Volume 73, Number 4 | May 26 - June 1, 2004



Anti-development protesters build their case at City Hall

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

Undaunted by humid, 90-degree weather plus a half-hour wait to go through a security check, 150 Villagers rallied near the steps of City Hall last Sunday to demand a stop to the overdevelopment of the Far West Village and waterfront.

“We’re here today because we know that our neighborhood is under threat and if we don’t act quickly our neighborhood will be history,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

While the effects of the recent building boom are plainly visible along the waterfront — the Richard Meier towers at Perry St. and Morton Square at Morton St. — Berman said now developers are moving inland along the sidestreets, ready to eat up historic low-scale buildings. He said 163 Charles St., right behind one of the new Meier towers, has been sold and is already slated for demolition.

Leading Sunday’s rally against overdevelopment were Andrew Berman, director of G.V.S.H.P., holding a sign of Morton Square, left, and State Senator Tom Duane, next to sign of Charles St. townhouse slated for development.

Berman said they’ve sent a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission requesting immediate designation of the building as a landmark to preserve it from demolition.

Berman added that there are 20 buildings in the unprotected area that date from the early 19th century and 35 dating from the late 19th century.

“The commissioners at Landmarks know what these buildings are — they’re historic and they should be preserved,” said Berman.

However, he said there are some encouraging signs in that the city is willing to sit down and look at the area’s zoning.

Barbara Chacour, a resident of Charles St. for 25 years, bemoaned the construction of the luxury Meier towers, specifically the one on her side of the street.

“I avoid looking at it even though I am told Hugh Jackman has the apartment across from me. I’m sure he enjoys his view of the river,” she said. Chacour added that the foundations are being tested at a warehouse across the street from her to see if a high-rise can be built on top.

“I don’t want my building to be a relic, like P.J. Clarke’s, with no light, no air,” she said, referring to the East Side bar that famously rebuffed a developer’s purchase offers.

Stu Waldman, of the Federation to Save the Waterfront, said the Village waterfront is an historic treasure for the whole city.

“We were built from the water out,” he said. “Our neighborhood is the last large maritime neighborhood in the city that exists the way it did a century ago. What they are doing is destroying not just Greenwich Village, but a part of New York City history.”

“We’ll be back! We’ll be back!” the Villagers chanted, vowing to keep returning until their neighborhood is protected from the wrecking ball.

During the rally they were heckled by Dave Doctor, a young Libertarian from the Lower East Side, who objects to restraints on property owners’ rights. Using an electric bullhorn — he specifically got a sound permit ahead of time — he shouted, “Berman — go home!” and held up a series of signs, such as “No More Historic Dictatorships” and “Free the West Village.”

“Creep!” the Villagers shouted back at him.

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