverishingly still—we will be unable to express or even understand or depict what we have lost."

    That's from Christopher Hitchens, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, about a very similar project in the West Village years ago.

  3. imagine this feel so good to deny deny, but remember st vincents!!! Some people haven't forgotten, and remember how "historic preservation' denied the hospital of any chance! shame on those feeling gleeful without providing solutions.

    i wont want to be able to say i told you so on this, as the school and church are valuable to the community but have revenue /growth needs just like everyone else.

    there's more to the story here

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