South Village District Designation Warmly Embraced by Commission [Update: Council Land Use Committee Approves Unanimously]

Map of South Village Historic District. Image courtesy of LPC.

Map of South Village Historic District. Image courtesy of LPC.

See below for update.
See below for update.

See Below for Update.

Commissioners adopted recommendations of Landmarks’ Research Department to exclude a row of heavily altered buildings on West Houston from designation. On December 17, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the South Village Historic District, an area comprising approximately 250 buildings south of Washington Square Park.  The primarily residential district is bounded by Houston Street to the south, Sixth Avenue to the west, and LaGuardia Place to the east. The area was primarily developed in the 19th century.  Several row houses still remain from early developments from the 1820s and 1830s. Immigrant populations began residing in the area in the 1850s, as wealthier denizens moved uptown, and tenements became the dominant type of development in the neighborhood. The area was a locus of Italian-American life in the early 20th century, and later became renowned as a national center of bohemian life, artists, performance venues, and a thriving gay community.

At the Landmarks hearing on designation on June 25, 2013, public officials, residents, and preservation advocates called for designation of the area. Many testified that developers were threatening the character of the neighborhood. There was no testimony in opposition to landmarking.

At the designation meeting, Landmarks’ Research Department recommended to exclude a row of buildings from 130 to 148 Houston Street, which were part of the proposed district, from the designation. According to the Research Department, the row houses had undergone extensive alteration, which left little original fabric and “virtually no original architectural detail.”

Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney urged amended designation of the “extraordinary district,” which he praised for its architecture and cultural history. Tierney also noted that Greenwich Village had long been the “the epicenter of historic preservation.”  Tierney expressed his hope that designation would protect the neighborhood from “untoward alterations.” Commissioner Michael Devonshire drew attention to the district’s “incredible mélange of architecture,” and Commissioner Joan Gerner noted that the district “holds so much history and culture.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that the district’s “panoply of styles encapsulate the City and its culture.” Many of the commissioners also shared their memories and cultural experiences of the district. Tierney noted spotting Bob Dylan on the street, and Gerner noted attending concerts at Café Wha?.

Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the historic district designation, and adopted the recommendation of the Research Department.

Update: 4/3/2014: On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Law voted to approve the historic district. Landmarks’ Director of Intergovernmental Communications Jenny Fernandez gave a presentation on the district’s architecture, history, and the testimony given at the Commission’s public hearing. The Historic Districts Council and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation testified in support of the district’s designation. The Land Use Committee is voted in support of the designation at its April 3 meeting.  The matter will go before the full Council at its stated meeting on April 10.

 LPC: South Village Historic District, Manhattan (LP-2546)(Dec. 17, 2013).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).




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