Although larger battles loom, preservationists claimed victory last month with the passage of the Far West Village and East Village rezonings by the city council. The new regulations affect two projects in the West Village, and set the stage for a confrontation with New York University over its NYU 2031 expansion plan.
The Far West Village rezoning—bound by Greenwich, Washington, and West 10th and 12th streets—imposes an 80-foot height limit and ends commercial bonuses for hotels. The rezoning will impact a 100-room hotel proposed by developer Charles Blaichman for the corner of Washington and Perry streets, and a mixed-use building proposed by brothers John and Ron Pasquale for the corner of Washington and Charles streets. John Pasquale said his company will comply. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) began a concerted letter-writing campaign in 2008 after Blaichman’s proposal came to light. Both sites sit no more than two blocks from where Jane Jacobs wrote her famed treatise.
More reactive than proactive, proponents of the East Village rezoning began writing city officials in 2005 after developers demolished much of St. Anne’s Church on East 12th Street. Its 1847 stone facade now fronts a 26-story dorm purchased by NYU earlier this year for $134 million.
“It was a long, hard fight in the case of the East Village. We faced a lot of resistance [from the city], but they eventually came around,” said GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman, crediting Councilmember Rosie Mendez in particular.
Known as the 3rd Avenue Corridor, the rezoning includes the area between 3rd and 4th avenues and East 9th and 13th streets. New restrictions cap building heights at 120 feet and eliminate zoning bonuses for community facilities such as dorms. Most buildings in the East Village district already meet the new criteria, making the rezoning akin to a warning shot in the battle between preservationists and the university.
“We hope the city will apply the same logic to the NYU 2031 plan,” said Berman, adding that the 400-foot tower proposal beside I.M. Pei’s Silver Towers is likely the next flashpoint. “NYU has been portraying it as community-friendly, consistent with Jane Jacobs’ urban planning, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”
In an email, NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman suggested that neighborhoods undergo rezoning to update existing codes “considered out-of-date for the current development needs and desires.” Noting that NYU 2031 plans have not been affected by the rezoning, he added, “It is this philosophy of needing to put in place new mechanisms to allow appropriate development that drives us to undertake our own rezoning efforts on our own property.”