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.