More on South Village Preservation Efforts

Historic South Village in limbo
By Justin Rocket Silverman, amNewYork Staff Writer
jsilverman@am-ny.com

May 21, 2007
From 1820s Federal style homes, to the early 20th century site of one the city’s first lesbian bars, to the Beat poet cafes of the 1950s, the southern end of Greenwich Village is easily among the most unique slices of urban history anywhere in the United States.

Yet most of the area lacks the landmark status granted almost 40 years ago to the rest of Greenwich Village, leaving structures like the Edgar Allan Poe House, demolished in 2001 to make way for NYU Law School, defenseless against the wrecking ball.

“The South Village was really the heart of the immigrant, especially Italian immigrant, section, while the rest of Greenwich Village was a little more genteel, a little more upscale,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which is spearheading an effort to landmark the South Village.

Defined as a 35-block area roughly south of West 4th Street, between LaGuardia Place and Seventh Avenue, the South Village was part of the original Greenwich Village Historic District application in 1969.

But the area didn’t make it into the final protected district, leaving the neighborhood vulnerable to a temperamental real estate market and profit-hungry developers.

“Most of the neighborhood is still remarkably intact,” said Berman, “and we’d like to keep it that way.”

The South Village was recently given a layer of protection when it was made eligible for inclusion on the State and National Register of Historic Places. Now no public money can be used to build structures that would be out of character with surrounding blocks.

NYU, by far the largest presence in the South Village, can no longer use state financing to build dormatories. University spokesman John Beckman says a full historic designation could “make it more complicated” to build new campus facilities, but that NYU recognizes the value of the area’s historic character and fully supports efforts to make a South Village historic district.

Berman, however, says NYU has raised the ire of many area residents by raising issues about the appropriate boundaries for the neighborhood.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is reviewing the request to landmark the South Village, a lengthy process that includes evaluating each building and contacting nearly every landlord.

Spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said there is no estimated time frame for when the commission might act, but that letters in favor or opposed to the designation can be submitted through www.nyc.gov/html/lpc .

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Posted Under: Designation, South Village

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