**Become a member of The Art Deco Society of New York at www.artdeco.org. With over 25 events per year, ADSNY is an active cultural and social non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating architecture, decorative arts, fashion, and music from the 1920s and 30s! I look forward to seeing you at the next event!**

26 June 2011

"Preserving the World's Great Cities"

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow preservationist recommended Anthony Tung's Preserving the World's Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis. At a hefty 400+ pages I never thought I would make a dent in the text, but because it is a superb history lesson on the origins of urban architecture and preservation, and his stories bring to light how preservation is enacted worldwide and how we can learn from each city's mistakes and contributions, I have successfully completed the novel-like read in no time at all.

I was inspired by Tung's text to write this month's post on the realities of building, demolition, rebuilding and preservation. If all you ever read of his book are the first couple of chapters you will have gained such an appreciation for the built environment around you. He empowers his readers with questions which every preservationist and conservationist should ask himself: "to what point in its history should an ancient structure be restored?"/"Is it not the vocation of architects to build?"/"To what degree has this special place--its architectural culture, its urban beauty, its high material accomplishments, its civic dignity, and the spirit of this metropolis itself--survived our century of self-inflicted destruction?"

The beauty of his prose is juxtaposed with hard-to-swallow facts about what it took to build our "great cities."  His chapter on Rome concludes with the question as to why the Pantheon was saved from demolition time and time again over 1,500 years. His answer remains positive--that the Pantheon serves ever as a "reminder that large parts of the legacy of ancient Rome could very well have been bequeathed to us." Quite possibly my favorite quote from the book follows: "The by-product of this vast and disputed act of destruction [the destruction of ancient Rome]--the lesson for subsequent generations--was the emergence of the idea that it should have been tempered by reason and by consideration for the future of humankind."

Do our actions not contradict this lesson? Why is it that we still have a so-called appetite for destruction? It exists not only in architecture, but also in other facets of our daily lives. Our choice to drive cars and burn more holes in the atmosphere versus walking or biking to reduce carbon emissions is just one example. Shouldn't we save this glorious world for future generations? Is it not important to learn from the past where we come from and which mistakes not to repeat?

Storytelling through a historical lens, Tung emphasizes the "specialness of place which constitutes the essence of urban collective memory." This memory serves as a city's currency. It attracts tourists, instills pride in its citizens, and sets apart each urban environment as a unique entity in and of itself. One of 18 great cities Tung surveys is Warsaw. He walks the reader through its tumultuous past, including the destruction caused by Hitler and Germany during WWII. Tung begins the chapter: "how important is our architectural heritage?/what limits will we place on the city's future in order to preserve our cultural identity?/what price are we willing to pay to conserve our record of history?" Using Warsaw's architectural conservation efforts and history as the answers to these questions, he clearly illustrates that, "here people established the value of their monuments by what they were willing to sacrifice. In Warsaw, a city's inhabitants endangered their lives to save their past." What follows is an account of the heroic efforts by the Poles to document the architectural history of their city as it was being physically destroyed and as they were being shipped off to concentration camps.

So, I end with the question: what price are we willing to pay in order to preserve our cultural identity for our children and grandchildren? Do we want them to remember where we came from and how we lived in our great cities? If so, then why are we not more adamant about saving the architecture that preserves our memories, our ancestors memories, and the memories of our future generations?

27 May 2011

I beg your pardon, Rem Koolhaas

Dear Rem,

I am a major fan of your work and theories and believe that you are truly a revolutionary designer with positive contributions in the built environment. However, after reading "An Architect's Fear That Preservation Distorts" in the New York Times this afternoon and walking through your "Cronocaos" exhibition at the New Museum, I must beg your pardon.


If New York Times journalist, Nicolai Ouroussoff, and I have interpreted your exhibition at the New Museum correctly then you have been ill-informed about what preservation really is. For starters, the term 'preservationist' is used completely out of context and is not properly defined
. A preservationist, if I may borrow the definition from Merriam Webster, is "one who advocates preservation (as of a biological species or a historical landmark)." To preserve is "to keep alive, intact and safe from decay."

I consider myself a preservationist, thereby advocating, first and foremost, to save buildings from demolition. Your exhibition touches on this aspect as you chose an old restaurant supply store as your setting instead of building a new gallery from the ground up, but beyond this example your views are skewed. Claiming preservationists use white walls and minimalist spaces as techniques to 'preserve' a structure are solutions developed by developers, certainly not preservationists. Nor is the popular opinion among preservationists to convert historic and culturally significant spaces into monuments of mass consumption as Ouroussoff skirted with his example of CBGB transforming into John Varvotos. This is where my frustration comes from.

