Volume 73, Number 50 | April 21 - 27, 2004



Meier as the new Moses: Villagers ratchet up anti-development fight

By

Lincoln Anderson

Vowing to stop the building juggernaut that seemingly overnight has reshaped the Far West Village waterfront into the new so-called “Gold Coast,” over 250 residents joined politicians and preservationists in a rally last Sunday against overdevelopment.

The demonstrators gathered on Charles St. by the construction site of the third luxury apartment tower on the waterfront designed by famed architect Richard Meier. The two other 16-story, Meier towers, with green-tinted glass and white metal, as the third will have, flank Perry St. The $5 million and $6 million condos offering sunset views of the new Hudson River Park have been scooped up by the likes of Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart.

“These people don’t want to make a profit — they want to make a killing,” Stu Waldman, of the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront, told the crowd.

Although the challenge seems daunting — five more high-rises are reportedly in the works within the 12-block area — Waldman recalled past battles where Villagers fought the power and, against all odds, won.
“Forty years ago, we took on Robert Moses. He was supposed to be unstoppable,” Waldman said, referring to the planning czar’s urban renewal and highway schemes that would have decimated and divided the Village. “Thirty years ago, we took on the governor and the mayor and we defeated Westway…. Greenwich Village is once again pissed off!”

Turning arch developer Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” catchphrase around, Waldman warned, “I have two words for you, developers — You’re fired!”

“How many people here think Morton Sq. is a contribution to the neighborhood?” Zack Winestine, co-chairperson of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, asked of the new 14-story, 283-unit residential development at Morton and West Sts.

“Boooooo!” hooted the protesters.

“The reason this neighborhood is so hot is because people have fought for 40 years to keep it low scale,” Weinstein said. “The developers are profiting from the hard work of this community — and they’re giving nothing back.”

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, stressed it’s been 35 years since the 1969 designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District, and that the wait to expand protections to the Far West Village has been more than long enough.

The area targeted for historic district designation runs from Horatio St. — the southern boundary of the newly approved Gansevoort Market Historic District — to Barrow St., and west of Washington and Greenwich Sts. — the eastern border of the Greenwich Village Historic District.

On the median across West St., a young Libertarian from the Lower East Side drew protesters’ wrath as he shouted into a bullhorn and held a sign reading “Let People Develop Their Land And Lives.” He claimed to be there on his own, but someone at the rally said he knew him and alleged having recently seen him with some developers at Lotus nightclub.

Led by Berman, State Senator Tom Duane and Councilmember Christine Quinn, the rally made its way down Washington St. to Weehawken St.

“Mayor Mike, we can’t wait! Save our neighborhood before it’s too late,” they chanted.

A small historic lane with 19th-century houses and former stables, Weehawken St. was once a market area for goods ferried from New Jersey. Like the rest of the former Village working waterfront, it could potentially be razed at a minute’s notice for new development.

After the protesters had funneled into the one-block-long street, from which the Meier towers were still clearly in view above the low rooftops, Berman reminded everyone the next action will be a rally on City Hall’s steps on Sun., May 23, at 2 p.m.

People filled out red postcards to Mayor Bloomberg; Robert Tierney, chairperson of the Landmarks Preservation Commission; and Amanda Burden, chairperson of the City Planning Commission. These were collected in garbage bags and will add to the over 1,500 postcards already sent to City Hall urging that a combination of landmarking and zoning protections be quickly extended to the Far West Village.

Berman said the City Hall demonstration is “to bring the message home that we will not rest until our neighborhood is protected. We are going to keep it going.

“Without landmarking changes, without zoning changes, this could be another Meier tower — like the one you see in the distance,” Berman warned.

“Booooooooo!” answered the crowd.

Said Duane, “The reason that people love living in Greenwich Village is because it’s low rise and low scale. And if they don’t act soon, they’re going to destroy Greenwich Village.”

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