East Village Historic District Approved by Landmarks Commission

By Serena Solomon on October 10, 2012 7:00am 

NEW YORK CITY — The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted Tuesday to designate a swath of the East Village a historic district — despite protests from some building owners and church members about its impact on existing structures.

The East Village/Lower East Side Historic District will afford landmark protections to about 330 buildings located along Second Avenue and its adjacent side streets, between East Seventh and East Second streets.

While preservationists celebrated the designation, which still requires approval from the City Council, some landlords and religious leaders opposed the idea of their buildings becoming landmarks, claiming that the added cost and inconvenience of altering protected buildings would be too great a burden.

Buildings that are either landmarked or fall within a historic cannot alter or repair their facades without approval from the LPC, and often must use building materials and adhere to styles that fall withing the commission's guidelines.

"Everyone knows and talks about the East Village and the Lower East Side, and we have done something about it," said LPC Commissioner Robert Tierney, prior to the LPC's six-to-one vote in favor of the designation.

"We have ensured in a small way that there is a built environment that tells the cultural and immigrant story."

The district changed slightly after a public hearing in June, with the LPC dropping five buildings located along First Avenue from the proposed district.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which advocated strongly for the district, welcomed the designation.

"This neighborhood has been a Mecca for artists, immigrants, and innovators for the past two centuries," he said.

The LPC had been researching the district, conducting studies and reaching out to building owners and other organizations, since 2006, Tierney said.

However, he acknowledged community support has not been unanimous.

One of the building owners opposed the district is the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin of Protection on East Second Street.

"Immediately it is going to cause administrative expenses because of all the paperwork to file needed with added permits to the LPC," said R. Wright, a member in the church that counts 110 families in its parish.

The church attempted to squeeze in a repair for a basement wall with water damage before the designation, but time ran out, he explained.

"We can't repair it. We have to shore it up with sandbags," Wright said, estimating a 300- to 400-percent increase in the cost of the church's maintenance bill after the deisgnation takes hold.

Krystyna Piorkowska, who's owned a building on East Seventh Street for the past 31 years, is also opposed to the designation.

"We can't paint the fire escape without a permit, and then they can come in and tell us what paint to use," she said.

"If that is not over the top legislation, I don't know what is."

Both Piorkowska and Wright agreed the new historic district would also increase housing costs for residents, potentially pricing out the population that gave the neighborhood its historic clout.

"Guess what? Rents are going up in the neighborhood. And guess what? That is going to cause urban gentrification," Wright said. 

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