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BY SAM SPOKONY | Four months after the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the South Village Historic District, the City Council on April 10 resoundingly seconded the motion.
By a 47-to-0 vote, the Council officially landmarked the new historic district, which is roughly bounded on the west by Sixth Ave., to the north by W. Fourth St., on the east by Sullivan St. and LaGuardia Place and to the south by W. Houston St.
“This new historic district will protect centuries of history,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson after the vote. He noted the pressure of potential development throughout the area that “threatens to forever scar the low-slung, light-filled Village.”
The 13-block swath, which includes around 250 buildings, was an affluent area in the early 19th century, and later became an immigrant enclave after around 1850, when existing buildings were repurposed for multi-family dwellings and new buildings were constructed to house waves of Italians and other newcomers. The South Village also gained fame in in the 1950s and ’60s as a bohemian scene that welcomed iconic artists like Bob Dylan and other folk singers to the neighborhood.
“The South Village is an enduring testament to the vibrant cultural and immigrant history that makes New York City so unique,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “The South Village Historic District will ensure that this neighborhood’s rich architectural character is preserved and protected in the face of the city’s rapidly changing landscape.”
Meanwhile, local preservationists are still pushing for the city to landmark another section of the South Village that was notably left out of L.P.C.’s recent designation. That triangle-shaped portion would extend the historic district south of Houston St. to Watts St., bounded on the east by a line midway between West Broadway and Thompson St., and on the west generally by Sixth Ave.
“We’re hoping whoever the new L.P.C. chairperson is will be more open to including that section,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, referring to the fact that Mayor de Blasio will likely soon appoint a new L.P.C. head, since current chairperson Robert Tierney is a holdover from the Bloomberg administration.
De Blasio has not given any clear indication as to who will take over from Tierney.
“But when it happens, we’ll certainly be reaching out to the new chairperson immediately to push for that addition,” said Berman.
In addition, last month, the federal government finalized approval of G.V.S.H.P.’s proposed full South Village Historic District, so it is now on the National as well as the State Register of Historic Places. That means that state and federal tax breaks and financial aid are now offered for restoration work on properties in the district. The area is now also protected from harmful state and federal actions, and the use of state and federal monies is subject to historic preservation review.