Your vision of the system miscategorizes the many moving parts related to the practice of preservation. Now, assuming we are solely concerned with architectural preservation, you should be the first to know that to erect a new structure or to demolish and old one takes an army of professionals with different specialties. Planners, developers, engineers, city regulators, and policy makers are consulted on most architectural projects that we see go up in major urban centers. The last person to be notified, if at all, is the local preservationist. In fact, s/he usually represents a small neighborhood non-profit with limited resources to even begin tackling such issues as permits and property values and boundary lines. What this preservationist is armed with is a deep understanding of the history of the building and the cultural context of the place s/he is trying to save.

My point is, the preservationist is not to blame for the product you call, "low-grade, unintended timelessness." Instead, the client and the architect or interior designer who "renovates" is causing this phenomenon more commonly referred to as ersatz nostalgia. Rem, surely you are familiar with Ajrun Appadurai's theory on the social imaginary. If not, I suggest you read Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy which outlines this phenomenon as a way of digesting and maneuvering culture in today's globalized world.


Appadurai considers the idea of preserving the past a marketing ploy especially in fashion; however, this concept has already existed for years in architecture as a form of the practice of adaptive reuse. This is what you are essentially criticizing, Rem--NOT preservation. Adaptively reusing historic properties is what Ouroussoff means to blame when he states, "historic centers are being sanitized of signs of age and decay."

I agree that to reuse a building in a new capacity has its disadvantages.
But to correct Nicolai's final sentence in his article, "we seem to have become a world terrified of too much direct contact with reality," the truth of the situation is quite the contrary. As a preservationist, one is forced to accept the interior changes of a structure for the mere sake of saving the physical building shell. Preservationists and historians, especially in the United States, rarely fight to preserve historic interiors because our government does not have any policies regulating historic interiors. And because it is too costly politically, preservationists rather cut their losses early on and stick to saving the facades. Exteriors powerfully shape our experience of the built environment. Whether you live in a metropolis or the rural countryside, the spaces we encounter force us to respond to them. When you have an area such as the East Village in lower Manhattan and new development popping up every day in the form of glass high-rises for luxury apartment living, this generates a certain opinion and reaction not only to the building, but the entire block and neighborhood.

Indeed, these glass boxes are the very source of what you call gentrification. Take the example of the Second Avenue Kosher Deli which opened in 1954. After years of fending off his landlord, Jack Lebewohl was forced to shut down his famous shop after he was subject to grossly increased rents. The site was an institution, not only as a deli, but as a memorial to the once prominent Yiddish Theater District that Second Avenue used to be. The building was spared, but the new tenant is now Chase Bank. Preservationists did not invite Chase Bank. In fact preservationists, including the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, are in the process of proposing the East Village as a historic district which has taken years of research and dedication to prepare. You have argued that the wealthy have flocked to these historic sites and homogenized the spaces so greatly that they now resemble cultural wastelands. Rem, you are absolutely correct! But again, your attack on preservationists as the culprits for gentrification is unjust and flat out wrong. I believe you mean to disparage the Guiliani's of the world who cracked down on the drug addicts in Tompkins Square Park and forced the homeless and artists out to make way for a new generation of yuppies and upper middle class NYU graduates.

Preservationists accept adaptive reuse as a means to obtain what they really want to keep which is the building. They also compromise by settling with adaptive reuse of a building, block, or neighborhood as a means to appease owners, developers, and city governments. But to reuse a historic space by adapting it for modern day living is quite sustainable and has other advantages that counter the negative effects of gentrification. Take Donovan Rypkema for example. He is a staunch believer in sustainable development via historic preservation and heritage management. His speech "Sustainability, Smart Growth, and Historic Preservation,"
http://www.preservation.org/rypkema.htm outlines ways in which a few improvements to a historic structure outweigh new construction in terms of economy and livability. "A frequently under-appreciated component of historic buildings is their role as natural incubators of small businesses. It isn't the Fortune 500 companies who are creating the net new jobs in America. 85% of all net new jobs are created by firms employing less than 20 people. One of the few costs firms that size can control is occupancy costs/rents. In both downtowns, but especially neighborhood commercial districts a major contribution to the local economy is the relative affordability of older buildings." It might be hard to tell that this is happening in New York's East Village with Chase and other major retail operations crowding St. Mark's Place and Astor Square, but this neighborhood is one of the last in all of Manhattan to retain appreciation for mom-and-pop stores and restaurants. More accurately, Rypkema focuses his attention and research on smaller American towns where main streets and city centers are the only source of economic activity.

