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ANDREW BERMAN - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


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ANDREW BERMAN

Lawsuit Against N.Y.U. 2031 Likely on the Horizon


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NYU Core Aerial Rendering July 24Courtesy of N.Y.U. A rendering of N.Y.U.’s plans for two blocks south of Washington Square Park that features the newly reduced buildings.

Opponents of N.Y.U.’s expansion are hinting that they will announce new legal maneuvers to derail the project should it be approved the City Council tomorrow as expected.

An e-mail from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation notes that lawyers representing faculty opposed to the plan will speak tomorrow after the vote at City Hill “regarding their next steps.” Those opponents have long spoken about the possibility of challenging the land-use review process in court.

NYU 2031 RevisionN.Y.U. A slide depicting the reduction of building’s in
the proposed project footprint.

The executive director of the Greenwich Village Society, Andrew Berman, would not comment on the organization’s specific legal plans until tomorrow, but added, “Should they vote to approve this plan, we and our partners on the N.Y.U. faculty will be working closely with our counsel, Gibson Dunn, to look at every remedy available to right this wrong.” Read more…


Council Committee Approves N.Y.U. 2031, With More Concessions


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N.Y.U. 2031 reductionN.Y.U. Red lines indicate the reduction of the boomerang buildings on the northern block.

A City Council committee voted in favor of New York University’s expansion plan on Tuesday following last minute negotiations that yielded several significant reductions of the project.

The land use committee’s 19-1 vote sends the plan, dubbed N.Y.U. 2031, to the full City Council, which will vote on the plans later this month. Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a member of the committee who represents Greenwich Village, took the lead in negotiations with the university and strongly urged other council members to support the modified plan.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this proposal will allow N.Y.U.’s growth in the Village to occur at a sustainable pace, and that it will not overwhelm the wider Village community,” Ms. Chin said. “Over the past few months, I have heard a litany of N.Y.U.’s broken promises from Village residents. It is time to start a new chapter.” Read more…


Ferris Bueller and Other Villagers Take Day Off for Final N.Y.U. 2031 Hearing


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broderickSarah Darville Matthew Broderick, in glasses.

The City Council hearing on New York University’s controversial expansion plan got a star cameo today, as Greenwich Village native Matthew Broderick argued that N.Y.U. 2031 would further strip the neighborhood of of its character. He was one of about 250 people who spoke out during the packed nine-hour meeting, with about 60 percent opposing the plan and 40 percent voicing their support.

Six hours before the actor testified, N.Y.U.’s president, John Sexton, started the hearing (which The Local liveblogged earlier today) by vigorously defending the project and the university’s need to expand. “This is not a development project. This is an academic project,” he said, explaining that more space was needed to recruit top-quality faculty and students.

Asked why N.Y.U. couldn’t look to other parts of the city, Mr. Sexton told council member Leroy Comrie that further dissipation of N.Y.U.’s activities across the city would amplify the perception that it doesn’t have a traditional campus “or a big football stadium where we gather,” turning off potential students.

“This is the most enlightened way to do this,” said Mr. Sexton, who also used his presentation to announce that a “huge initiative” for financial aid would be coming soon. Read more…


Six More East Village Buildings That May Soon Be Declared Historic


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Yesterday the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Andrew Berman, shared the history of six buildings that may soon be part of the proposed East Village-Lower East Side Historic District. Before this afternoon’s critical hearing, he’s delving into the history of six others.

68 East 7th StreetG.V.S.H.P. 68 East Seventh Street

68 East Seventh Street, built in 1835. This row house at 68 East Seventh Street was built speculatively in 1835 by Thomas E. Davis. Sometime in the 1850s or 1860s, the original Greek Revival façade was updated with Italianate details that include the triangular and segmental window pediments and the frieze located below the original cornice. In 1882, the house was sold to the Protestant Episcopal Church Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, which occupied it until 1904, when the house became a Jewish religious school operated by the Machzikei Talmud Torah. It was then subsequently a synagogue. The house was returned to private residential use in 1960. Read more…


Six East Village Buildings That May Soon Be Declared Historic


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On the eve of a critical hearing regarding the proposed East Village-Lower East Side Historic District, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Andrew Berman, shared information on 12 of the more compelling buildings within the footprint. Here’s a look at the first six.

