Landmarks Holds Designation Public Hearing for Seven Broadway Buildings

Five of the seven buildings considered for designation. Image Credit: Google Maps

Residents divided between bureaucratic concerns and a desire for a larger historic district. On December 4, 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held public hearings for the individual landmark designation of seven buildings on Broadway south of Union Square. The buildings are located at 817 Broadway, 826 Broadway, 830 Broadway, 832 Broadway, 836 Broadway, 840 Broadway, and 841 Broadway.

The seven buildings were built between 1876 and 1902, and most of the buildings share similar Renaissance Revival features. The buildings are also historically significant for their role as homes to garment manufacturers. For CityLand’s prior coverage about this designation process, click here.

Many speakers in support of the designation called on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider creating a larger historic district for the area south of Union Square. Michael Certo, a resident in the area, stated that there were a significant number of important buildings in the area not being protected by Landmarks. Trevor Stewart, another resident, stated that these seven buildings were “drops in the bucket” compared to the number of other buildings that needed protection.

Some speakers cited the recent Union Square tech hub rezoning from last August as justification for creating a historic district to preserve similar historic buildings within the area that are believed to be in jeopardy of demolition due to the rezoning. The Union Square tech hub rezoning facilitated the construction of a digital skills training center at 124 East 14th Street, two streets over from the seven buildings proposed for designation. At the landmarks hearing, residents shared concerns that the rezoning would open the area to redevelopment by tech companies at the expense of the older, historic buildings throughout the neighborhood.

Jesse Denno, of the Historic Districts Council, stated that the “study area should be expanded to examine University Place to 3rd Avenue and the buildings that line the side streets between them. Several equally qualifying buildings exist here, all of which share a common development pattern, historical uses and a shared social history. Given these similarities, a district would have made more sense for this location.”

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation questioned the “cherry-picking approach” of choosing these buildings while other local buildings in the area were more vulnerable to demolition.

At the start of the hearing, Landmarks Preservation Chair Sarah Carroll stated that the neighborhood lacks the consistency in architecture, character, and history to qualify as a historic district, but that the Landmarks research team found a concentration of architecturally significant buildings in the seven that were chosen for consideration.

Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of the Strand Bookstore, spoke in opposition to the designation. The Strand bookstore is on the ground level of 826 Broadway, one of the buildings up for consideration. Bass Wyden claimed that the bureaucratic hurdles of getting Landmarks approval for any changes, including to storefront signs, would damage the business by adding delays and expenses that would make it harder to compete with other retailers. Several other employees from the Strand also spoke in opposition out of concern that a designation would make it harder for them to take care of the building and would endanger their jobs.

Several residents and members of the board of directors for 840 Broadway also spoke in opposition. The residents of 840 Broadway were also concerned about the impact of requiring approval for changes on the ground floor retail in the building.

According to Chair Carroll, some of the building owners asked for more time to prepare for the public hearing, so Landmarks will hold a second public hearing in early 2019. After the second public hearing, Landmarks will vote on the seven buildings.


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)



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