Preservation should not be about stopping time. Preservation is the celebration of a significant place, not in one time, but many. Post-modernism taught us that there is a multiplicity of histories we should honor. So, although I'm jealous of the young New Yorkers living in $10 million luxury condos in the old beaux-art building that once housed downtown's Police Headquarters, I am truly pleased that I am still able to enjoy the sight of this turn-of the 19th century structure on my way home from work everyday instead of another glass box without any historical relevance.

In conclusion, your concerns are completely valid. But I was disappointed in your exhibit for its lack of clarity and the fact that by your reputation museum-goers will assume without question that preservation and preservationists are the root of gentrification which has caused our cities to become sterile. Preservation is about sustainability. Sustaining culture, sustaining multiple histories, and protecting the built environment.


JJ Markas
Preservationist and resident of the East Village in New York

23 May 2011

Luxury Hotel Conversions

This week's post is inspired by a recent article in the New York Times about the sale of the MetLife Insurance Tower to Tommy Hilfiger. It got me thinking about what a (mostly) great adaptive alternative it is to outfit former structures as hotels compared to new luxury hotel construction (see Donald Trump article in "Articles of Interest").

As the article outlines, Hilfiger purchased the property from Africa Israel USA Group for $170 million with plans to turn it into a luxury-concept hotel like those created by Ian Schrager, Andre Balazs, and David Rockwell. Although the market might be inundated with hotel rooms, the process of a hotel conversion could prove to be advantageous to the historic property in the long run rather than leaving it lie lame. Factors such as daily maintenance of the interior and exterior of the building, preservation of the interior decorative finishes, and increasing overall exposure of the property to the public might very well be the answer to its survival as a National Historic Landmark.

I've highlighted two well-known hotel conversions in landmarked buildings around New York City, though the list could go on and on. It makes me glad to think these beautiful structures are still being enjoyed by New Yorkers and tourists alike, albeit not in their original form. Then again, this blog embraces adaptive reuse as a successful form of historic preservation.

Bryant Park Hotel:
Known as the American Radiator Building, the Bryant Park Hotel is situated inside the 23 story structure built in 1923 that once housed the headquarters of American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Company. Designed by one of the company's employees, Raymond Hood (who designed the company's radiators among other things), the building speaks to the golden age of Art Deco. Its gilded terra-cotta ornaments, bronze plating, black granite, and black brick exude radiance and luxury. Landmarked in 1974, the building now houses 128 hotel rooms dreamed up by Brian McNally and architect, David Chipperfield, in 2001. It is frequented mostly by fashion's elite, especially during fashion week in Bryant Park. For more information click here: www.bryantparkhotel.com

W Hotel-Union Square:
David Rockwell created the interiors of the 270 room W Hotel with attention to light, nature, and craftsmanship. Formerly the Guardian Life Building, this beaux-art structure was completed in 1911 and to this day retains a monumentality which anchors the northeast corner of Union Square. The mansard roof connects it to French architecture, especially the Second Empire style. The W Hotel chain is known for its hip restaurants and, as expected, the Union Square location boasts Todd English's Olives restaurant and bar not only for tourists, but the young after work crowd and trendy Parsons students. For the W Hotel website, click here: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels

04 May 2011

Volunteering Is Good For The Soul, and Preservation

I had a ton going on in my daily life when I first moved to New York three years ago. Starting a graduate program, working full-time, finding a place (more like places) to live, and developing a social circle were my top priorities. Although I am now settled in the East Village, work full-time, and since completed my Masters degree and have a great group of friends, there still never seems to be enough time in the day. I barely see my girlfriends each week and if so it's for a quick drink, my boyfriend and I are bound to a tight schedule given our different working hours and instead of 40 hour work weeks, extra hours always seem to creep in for deadlines or big meetings. There are some activities I have given up altogether (my gym membership lapsed six months ago and I do not foresee renewing it anytime soon) and others I do not dare begin for fear of not having enough time to complete them (sewing school and night-time courses in interior design). Yet, I have figured out a way, despite the madness of a full day or week, to combine my passion for art, architecture and preservation with positive contributions that have helped me and my community. The secret: volunteering!

