Volume 74, Number 38 | Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2005

From The Editor

Election issues: Far West Village and old P.S. 64

It seems every week we find ourselves writing about the latest demolition or new development planned in the endangered Far West Village. This week it’s more of the same, although the fact that the developer, Julian Schnabel, is an artist is a bit surprising to us. We would think an artist would be more sensitive to this area’s delicate, historic fabric.

Schnabel plans to add a nine-story addition to his three-story residence, a former carriage house, on W. 11th St. near Washington St. Anyone can see that such a tall building, midblock, in a low-scale area would stick out like a sore thumb. Talk about lack of aesthetic appreciation.
Additionally, the project seeks to take advantage of the community-facilities zoning allowance — permitting another story to be added — by including medical offices on one floor. While medical offices technically do meet the requirement for the allowance, it’s a safe bet these offices would be for high-priced practices that most neighbors wouldn’t be able to afford.
The fact is, we simply aren’t hearing enough, quickly enough from City Hall on preserving the Far West Village. This is a major community issue — that will certainly be an election issue. We plan to ask candidates for mayor and borough president their opinions on landmarking and modifying zoning in the Far West Village. We’ll be listening closely to their answers, which will be a factor in this page’s political endorsements.

Another community struggle shaping up to be an election issue is the effort to save the old P.S. 64 on E. Ninth St., the former CHARAS/El Bohio, from being partially demolished and turned into a 19-story student dormitory.

The campaign to save the building recently got sidetracked by some internecine squabbling over incendiary Holocaust-referencing posters pasted outside the offices of the dorm’s architect, Beyer Blinder Belle. It’s now been proven it was two East Village Community Coalition members, Michael Rosen, developer of Red Square, and Roland Legiardi-Laura, chairperson of Nuyorican Poets Café’s board of directors, that put up these posters. There is a legitimate complaint that by sending a copy of the poster to The Villager under a “Charas/El Bohio” e-mail address, the E.V.C.C. members jeopardized a settlement and gag order the real CHARAS/El Bohio has with the dorm’s developer, Gregg Singer.

While we patently condemn the posters’ drawing an analogy between Singer’s architects and Auschwitz, we understand it was caused by strong emotion over this issue, albeit emotion that got the better of the poster pasters.

It’s clear the community simply doesn’t want a big dorm with a transient student population, but wants a restored community center.

We’ll be asking candidates for mayor and borough president whether they would support landmarking the old P.S. 64. Again, Mayor Bloomberg has been too silent on this issue, a big one for the East Village. Why doesn’t the mayor make it known that he does not want this building leveled without a full public hearing on landmarking and community control?

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