As you may have heard, development plans have recently been announced for several important sites in our neighborhood. Fortunately, thanks to landmark and zoning protections, each plan will have to undergo a rigorous public review in which YOU can participate, and cannot be approved unless it is found "appropriate" for its historic surroundings.
Here is an update on each:
Perry Street Garage, 738 Greenwich Street: This familiar West Village parking garage is being sold for development. Fortunately, the site is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District, designated in 1969. This means any proposed changes to the building -- whether demolition, additions, new construction, or even changes to the fa�ade -- must undergo a thorough public review process, including public hearings at the Community Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), before the Commission decides whether the proposed changes are "appropriate" for their historic context.
Fortunately, there are zoning protections as well. Landmarking does not regulate use, and until recently, the zoning for this site would have strongly encouraged a hotel use, and a much larger building than the current one. But in 2010, GVSHP, working in coalition with neighbors, got the zoning changed for this site and the surrounding district to reduce the size and scale of allowable development, put height caps in place where none existed before, and eliminate the zoning bonus for hotel development. Thus if the garage use is replaced and the site re- developed, it will likely be for residential rather than hotel use, and we can be sure the scale will be in keeping with the surroundings. With strong input from the community, we can also help ensure that any proposed visual changes to the structure approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission are modest and appropriate.
18 West 11th Street, "The Weatherman House": In 1970, a 'Weather Underground' bomb factory located in the basement blew up the 1840s Greek Revival rowhouse on this site. The devastating incident, captured on camera by the New York Times (including stunned neighbor Dustin Hoffman surveying the damage), became an iconic image of the political turmoil of the era.
The battles which followed regarding an appropriate replacement for the destroyed house in the newly-designated Greenwich Village Historic District (1969) became equally iconic. One of the first proposals for new construction within a landmarked district, the explosive nature (literally and figuratively) of the house's destruction made the question of how best to rebuild on this spot particularly potent. It took several years and many passionate debates before a design was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and finally built. Architect Hugh Hardy chose to maintain the historic character of the neighboring row of houses with the ground and upper floor in his new design. But for the middle two floors, the new house included a jutting, angled bay window meant to represent both the continuity with the row of historic houses and the violent disruption of the Weathermen bomb explosion.
This design, which has stood for the last three and a half decades, reflects Greenwich Village's traditional building styles, the sometimes violent nature of the political turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s, and the struggles in the earliest years of the landmarks law to respect the past while acknowledging the sometimes highly-charged present and recent past.
GVSHP has discovered that a new owner is planning to apply for permission to demolish and replace the house. We feel strongly that the existing building is an important emblem and integral piece of important layers of our history and should not be destroyed. A formal application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission has not yet been filed, but we will be closely monitoring the situation and will advocate strongly through the public review process that the current design should be preserved.
9-19 Ninth Avenue at Little West 12th Street: Located in the heart of the Meatpacking District, the existing structure consists of four former stable and wagon storage buildings combined and shortened to one two-story garage in 1921 by William Vincent Astor. Since the late 1990s it has housed the popular restaurant Pastis. In 2003, GVSHP succeeded in getting the building and approximately one hundred ten others on a dozen surrounding blocks landmarked as part of the Gansevoort Market Historic District. Though simple, the building clearly contributes to the Gansevoort Market Historic District, and due to its central location facing Gansevoort Plaza, it has an outsized visual impact upon the neighborhood.
A new part-owner has announced plans to seek major changes to the building, including raising the height of the existing structure (according to plans filed with the Department of Buildings, from 32 to 80 feet, and from 2 to 5 stories). No formal plans have been filed for the site and no hearings set. However, because the site is located within the Gansevoort Market Historic District, no changes can proceed unless approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission after a through public hearing and review process, with the burden upon the applicant to prove that any proposed changes are "appropriate" for the site and the district. We believe that this site has great visual and historic importance to the Gansevoort Market Historic District, and that any proposed changed must be very carefully considered and should be modest in scale.
No landmarks applications have been filed for any of these projects yet. When they do, they will appear on our Landmarks Application webpage, and information about this and all other landmarks applications will appear in our regular e-mail notices. If you would like to receive updates about applications for any of these sites, click here and enter the address along with other required information. You'll receive notifications of when the hearing has been set and how you can weigh in on the application before decisions are made.