101 avenue aG.V.S.H.P. 101 Avenue A

101 Avenue A, now the The Pyramid Club. Built in 1876 by architect William Jose.

Although little is known about William Jose, a German-born tenement-house architect, his buildings are often some of the most unusual and intricate in their neighborhoods. His Neo-Grec design for 101 Avenue A is no different, with an unusually ornate cornice, florid fire escapes, and deeply incised window hoods.

The building housed several tenement apartments on its upper floors, while its ground floor long served as a hall where locals would gather to eat, celebrate, mourn, or discuss labor issues and neighborhood gossip. Kern’s Hall was the first to open in 1876 and was followed by Shultz’s Hall, Fritz’s Hall, and most famously, Leppig’s Hall.

John Leppig and later his son, also named John Leppig, both served as the unofficial “Mayor of Avenue A.” Leppig’s closed in the 1930s, and by the 1960s the space was home to a series of performance spaces and cultural centers, which reflected the East Village’s evolution from an ethnic enclave to a worldwide center of cultural ferment. It was also at this time that underground music icon and Warhol superstar Nico lived upstairs at 101 Avenue A, while she was performing with the Velvet Underground.

In 1979 the present occupant, the Pyramid Club, opened in the space. The Pyramid Club had a profound impact on the downtown art, music, and performance art scene. The Wigstock Festival is said to have begun there, as well as politically-conscious drag performance in the early 1980s. In later years it became a showcase for up-and-coming artists, including Madonna, RuPaul, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Read more…


N.Y.U. 2031, Now Hotel-Free, Clears Another Hurdle


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IMG_0086Sarah Darville The City Planning Commission.

New York University reined in its expansion plans further today by eliminating a controversial hotel and accommodations for retail, paving the way for an easy approval from the City Planning Commission.

“The N.Y.U. proposal for the superblocks will provide important new and needed space to one of the city’s most important institutions of higher learning,” said commission chair Amanda Burden, referring to the two blocks south of Washington Square Park that will be the sites of construction.

The green light from the commission did not come as a surprise — Ms. Burden had praised the plan just last week. Only one of the 13 members of the commission voted against the proposal. Read more…


13th Street Auction House Now a Landmark


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IMG_0019Lauren Carol Smith The former Van Tassel and Kearney Horse Auction Mart.

A building that served as an auction block for some of the city’s finest steeds around the turn of the century and decades later the studio of artist Frank Stella is now protected for the ages.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission today voted to designate the former Van Tassel and Kearney Horse Auction Mart building at 126-128 East 13th Street a landmark, essentially preserving its exterior as-is. Read more…


Survey Says: N.Y.U. Should Expand Elsewhere


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Proposed Aerial

A study commissioned by opponents of N.Y.U.’s expansion finds that the city’s economy would be better served if it were built outside of Greenwich Village. The report, released today by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, states that the Financial District, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City could all better accommodate the amount of construction required for N.Y.U. 2031 while also reaping the benefits of the influx of students and scholars. The analysis comes only weeks after the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber Commerce released its own study highlighting the economic benefits of the expansion in Greenwich Village, as well as its support among local merchants.


Local Leaders to Borough President: Hear Us Out About N.Y.U. Plan


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AndrewBermanProtestBeforeCB2MeetingNatalie Rinn Mr. Berman, right, at a protest on Thursday.

One of the most vocal opponents of New York University’s proposed expansion near Washington Square Park wants Borough President Scott M. Stringer to hold a public hearing before making an advisory decision about the controversial plan next month.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, drafted a letter to Mr. Stringer last Friday as the Borough President began his month-long review of the university’s proposal. The note, which came on the heels of Community Board 2’s unanimous advisory decision last Thursday against the expansion plan, was also signed by 15 community members, including block association leaders, preservationists, and Mark Crispin Miller of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan. Read more…


Amid Cheers, C.B. 2 Votes Against N.Y.U. Expansion


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ProtestorsOutsideNatalie Rinn Protestors held a rally before the Community Board’s vote on the N.Y.U. plan.

The ambitious expansion of New York University faced its first formal rejection last night, as Community Board 2 voted unanimously against the plan, saying it would turn Greenwich Village into a construction site for at least 19 years and fundamentally change the neighborhood for the worse.