Volunteering is a perfect way to get acquainted with like-minded people who share the same passions. In addition, it presents the opportunity to make new friends and business connections. You might be thinking to yourself: why would I choose volunteering over exercise or professional courses to help me develop stronger skill sets? These are perfectly legitimate questions. Here are my answers--you might be surprised:

1) Volunteering is a resume-builder 
For nearly two years I have been a volunteer board member for the Society of Architectural Historians--NYC Metro Chapter. I am the official Treasurer for the group and carry all fiscal responsibility including depositing membership checks and tracking expenses. This is one of my greater time commitments and I probably spend 16 hours/month working with them. As of January this year, I was also elected to develop the monthly newsletter which contains a series of events across NYC in relation to architectural history. Not only do I provide our members with a list of lectures, exhibitions and events, but it's also my perk as I can schedule my calendar weeks in advance for those which I plan to attend. When I have gone on job interviews, the first thing I am asked about is my position with the society and how it has helped me hone my financial skills. Working with a non-profit is different than managing the money of a for-profit and these are nuances employers notice and value.

2) Make connections
During graduate school I interned with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) as a research assistant whose responsibility was to survey a block of the East Village for a larger historic designation nomination report. I was able to earn credit for school, learn about my neighborhood, and meet a number of individuals who I can turn to for questions and references. To this day, my internship supervisor is still a dear friend who has helped me understand more about preservation. She has graciously written me references for job applications as well as study tours and I consider her one of my most valuable connections in New York City. After my internship was completed, I stayed on board with GVSHP and now volunteer when I can. Whether I am helping set up a lecture or stuffing envelopes for a fundraiser, I am involved in the process of running non-profit programs. These commitments are usually no longer than one or two hours and I volunteer according to my own schedule. It's a win-win situation for both parties.

3) Exercise
This past Sunday I volunteered for the GVSHP annual house tour. I was stationed in one of the homes for two hours making sure the flow of traffic was not concentrated for too long in one space and that each visitor maintained respect for the owner's home. However, after my shift I was also able to view the rest of the 8 amazing homes owned by art collectors, designers, and other elite residents in both Greenwich Village and West Village. Because it was a house tour organized by GVSHP, the focus was preservation of the historic structures as well as extraordinary renovations conceived by the owners. So, I was also able to learn from the event and take home some ideas for my own space and research. The distance between the homes was not too far, but it gave me the opportunity to traverse 20+ blocks on one of the warmest days NYC has seen to date this Spring. Killing two birds with one stone, I was able to score a free house tour worth $150/ticket and get a bit of exercise outdoors which I would have otherwise paid for to do indoors. This is truly a wonderful event and I urge anyone who is interested in architectural preservation and real estate in general to attend next year. You might want to see if they need any volunteers!

4) Learn something new
I am also a volunteer board member of the Art Deco Society of New York. Although most of the events are coordinated by the president and they already have a seasoned treasurer, I am able to assist with revamping the website and look for grant opportunities. I have never written a grant before, but I am learning more and more each day as I continue to research and apply for grants for ADSNY. I had a friend install the Adobe Software Suite on my computer and in my spare time I fiddle around with Illustrator and InDesign trying to develop a new logo for the society. So, while I am not exactly honing my sewing skills, I am learning valuable computer programs that I might be able to use in the future for other volunteer posts or for paid jobs. And I don't have to pay for classes!

5) Land a new job
Although this example happened a few years ago, it is a testament to the power of volunteering. When I still lived in Los Angeles I had a bleak job as an analyst at a housing company. The position had nothing to do with anything I was interested in so I decided to volunteer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the weekends in order to fill the void. Week after week I lead group tours and attended art training sessions and became well acquainted with the volunteer manager. When a position for a financial analyst posted on the museum's website, a fellow volunteer suggested I apply. Not only did my volunteer coordinator write me a glowing reference, I also landed the job on my first interview! It was the beginning of my career in the arts and I must say one of the smartest (and luckiest) career moves to date.

Go out and volunteer right away! You will not only be helping your community further its goals for preservation and cultural advancement, but you will also benefit from the time your spare in more ways than one!

26 April 2011

SoHo Cast-Iron Building Finally Restored!

Usually, I walk swiftly past the cast-iron buildings in SoHo in order to beat the long lunch line at Fanelli's, but this week I took notice of a building that had been under renovation since I moved here almost three years ago. The structure was still under scaffolding; yet, something about the facade had changed. I turned around and headed back to the office to do some research. My findings prompted me to write about the research process in this week's post. For those of you who are interested in preservation it might seem like a daunting task to begin even thinking about where to look for information on a building. Rest assured, the resources you need are mostly online. The following is an abbreviated process on how to research basic information on historic structures in NYC.

