The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously today to preserve a portion of Greenwich Village notable for fostering some of the most important cultural influences to come out of the city in the last century.
The newly anointed "South Village Historic District," just south of Washington Square, played a vital role in the Beat movement and folk revival, argued supporters of the preservation, having served as the setting to many of the jazz clubs, speakeasies and coffee houses frequented by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Sam Shepard and Miles Davis. The designation means that none of the buildings in the landmarked area—which spans 13 blocks between West 4th Street and West Houston—may be demolished without explicit permission from the LPC.
Though the preservation officially went into effect following the vote, the proposal will now go to the City Council, which has 120 days to decide whether to firm, modify or reverse the decision, said Lisi de Bourbon, the LPC's spokesperson. But advocates of maintaining the neighborhood's historic fabric say there's nothing to worry about.
"The City Council does have the power to overturn it, but the council members who represent the area support it, so we’re not worried or concerned at all," said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. In a statement, Berman expounded on the importance of the landmarking, blasting in particular NYU's plans to build a 300-foot tower on the site of the historic Vanderbilt Hall:
This is a long-overdue victory for this neighborhood and for anyone who loves New York's rich immigrant history and long tradition of cultural innovation. The South Village was the birthplace of modern American Theater, the place where cappuccino was first introduced to America, the site of Dylan's earliest performances and where he wrote Blowin' In the Wind, where Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity, and the home of America's first non-profit theater and the city's first progressive school. Few places embody as much history as the South Village, and few places were in as great of danger of losing that history - in this case to NYU and by other inappropriate development. This landmark designation so many of us fought for years to achieve will help ensure this great history is now preserved.
This is the second phase of landmarking the South Village, the first having been approved in 2010.