Not a single person spoke in favor of the plan during over two hours of testimony in the packed basement of St. Anthony of Padua Church on 154 Sullivan Street. After 115 locals, academics and students skewered the plan that would add four new university buildings and 2.5 million square feet of space just south of Washington Square Park, the board cast its vote in opposition to the expansion dubbed “N.Y.U. 2031.”

“We’re here tonight to firmly reject this plan,” said board chair Brad Hoylman. “It’s clear that there is no support for this insidious plan that would destroy the culture of Greenwich Village.”

Cheers went up from the standing-room only audience after the vote, though its impact is limited, given that it is only an advisory opinion. The project will next be considered by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which will ultimately determine the project’s fate. Read more…


East 10th Landmarked, But Not Before Controversial Renovation Is Approved


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buildingNoah Fecks East 10th Street. The second building from the right was approved for a rooftop addition only hours before the street was designated a landmark district.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a historic district on a block of East 10th Street along Tompkins Square Park today, though a controversial rooftop addition that led to the expedited hearing also got the go-ahead literally hours before the vote.

With the designation, the exteriors of the 26 buildings between Avenues A and B will essentially be preserved as-is. But at the meeting the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Andrew Berman, revealed that developer Ben Shaoul’s plans for a rooftop addition to 315 East 10th Street had been approved by the Department of Buildings.

“It reflects poorly on Shaoul and the city agencies that they couldn’t get their act together,” said Mr. Berman. Read more…


Puck Building Penthouse Gets Green Light


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Puck before and afterPKSB Architects The original and final proposals for a rooftop addition to the Puck Building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission finally approved a rooftop addition to the Puck Building today, concluding a four-month process that resulted in numerous rejections of numerous designs.

The owner of the landmarked building at Lafayette and East Houston Streets, Jared Kushner, expressed his pleasure with the outcome, which only came after four other designs were rejected by the commission.

PuckMichael Natale Puck.

“I am very pleased with the results. We got an extension approved that allows us to go forward with a special project,” said Mr. Kushner, who owns the New York Observer. “The additions to the building will further enhance one of the most iconic buildings in the world.”

Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the commission, said that the latest design would not amount to a drastic change to the Puck Building.

Commissioner Michael Devonshire, an architectural conservator, said, “They’ve reached the target of minimalism in terms of massing.”
Read more…


Landmarks Commission on Latest Puck Proposal: Close, But No Cigar


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Screen shot 2011-12-06 at 5.09.53 PMLeft: The building as it is today, without the addition. Right: The most recent proposal. Note the small structures on the roof. Kushner Properties

Jared Kushner did not succeed the first time he sought approval for a rooftop addition to the landmarked Puck Building, and he’s still trying again and again.

Today the Landmarks Preservation declined to approve a plan for a condominium on the roof for the third time, this time because a rendering of the proposal was found to be inaccurate. Still, it appears that approval of the plan — the three others were rejected for being too ostentatious — is near.

Puck Building2Kushner Companies A previous version of the rooftop addition, which was rejected.

“The architecture has calmed down. It’s not a statement anymore,” said Frederick Bland, a commissioner with the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Throughout the process, which began in September, Mr. Kushner has remained positive in spite of the rejections. His tone hadn’t shifted so close to the finish line.

“We are pleased with the progress we’re making,” he said in a statement. “This continues to be a productive process leading to a very special finished product which will improve the building in many ways.” Read more…


DocuDrama: Preservationists Try to Save Row House From Becoming Another 35 Cooper


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316 E. Third StreetStephen Rex Brown The rowhouse at 316 East Third Street.

Last week, preservationists doubled down on their last-minute effort to protect a 177-year-old row house that the owner hopes to demolish and replace with a seven-story, 33-unit apartment building.

A quartet of local preservation groups began pressing the city Landmarks Preservation Commission early this month. In a letter you can read below, the coalition cited the building’s historic qualities, which are reminiscent of 35 Cooper Square, another Federal-style row house that was demolished in May amid much controversy.

“The significance of this and the handful of other surviving pre-Civil War rowhouses to Alphabet City cannot be underestimated,” the preservationists wrote in a letter to the commission on August 2, referring to 316 East Third Street. “Built for merchants associated with the East River’s thriving shipbuilding industry, they recall the neighborhood’s formative years and are all that remain from its heyday as the dry dock neighborhood.”

The letter also noted that the commission had singled out the property as being “eligible for historic designation” in a 2008 study assessing the impact of rezoning in the area. Read more…


Foes of Historic District Plan Emerge


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Historic buildings of the EVDavid Jarrett The leaders of two local houses of worship have emerged as critics of the proposed historic district in the East Village.