The first step one should always take if interested in the preservation of a building is actually look at the property in the round. Your eyes are your best friends. From what I can tell, 122 Greene Street is located on the corner of Prince Street across from the Apple store. Wolford's boutique sits at the ground level and four condominiums rest on top, making it one of many mixed-use structures in the area. The building struck me as curious in 2008 as it was painted entirely white and had permits posted on the property. I thought to myself, was it just painted? The possibility was unlikely as the district is historically landmarked. All of this information comes from physical examination.

For a more thorough property search, you must check the Department of Buildings (D.O.B.) website. However, you will need a block and lot number of the building in question. This can be found on the NYC Finance website under Property/Property Information. The block and lot number are essential in retrieving any and all information one seeks out at the D.O.B. Once the property report is pulled you can essentially search through all the documents on that building--permits, complaints, violations, and applications to name a few. Sometimes the information is cryptic and rather brief, but for landmarked properties all of the permits are issued by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commisssion (LPC) and contain a full, essay-style report outlining the work to be performed. LPC ensures proposed work is in compliance with the building and preservation codes for historic structures.

I continued sifting through the property report, and eventually came across the permit issued by LPC in 2009 outlining the proposed restoration efforts. Bingo! Permits are always a reliable source of information on changes made to a building. Block 499/Lot 15 is described in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District Designation report as the following: "106 Prince Street (a.k.a. 122 Greene Street) as a store and tenement building designed by W.E. Waring and built in 1866." This one sentence provides some clues about the structure. If you possess a general knowledge of architectural history you will immediately note the erection date of the structure. 1866 marked the end of the Greek Revival and the beginning of the Colonial Revival period in America; the sash windows, decorative cornice, and symmetrical composition of 122 Greene Street speak to this style.

Today the scaffolding stands erect and serves as a showcase of advertisements for the shops underneath, but it also contains the contact information for one of the contractors on the project. So, I called Preserv, a Brooklyn-based restoration and project management firm specializing in historic preservation, and inquired with one of the project managers who worked on 122 Greene Street. He confirmed the project consisted of stripping the brick of paint and reapplying cast-iron supports, but could not recall the history of the building. Although he was unable to elaborate on the structure, it is never a bad idea to speak directly to the design firm that is managing the renovation. They just might be able to provide additional information not found on the D.O.B. website, including the length of the project and materials.

If time permits, I suggest visiting the NYC Municipal Archives to look up original building documents and possible tax photos in order to complete a comprehensive search of your building since its erection. In addition, The Office of Metropolitan History, founded by historian and writer Christopher Gray, contains permits and photos for buildings erected in NYC between 1900-1986. Each historic district also includes maps, photos, and designation reports on the area and certain buildings. In my case, the SoHo Neighborhood Alliance is the organization I would contact for additional information on 122 Greene Street.

These resources are not only useful for those interested in preservation, but also for those who have a general curiosity in the history of their block or apartment building, and even the value of their property.You'll be amazed at what you find!


15 April 2011

Understanding the Tobacco Warehouse Controversy

A sigh of relief was heard last Friday from local preservation advocacy groups, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Fulton Ferry Landing Association and Brooklyn Heights Association, after federal judge Eric Vitaliano "granted a preliminary injunction" halting New York City's plan to turn over two historic structures to private developers. The verdict comes as a response from a lawsuit filed by the advocacy groups back in January when they claimed the National Park Service (NPS) and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) were urged by the Bloomberg Administration to revise the zoning map, whereby the Tobacco Warehouse and the Empire Stores building were strategically drawn out of the federal landscape.

Nearly 150 years old, the Tobacco Warehouse once served as an inspection site for imported tobacco, while the Empire Stores building was used for coffee storage among other spices. Both are located in the northern section of Brooklyn Bridge Park in the Fulton Ferry Landing District. Their presence celebrates the shipping industry that once played an integral role in New York City's 19th century economy. 

In order to understand the court's decision, one must be aware of the laws that protect these historic buildings. First, the structures are located on federal parkland which means NPS is ultimately responsible for their well-being. Secondly, the Tobacco Warehouse has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974 protecting it from demolition. Finally, OPRHP applied for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant and was awarded the funds in 2001. Under this grant certain requirements must be satisfied and laws obeyed. Of great importance is a provision in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 under section 6(f)(3) which states: "no property acquired or developed with assistance under this section shall, without the approval of the Secretary [of the Interior], be converted to other than public outdoor recreation uses." To preservationists dismay, this is exactly the compliance that had been breached by allowing St. Ann's Warehouse, a theater group in DUMBO, to lead a $15 million redevelopment of the empty Tobacco Warehouse including building a permanent performance space and administrative offices.

