The developer of a commercial tower planned to rise along the western edge of the High Line at 13th Street and Tenth Avenue has dropped its bid to build a significantly larger structure than is allowed by zoning. The proposed tower, to be designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Studio Gang, had sought a variance to build 34 percent larger than is permitted by zoning at 40-56 Tenth Avenue. However, after a number of appearances before the Board of Standards and Appeals, it became clear that approval for the variance would not be forthcoming, according to Howard Goldman, the project’s land use attorney. However, developer William Gottlieb Real Estate is still seeking height and setback variances in its modified application.
To film their latest production Inside Llewyn Davis—the story of a Dylan-esque 1960s folk singer—Joel and Ethan Coen were forced to travel far from Greenwich Village, to sites “scattered across four boroughs” in search of scenic authenticity, according to a recent article in the New York Times magazine. The Jones Street that appears on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is, in other words, no longer on Jones Street—despite a 2010 ruling by the Landmarks Preservation Commission that granted landmark status to the relevant portion of the South Village.
But the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation celebrated a victory today for filmmakers of the future who might look to approximate the Village in the year 2013, winning landmark status for a 13-block section south of Washington Square that contains 240 buildings.
This afternoon, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold its first and only hearing on the second phase of the proposed South Village Historic District—the formerly working-class section of Greenwich Village that local activists and preservationists say is now under intense development pressure in the aftermath of the Hudson Square rezoning.
While many in the local community have long agitated for landmarking, and the first phase of the process was approved in 2010, the hearing for the second phase hearing remained unscheduled until the Landmarks Commission agreed to hold a vote before the end of this year as a condition of the Hudson Square rezoning, though only on the section north of Houston Street.
Purple People Eaters
The dead may not literally walk among us, but they can certainly cause headaches for developers. In 2006, work on Trump Soho was temporarily halted when human remains were discovered at the construction site, where a Baptist Church once stood. Last year, plans for a development in Queens were nixed after the property—home to a colonial-era cemetery—was landmarked. And back in 1991, the federal government was forced to significantly alter plans for its $276 million federal office tower in Lower Manhattan after uncovering the 17th and 18th-century remains of hundreds of African Americans.
Now, several preservation and community groups are pleading with developer Douglast Steiner to his abandon plans to demolish the Mary Help of Christians Church complex at 181 Avenue A (between East 11th and East 12th streets), because the buildings were built over a former Catholic Cemetery.
What's Old Is New Again
If you thought that the war over New York University’s expansion in and around the Greenwich Village was over, think again: the university’s banner “NYU 2031″ plan to add infill buildings to its superblock may be over (okay, well, almost over), but skirmishes continue on the periphery, and two battles that broke out over the past week showing no sign of abating.
The first battle involved the new South Village historic district, which preservationists wanted to go hand-in-hand with the Hudson Square rezoning. Preservationists claimed that the rezoning, in addition to endowing property owners with millions of square feet of residential development rights in exchange for ensuring that nothing like the Trump SoHo would ever happen again, would imperil the unprotected historic neighborhood next door.
In the Rezone
The Trump SoHo, the lone protrusion in an otherwise mid-rise Hudson Square, is one of the most controversial buildings in lower Manhattan—so controversial, in fact, that it helped inspire the neighborhood’s recently-passed rezoning. Built in an industrial and commercial zone, the tower styles itself as a “condo hotel” under a loophole worked out by the Bloomberg administration. While marketed as a condo building, buyers are technically not allowed to stay in their rooms for more than 120 days out of the year, or for more than 29 days out of any 36-day period.
But, as Andrew Berman at the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation pointed out to The Observer, these restrictions are basically unenforceable (the Department of Buildings’s press office didn’t know offhand if anyone’s ever gotten in trouble for violating these provisions, or if they’re even responsible for enforcement), and now Mr. Berman has noticed something strange: the city’s own tax lot data codes the property as ”mixed residential and commercial buildings”—apparently a contravention of the zoning code.
In the Rezone
This afternoon, the City Council voted to approve the Hudson Square rezoning. The rezoning—a plan five years in the making that allows for the creation of a denser, mixed-use district with significantly more residential and retail development—is now in effect. Bordered by Tribeca and Soho, there’s little doubt what the rezoning will mean for Hudson Square’s future. Behold New York’s next hot neighborhood.
Full Council approval was largely a formality after the Council’s land use and zoning and franchise committees voted to approve the plan last week, but it was significant: the last step in a lengthy approval process that will transform a neighborhood currently characterized by old printing plants and quiet sidewalks.
A Gay Old Time
There is no doubt that the Hudson Square rezoning, if and when it is approved, will reshape what is arguably the last remaining swath of downtown Manhattan’s formerly industrial landscape. Preservationists, however, are not concerned with the fate of the neighborhood’s old printing plants, but rather, that of the quaint district that borders Hudson Square to the northeast.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation claims that development and demolition plans in the as-yet unlandmarked South Village—a chunk of Soho bounded by West 4th to the north, Sixth Avenue to the west, West Broadway to the east and Watts Street to the South—have been speeding up as the rezoning moves through the approval process.
And then there were condos
While New York is no closer to getting its first city-recognized gay landmark, it does have a Gay Street.
The street, a charming one-block stretch between Christopher and Waverly streets right off Sixth Avenue, would certainly be a well-placed tribute to the neighborhood’s role in the gay rights struggle. But is that really what it’s named for?
For a brief moment in the late summer, it seemed possible, if not probable, that the red brick row house at 186 Spring Street might become the first gay rights landmark in the city to be officially recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Soho rowhouse sheltered a number of prominent gay rights activists, among them Bruce Voeller (who was a leader in the fight against AIDS), Arnie Kantrowitz and Jim Owles, who was the president of the Gay Activists Alliance at the time he lived there, an influential organization that emerged in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. Until the spring, it belonged to another notable New Yorker, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz.
But on a rainy morning last week, the building was surrounded by neither city officials nor map-clutching tourists, but by a demolition crew tasked with tearing it down to make way for a seven-story luxury condo.