Thus far, the proposed East Village historic district has been met with relatively little opposition — but that looks as if it is going to change.

The leaders of two local houses of worship have emerged as outspoken opponents of the proposed district in the neighborhood, which they say would lead to unnecessary expense and bureaucratic inconveniences.

Rabbi Pesach Ackerman of the Congregation Meseritz Syngg on Sixth Street and Father Christopher Calin of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection both bristled at the notion that they would have to get approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission before renovating the exteriors of their religious institutions.

“Once you’re landmarked, you’re not the owners of the building anymore,” said Mr. Ackerman, who has been the Rabbi of Meseritz Syngg for 42 years. “Anything you do, you have to ask their permission.”

Representatives from both institutions, along with those in favor of the district, are expected to speak on Thursday during a meeting of Community Board 3, which will be dedicated to the proposal.
Read more…


Advocates Hopeful About 35 Cooper


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35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk Talks are set for next month between developers and preservationists on the future of 35 Cooper Square.

Preservationists are holding out hope that there is still a future for 35 Cooper Square, now that the site’s developer, Arun Bhatia, has agreed to meet with neighborhood groups next month.

The meeting, arranged through Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, is set for April 12, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told The Local this morning. The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Historic Districts Council, East Village Community Coalition, and Lower East Side Preservation Initiative are among groups invited to the meeting, which will not be open to the public. The meeting’s tentative location is the Neighborhood Preservation Center on East 11th Street.

“It’s something we’ve been seeking for weeks or months,” said Mr. Berman. “It’s been in the works for a long time. We won’t know until we have the meeting exactly what will come out of it, but obviously we’re happy that it’s happening.”

Asked what persuaded Mr. Bhatia to arrange the meeting, Mr. Berman said, “My sense is that it was always a possibility, and now it is confirmed. We’re looking forward to it.”

Mr. Berman and other preservationists hope they can convince the developer to keep 35 Cooper standing. “Certainly the goal going into the meeting is to explore the possibilities for preserving the building, or preserving it as much as possible,” Mr. Berman said. “We go into this knowing that that is not the developer’s plan. We want to engage in what we hope will be a productive conversation, and we’ll see what comes of it. At this point, it seems as if the building’s only hope is the developer.”

Jane Crotty, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bhatia told The Local, “We agreed to meet since the elected officials asked for the meeting. We will hear what the community has to say.”


Proposal Would Limit Building Heights


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DSC_0260Tania Barnes Under the proposed legislation, this 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street would be too tall by half.

In the latest turf battle, it looks like the preservationists are winning.

City Council is set to vote today – and expected to approve — a measure that will cap building heights at 120 feet or roughly 12 stories on the eight blocks between Third and Fourth Avenues and 13th and Ninth Streets. That’s a pretty major shift: under current regulations, the area has practically no height restrictions. (For a case in point, look no further than the NYU dorm on East 12th Street, at 26 stories.)

Originally, the Department of City Planning considered the area, with its wide avenues, better able to accommodate tall buildings, and therefore chose to leave it out of the rezoning plans that affected the rest of the East Village in 2008. That rezoning capped buildings at 75 feet along the streets, 85 feet along avenues, and 120 feet along Houston Street.

But in September, city planning officials changed their tune, agreeing to support building caps for Third and Fourth Avenues. It’s not altogether clear what prompted the change of heart. A spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning would not elaborate on the motives for the reversal. But the support of Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the continuous campaigns of groups like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have undoubtedly played a role.

For preservationists, the failure to include this region in the 2008 rezoning was always an omission and so they don’t necessarily view the pending legislation as a win. Rather, they see it as merely getting the area up to the zoning standards that apply elsewhere. In an interview with The Local, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation called the new legislation “a compromise of a compromise.” The preservation group, he said, had hoped the building cap would be set at 85 feet, 35 feet less than what was ultimately agreed upon.

The new zoning laws will also theoretically raise the allowable height of residential buildings in the area by increasing what’s called their floor-to-area ratio. Still, Berman says the preservation group is happy with the change: “The advantage of that is if there’s going to be new development, it will be more residential. Right now, new development is all dorms and hotels.”


What do you think about the proposal to limit building heights in the East Village?