Volume 80, Number 45 | April 14 - 20, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photos by Tequila Minsky

Andrew Berman spoke at Sunday’s rally, as Councilmember Margaret Chin and H.D.C.’s Simeon Bankoff stood behind him, and a Children’s Aid Society pupil stood holding a sign.

Local kids mobilized for the Sunday rally.

Historic district advocates make a stand at C.A.S.

By Albert Amateau

Nearly 100 preservation partisans, from senior citizens to preschool children, gathered Sunday on Sullivan St. in front of the 1892 Children’s Aid Society building designed by Calvert Vaux.

The demonstration by preservation advocates, parents and pupils of the Children’s Aid Society’s early childhood center demanded that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate a South Village Historic District, roughly from Watts to W. Fourth Sts. between Sixth Ave. and West Broadway / LaGuardia Place.

The district, which welcomed thousands of mostly Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, is fast losing historically significant buildings, said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Perhaps the next to go is the Children’s Aid Society building at 219 Sullivan St., designed by Vaux, the co-designer of Central Park. C.A.S. announced in December of last year that it plans to sell both No.’s 219 and 175-177 Sullivan Sts. and close its programs in the Village, including the nursery school in June 2012. Cushman & Wakefield has begun marketing the buildings to potential developers.

“It would be a tragedy to destroy this historic building and to lose an educational space that annually serves 1,500 children,” said Heather Campbell, of Save a Village Education (SAVE), at the April 10 demonstration. She called for historic district designation to prevent the demolition of buildings in the district, including the historic C.A.S. building. Campbell said that SAVE hopes to convince any developer who buys the building to preserve it as a school, or at least to keep educational space in whatever is built in its place.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated 10 blocks of the South Village west of Sixth Ave. last June but left about 20 blocks remaining in the rest of the area to be considered later.

“Each day it seems we lose more of our remarkable history,” Berman said, “and each day the city tells us we must wait a little longer until the long-promised and long-overdue consideration of landmarks designation takes place. The time for contemplation is over. We need designation now.”

City Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes much of the area, including the Children’s Aid Society, said, “We must protect these architecturally and historically important buildings from speculative development and potential ruin.”

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, Jonathan Geballe, president of the Village Independent Democrats political club, and Laura Morrison, an aide to state Senator Tom Duane, also urged historic district designation for the area.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance and chairperson of the Community Board 2 Landmarks and Public Aesthetics Committee, said, “We urge the city to turn its eyes, not only to the grand monuments of the Carnegies and the Astors and the Coopers, but to the homes and institutions of those anonymous souls who built this country and built its culture.”

Jerome Krase, a Brooklyn College professor and past president of the American Italian Historical Association, regretted the neglect of immigrant and working-class contributions to New York City.

“We have already lost too much in the South Village,” Krase said. “There are few neighborhoods in the world that can rival the South Village, and we must give New Yorkers paths through streetscapes that honor our city’s working-class and immigrant history.”

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