Landmarks simultaneously designated two adjacent areas in the Far West Village. On May 2, 2006, in front of a jubilant public audience, Landmarks completed the final step in designating the Weehawken Street Historic District and the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension.
The waterfront Weehawken Street Historic District comprises 14 buildings, built between 1830 and 1938. The district is on the former site of Newgate Prison. When the prison was closed in 1829, an open-air public market was built on the site, some sections of which exist today as houses. The area flourished in the post-Civil War era, as the Hudson River became an important thoroughfare. Drawn to the picturesque waterfront and architecture, artists began occupying the tenement-style buildings in the late 19th Century.
The Greenwich Village Historic District Extension is comprised of 45 buildings built mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries. It contains the rowhouse at 131 Charles Street, as well as Saint Veronica’s Church and a neo-classical police station. An affluent neighborhood in the early 19th century, the federal rowhouses were turned into apartments as the wealthy moved uptown. As immigrants populated the neighborhood, more apartment buildings were built to serve their needs. The community successfully blocked Mayor Robert F. Wagner’s plan to make the neighborhood an urban renewal area in the 1960s.
Both designations passed unanimously, and discussion among the Commissioners matched the enthusiasm of the audience, many of whom wore “Landmark the Far West Village” stickers. Author and activist Jane Jacobs, who passed away a week before the designations, was repeatedly invoked throughout the proceedings. Jacobs lived in the West Village and had been instrumental in saving the neighborhood in the 1960s.
Commissioner Roberta Gratz told the other Commissioners that she had spoken to Jacobs before her death, and reassured her that the designation would happen. Commission Chair Robert B. Tierney specifically acknowledged Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, as being instrumental in the designation’s approval. Commissioner Jan Pokorny addressed the Commission’s function in creating historic districts, saying the “spirit of the old City speaks through districts, not just buildings.”
LPC: Weehawken Street Historic District, Greenwich Village Historic District Extension (LP-2183, LP-2184) (May 2, 2006).