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Preservation Advocates Rally to Landmark Historic East Village Building

By Patrick Hedlund | January 29, 2011 11:53am | Updated on January 30, 2011 9:36am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — Advocates gathered Friday to push the city to preserve a nearly two-century-old property on Cooper Square that they fear will be lost without landmark protection.

The Federal-style rowhouse at 35 Cooper Square — sandwiched between the gleaming new Cooper Union academic building and the towering Cooper Square Hotel — was once owned by a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant before housing such luminaries as Liza Minelli and Beat Generation poet Diane DiPrima, historians noted.

The property, at the corner of East 6th Street, sold to a developer for $8.5 million late last year before rumors began swirling that the new owner planned to demolish the 1825 building, which houses a restaurant on the ground floor.

In response, advocacy groups, historians, elected officials and area stakeholders urged the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the property a historic landmark.

However, the LPC has so far declined to act on the proposal, citing the addition of stucco over the building's original brickwork as the reason for not considering the address for landmarking, a commission spokeswoman said.

"This is very frightening and very disappointing to us, because that building is the oldest building on that part of the Bowery," said David Mulkins, co-founder of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, which has also proposed height limits on the Bowery's eastern edge.

"We've lost so much of the historic resources in this area. There's such a staggering amount of historical and cultural significance on the Bowery."

At the rally on Friday, dozens gathered to defend the building's importance and urge the city to intervene before it's too late.

"We are at a critical point," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who wrote to LPC chairman Robert Tierney this week asking that the building be landmarked. "There is a tipping point at which this area will no longer have a connection to the past."

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council — which recently named the Bowery one of the city's six most endangered areas — said that without more landmarking protections, the city risks wiping away the character that draws people to the area in the first place.

"Part of why people come here is the historic buildings," he explained. "We only ask that the city do its job."

The effort dovetails with attempts by the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors to add height limits to the Bowery's eastern side, where no such restrictions currently exist.

High-profile Bowery business owners like restaurateurs Keith McNally and Daniel Boulud, as well as fashion designer John Varvatos, previously pledged to support the proposal.

On Friday, preservationists sought to start with the building at 35 Cooper Square and then work their way southward down the Bowery.

"This is not Abu Dhabi!" said writer/poet Hettie Jones. "We must not allow those who venerate bigger and taller to dishonor our city's past."