Posts tagged with "Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation":

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CB2 Votes Unanimous Nay on NYU Expansion

Manhattan Community Board 2 unanimously voted against the NYU expansion plan in Greenwich Village last night citing the impact its scale would have on the neighborhood. Grimshaw with Toshiko Mori designed four of the proposed towers and Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the landscape for the 2.4 million square foot expansion. The plans were set within two superblocks that sprang from Robert Moses-era urban renewal projects that featured buildings by I.M. Pei, Paul Lester Weiner, and a garden by Hideo Sasaki. Of the many proposed elements that the board took issue with, density topped the list. Nearly one million square feet would sit below grade. “They kind of gamed the zoning resolution,” said David Gruber, co-chair of CB2’s NYU Working Group. “The zoning talks about density, but that only counts above ground. There was so much underground but that doesn’t get picked up in the zoning resolution.” Even with the below grade component going under the FAR radar, Gruber said that the plan still needs six zoning changes. And though half of the project wouldn’t be seen from the street, the 12,000 extra pedestrians coming to and fro would be. NYU’s vice president of government affairs, Alicia Hurley said that the university was unique in their ability to utilize windowless, underground space, as they can use it for lecture halls, classrooms, auditoriums, and studios. “The thing we’re trying to have people understand is that we know we’re going to have needs for facilities, we’re already thinking of other parts of the city,” she said, referencing downtown Brooklyn and the hospital campus on Manhattan’s East Side. “We are trying to do as much on our own footprint, to limit the spread out into other communities.” After several months of shepherding the proposal through contentious committee meetings, Hurley said that she wasn’t surprised by the vote. Andrew Berman for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said the vote revealed larger problems with zoning. “It seems counter intuitive and an enormous loophole that underground space is not counted as zoning square footage,” he said. “It points to the need for reform.” The irony amidst the “Save the Superblock” t-shirts is that the same preservationist crowd may have likely stood in front of bulldozers to thwart Moses’s urban renewal that created the superblocks in the first place. That  blocks are now considered an asset, argued Tom Gray, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “I think that the preservationist angle is not as pure as it sounds; it's used as a club to stop development which I think is a bit disingenuous,” he said. “Robert Moses put the superblocks in place and it worked. It doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever.”
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Opening Salvo Aimed at NYU Expansion

It was the opening shot heard 'round the Village--and the East Village, and SoHo. An overflow crowd gathered at the Center for Architecture last night to rally the troops opposing NYU's twenty year expansion plan. It certainly wasn't the usual black-clad crowd found at the Center. No, these were some good old fashioned Village rabble rousers. The event was organized by the Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who assured the crowd that the NYU Core plan is "not a done deal." On Tuesday, the university certified proposals with City Planning, thus kicking off the ULURP process for what is likely to become one of the most contentious development debates of 2012. The proposal is, after all,  in the heart of Jane Jacobs country. Just across the street from the Center are the remains of Robert Moses' failed attempt to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway through SoHo after Jacobs and Co. put a halt to the plan. Parcels of land assembled by the Department of Transportation to accommodate the failed highway are now parkland commonly known as the DOT strips. A substantial portion of the 1.3 million square feet NYU wants to build in the area would be placed beneath the strips. The university has proposed designating the strips as parkland after the construction is complete, with the new green space designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. No matter the promises, this was not a crowd that trusts the university. The term "Midtown Zoning" got thrown about with on-message regularity. As did square footage metaphors, such as "bigger than the Waldorf-Astoria," "the size of the Empire State Building," and "three Jacob Javits Convention Centers." Council Member Margaret Chin was on hand to listen, but not to state her pro or con position--despite pressure from the crowd. This month's Community Board 2 subcommittee meetings will no doubt be unusually crowded as they're all dealing with the proposal. If you want to see some New York zoning theater in action, here's a selected breakdown: Land Use:  Mon., 1/9 6PM at The Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Pl. Traffic and Transportation: Tues., 1/10 @ 6:30 NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Pl. room 520 Parks:  Thurs., 1/12 @ 6:30PM at NYU Silver Bldg. 32 Waverly Pl. room 520 Full Board: Thurs., 1/19 @ 6:00PM 116 West 11th Street, Auditorium  
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The Trouble with Eighth Street

In his poem "One Winter Afternoon," e.e. cummings describes Eighth Street in Greenwich Village at the “magical hour when is becomes if." Well, it seems as though Eighth Street has reached that hour once again. The street, which once played a distinct role in Village bohemia, began as a hub for book dealers and fostered the original Whitney Museum. Eventually, the street became a district for shoe stores and edgy fashion anchored by Patricia Field. Field decamped for the Bowery about nine years ago and much of the street has since devolved into a hodgepodge of chain stores and characterless low-end retail. Recently, NYU commissioned a report on the economy in the Village by the economic consultants Appleseed. The report identified the strip as one of a number of “soft areas where the development of new businesses can be encouraged,” particularly the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Of course, any development that finds its way onto the street would have to go through a pretty rigorous process. According to City Planning, the maximum height allowance for a street wall would only be 60 feet. Demolition or alteration of an existing building would also have to go through Landmarks. Nevertheless, there are a few nondescript strip mall-type buildings along the corridor that could probably fly through the process. For some, any report commissioned by NYU must be propaganda for its expansion plans. But even NYU’s biggest detractors acknowledge there’s a problem. “It’s certainly a block that has seen better days,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “I think a lot of people are trying to see it improved, but because it’s in the historic district it's pretty safe from demolition and destruction.” Though Berman still found the report to be a “bald faced attempt to move forward the NYU agenda.” “Appleseed was examining the economy of Greenwich Village, we didn’t tell them the specifics of what to examine,” said NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman. “The mentions of Eighth Street should not be taken as an indication that NYU would be directly involved in the development of the street.” Still, one former Eighth Street stalwart isn’t buying it. “This is a bitter subject for Patricia as she was forced to not only close her store on Eighth Street but also leave her home [she was residing on the top floor of the building],” wrote Patricia Field’s spokesperson Dennis Bernard in an email. “In 2002, NYU kicked her out and all the other business followed. NYU killed Eighth Street. This all she has to say about it.”
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Hyatt Takes It Higher in Union Square

Gene Kaufman is putting the finishing touches on designs for the new Hyatt Hotel intended for the southwest corner of 13th Street and Fourth Avenue. Though its interior will be gutted, a century old limestone face will remain to sheath a two-story atrium/lobby. Just behind the facade the building sets back to form a large terrace holding a hydroponic bamboo garden, then continues to climb another eleven stories. Kaufman said the historical context of the old façade is not of particular importance, but Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, disagreed. “We are glad that they re-used the facade of the two-story building,” he said. “But the 11-story addition seems woefully out of place.” “Nostalgia is something that’s transient. It’s in people's nature to resist change,” said Kaufman. Though his daughter once took dance classes in the old building, he insists that he didn’t keep the facade for sentimental reasons. He said there were practical as well as aesthetic attributes to consider. The old structure forms a retaining wall that allowed the construction to continue unimpeded by regulations for buildings next to a subway line (in this case, the number six running along Fourth Avenue). Also, the street level structure allowed for Kaufman to conjure a 27-foot high lobby interior, which he foresees serving an amalgam of hotel, bar, and restaurant functions. The tower doesn’t veer stylistically far from its base, a lá Norman Foster atop Joseph Urban. Nor does it rest within a historic district,  so it did not have to undergo landmark scrutiny. The aluminum panel clad tower pierced with square widows is capped by a two-story glass curtain wall.  An open circular ring supported by six thin posts finishes the corner suggesting an iconic flourish. The architect is also at work on a boutique hotel on the Bowery and another on 13th Street at 6th Avenue. He said that there is no set house style for the firm, instead they respond to the neighborhood. Kaufman remains nonplussed by historic naysayers. “For us the primary relationship is to the avenue.”