Historic District Dispute Heats Up

Landmarks SubcommitteeStephen Rex Brown The subcommittee at tonight’s meeting.

The divide between preservationists and the opponents of a proposed historic district in the neighborhood was on full display Thursday night, as critics of the plan derided a proposed landmark district as an insult to some area institutions.

Supporters of the planned district, covering 330 buildings near Second Avenue and one block of Tompkins Square Park, countered that it would protect the East Village from development and preserve the architectural features of the neighborhood for future generations.

Opponents of the plan, led by representatives from three houses of worship — Congregation Meseritz Syngg, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection and St. Stanislaus Church — questioned whether the district would place an undue burden on them by requiring that they pay for the increased maintenance and upkeep of their buildings.

By the end of the two-hour meeting of Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee at 41 Cooper Square it was clear that the debate is far from over.

“I see this as extra expenses for the community,” said Father Michael Suvak of the Cathedral of Holy Virgin Protection. “This neighborhood is known for its artistic and independent nature. By landmarking and adding extra red tape, it’s going against the nature of the East Village.”

Preservationists sought to assuage the concerns of religious leaders and their parishioners.

“The notion that owners are currently free to do whatever they wish, while they are overwhelmingly constrained under landmark designation is simply not true,” said Andito Lloyd, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

10th St. HIstoric DistrictLandmarks Preservation Commission The one-block district proposed on 10th Street.

Ms. Lloyd’s colleague, Elizabeth Finkelstein added, “Landmarking will by no means freeze your building in time.”

But some of the roughly 50 people in attendance were not buying it.

“How can landmarks tell you these buildings are more important than the people that frequent them?” said Ido Nissani, an architect who attends Congregation Meseritz Syngg on Sixth Street. “We want to preserve our buildings better than how they want to preserve them.”

Ultimately, the three-person landmarks subcommittee voted in favor of the historic district proposal, which will go before the Parks subcommittee next week before being passed along to the full board later this month.

One member of the landmarks subcommittee, David Adams, abstained from voting on the larger portion of the district, saying that its size and layout “disturbed” him.

“It’s like a gerrymandered district,” he added.

EV Historic DistrictLandmarks Preservation CommissionA map of the proposed historic district.