Volume 79, Number 6 | July 15 - 21, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


File Photo

The former Tammany Hall is now home to the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theater.

Preservation push to landmark last Tammany Hall

By Albert Amateau

Preservation advocates are renewing their 25-year campaign to get Tammany Hall, the Colonial revival-style building on E. 17th St. at Union Square East, built in 1928 for the New York City Democratic Party, designated as a city landmark.

During the past three months, advocates including the Union Square Community Coalition, Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, Municipal Art Society, the Historic Districts Council and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, have written letters to the Landmarks Preservation Commission renewing their support for landmarking the building now serving as the home of the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theater.

“We’ve been at it, off and on, since 1985,” said Jack Taylor, a member of the U.S.C.C. board of directors and chairperson of the coalition’s historic preservation committee. “In the past few months we’ve also received political support for landmarking the building from Councilmember Rosie Mendez, state Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh,” Taylor said.

Although the building is not yet calendared for a hearing, an L.P.C. spokesperson said the staff is considering recommending it to the commission for a designation hearing.

The Society of St. Tammany, the political club that became Tammany Hall, the powerful and ultimately corrupt New York Democratic Party machine, was founded in 1788 and met on Spruce St., where Pace University is now located.

In 1812, the hall moved a block north to Nassau and Frankfort Sts. where the Brooklyn Bridge ramp is now located, and in 1868, the notorious Boss Tweed moved Tammany Hall to E. 14th St. near Third Ave.

The current building, designed by Thompson Holmes & Converse and Charles B. Meyers, was completed in 1929 and the old 14th St. hall was demolished. In 1943, the New York Democratic Committee sold 100 E. 17th St. to the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. In 2001, Liberty Theaters, Inc., which owns several theater properties, bought the building and the name Tammany Hall has since been applied only to the County Democratic Committee rather than a building.

The building at 100 E. 17th St., with four two-story columns on the Union Square facade, bears a striking resemblance to the original Federal Hall on Wall St. where George Washington took the oath of office as the first U.S. president.

Taylor recalled that the Union Square Community Coalition, after it was organized in 1980, soon began calling for creation of a Union Square historic district.

“Tammany Hall and Luchow’s [the 1862 German restaurant formerly at 110 E. 14th St.], were among the buildings we wanted to save,” Taylor said. “The historic district just didn’t fly and Luchow’s was demolished around 1995.”

Nevertheless, much of the area has since been protected by landmark designation.

A mini-historic district, the E. 17th St./Irving Place Historic District, consisting of 10 contiguous 19th-century houses, extends from the east side of the Tammany building to Irving Place. Two buildings on the northwest corner of Union Square are protected because they are within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District.

There are also 12 individually landmarked buildings around Union Square, Taylor said, adding, “We want Tammany Hall to be the 13th.”

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