The heart of the controversy lies in changes made to the zoning area. A subsequent paragraph in section 6 reads: "No changes may be made to the 6(f) boundary after final reimbursement unless the project is amended as a result of an NPS approved conversion." In 2003  no other documentation accompanied the request for final reimbursement of the grant. The monies were claimed and the grant was closed out in good order. However, in 2008 OPRHP requested NPS to "revise the section 6(f) boundary map" for the Empire Fulton State Park (ESFP) stating that the warehouse buildings were "not suitable for nor used by the public for outdoor recreational opportunities in the park." In response, NPS acknowledged their oversight of the warehouses in the original grant application stating they should not have been part of the area under the terms of the grant as the grant only covers conservation of land and water and outdoor public spaces. To complicate matters further, NPS reissued a new boundary map that did not include the Tobacco Warehouse or the Empire Stores building.
The precedent this case could set  is of great concern to the preservation community as it would essentially compromise the protection historic buildings and sites currently receive under HPS. As Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, stated last Sunday, "this ruling reaches far beyond Brooklyn...If the National Park Service could choose when to enforce the law, historic buildings and parks across the country could suffer."

The debate is not solely pinned to HPS overlooking buildings in a grant application; rather, it extends to the lack of coordination between the state and city agencies. EFSP and OPRHP twice confirmed that by submitting appropriate documentation to complete the grant application, including the controversial boundary map with the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire States building in its zone, "it understood the implications of the proposed 6(f) boundary." If they were unable to foresee the use of the buildings in the future by either state or city agencies, OPRHP should never have included the buildings in their grant submission.

According to Vitaliano's decision, the plaintiffs demonstrated irreparable harm and a likelihood of success on the merits which were items necessary to order an injunction. St. Ann's Warehouse and/or Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) are planning to commence drilling in the concrete floor to determine whether or not the structure is sound for further development. Potential injury to the building is completely possible and, "all agree that the Tobacco Warehouse is worthy of preservation and care, and thus the inadequacy of monetary compensation for any harm to it is self-evident." The likelihood of success on the merits was based on the record of the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. "There is no suggestion of a cartographical error of any kind...the purposeful inclusion and acceptance of the structures within the 6(f)(3) boundary is further confirmed by a wealth of details from the record."

The good news is the Tobacco Warehouse will continue to serve as an outdoor public space enjoyed by those who visit Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the other hand, St. Ann's Warehouse might be out of a home if they do not find a proper space for their theater group. Preservation decisions are never black and white. Although adaptive reuse of the buildings presented itself as a viable option at first glance, the integrity of the buildings might be compromised due to dangerous construction conditions. It is also unfair for city agencies to proceed with any projects that directly affect the public without first consulting them. NPS and BBPC will most likely continue to challenge the court's decision by using the case they made a mistake in the grant application submission, but is this really just cause for potentially harming a historic property and taking it out of the public's hands?

10 April 2011

South Village Rally

The South Village is under threat of losing more of its most precious historic buildings!

Today members of the community rallied on Sullivan Street to condemn the sale of the The Children's Aid Society to looming developers, including their next-door neighbor NYU. Over 100 years old, the society has been an integral part of the Greenwich Village and SoHo communities. Its mission is to "fill the gaps between what children have and what they need to thrive."

Community leaders urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to quickly complete the designation of the South Village Historic District. Last June, LPC had officially landmarked 1/3 of the proposed area, but presently 2/3 still remains susceptible to over-development and demolition.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation and Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, lead the well-attended rally by inviting notable community leaders to add pressure to the cause.

SoHo Alliance's Director, Sean Sweeney, drove the message home. Preservation is not just about landmarking the historic mansions on 5th Avenue. It is about recognizing the places that have touched our daily lives not just once, but continuously. The Children's Aid Society is an indispensable community resource and the parents, children, and members of the South Village Community who were in attendance at today's rally are proof that its loss will be greatly felt.

To help save the Children's Aid Society and the remaining 2/3 of the proposed South Village Historic, please send a letter to the city urging them to landmark the area immediately. You can find a letter template on the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation's website below: