Approval is given for Village Historic Districts expansion
By Albert Amateau
Champagne corks popped in the anteroom of the Landmarks Preservation Commission chambers on May 2 when Village preservation advocates celebrated the expansion of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the creation of a nearby Weehawken St. Historic District near the Village waterfront.
The expansion, the first since 1969, extended the Greenwich Village Historic District by three blocks from Perry to Christopher St. between Greenwich and Washington Sts. and includes 45 buildings, including St. Veronicas Church on Christopher St.
The Weehawken St. Historic District, from W. 10th to Christopher St. between West and Washington Sts., includes the one-block-long Weehawken St. and 14 buildings, which are now protected from demolition.
We fought so long and so hard for this, its almost hard to believe the day has finally arrived, said Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The society began its push for landmark protection of the new districts two years ago with a massive rally and an appeal to Mayor Bloomberg and Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney.
Between todays Landmarks designation and the West Village downzoning that we fought for and won last year, the city has taken some very meaningful steps to save this endangered neighborhood, said Berman.
Tierney recognized the efforts of Village preservation advocates in the process that led to the designations and singled out Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose district encompasses the area; G.V.S.H.P.; Doris Diether, head of the Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee; and Christabel Gough, founder of the Society for the Architecture of the City.
Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Tom Duane were also prominent among preservation advocates who urged designation of the new districts.
Berman noted that the late Jane Jacobs had called for landmark designation of the West Village in 1963 when the then new Landmarks Preservation Commission was considering the Village for the citys first historic district.
Diether said she was glad of the designations but added, It did not go far enough. It should have picked up with the Gansevoort Historic District and gone all the way down to Canal St.
Moreover, preservation advocates failed in their attempts to secure landmark protection for the Superior Ink building on West St. between W. 12th and Bethune Sts. and the Westbeth complex in the former Bell Laboratories on West and Bethune Sts. The former Whitehall warehouse on Charles St. was also skipped and the narrow cobblestone Charles Lane, which extends one block from West to Washington Sts. midblock between Perry and Charles Sts., also missed designation.
However, the designated districts include three buildings excluded in the citys original plan but added at the urging of preservation advocates: 177 Christopher St. and 139 and 143 Charles St. The Charles St. buildings are slated for redevelopment but will now need Landmarks approval.
The designations include several early 19th-century wood and brick houses, several former stables and one of the neighborhoods four surviving former sailors hotels. The former Village police precinct, which was later a school, and an unusual former church building are also in the newly protected districts.