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City Should Save Historic Powder Blue Home in the East Village, Locals Say

By Allegra Hobbs | November 3, 2016 6:17pm | Updated on November 4, 2016 5:24pm
 264 E. 7th St. is located between Avenues C and D.
264 E. 7th St. is located between Avenues C and D.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

EAST VILLAGE — Community activists on Friday will protest the Landmarks Preservation Commission's decision to allow the demolition of a historic pastel-hued East Seventh Street home, arguing the city agency should either grant the building landmark status or preserve the row of houses between Avenues C and D.

A handful of neighborhood groups penned a letter to the commission on Sept. 7, shortly after demolition permits had been filed for 264 E. 7th St., imploring the agency to consider either designating the powder-blue 19th century structure on its own or labeling all of 258-266 a "historic district" in an effort to save the home from the wrecking ball.

But the commission denied the request, explaining in a lengthy letter dated Oct. 17 that the structures do not "rise to the level" of a landmarks designation.

"Anybody who comes across this row of buildings on East Seventh Street is shocked to find this ensemble of early 19th century houses that survives between Avenues C and D," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, explaining the homes have housed both merchants working in the East River's shipyards and influential political figures.

"These houses really are the last piece of the old 'Dry Dock District' which was the heart of New York City's working waterfront in the early 19th century, and in the late 19th century they were at the center of New York City's political life."

LPC officials, while acknowledging the block does have a connection to the neighborhood's storied past, said the buildings in question do not have a "clear connection" to the history. Many of the area's buildings that were especially significant have already been demolished, said director of strategic planning and special projects Lisa Kersavage in her response letter, and buildings of similar style can already be found in existing historic districts.

And the individual building advocates are pushing to save has already undergone too much alteration to merit landmark status, Kersavage said.

The buildings had been deemed eligible for possible landmarking in 2008, during a rezoning of the East Village, city records show, leading Berman to believe that the LPC was going back on its word to preserve the structures.

But the 2008 consideration was simply part of an Environmental Review Process in light of the rezoning, explained an LPC rep, and was not actually part of the commission's formal designation process.

"Often Environmental Review determinations are based on preliminary research and consultant submissions," said LPC spokeswoman Damaris Olivo in an email. "After more research and analysis of the East 7th Street sites to determine LPC eligibility in 2016, the agency determined that the buildings submitted for individual and historic district consideration did not rise to the level of New York City Landmarks."

But preservationists will continue to fight for the courtesy of a public hearing weighing the pros and cons of the designation, said Berman, adding that the LPC should not make its final decision without allowing proponents to present their case before commissioners.

"That’s all we can ask for," Berman said. "If the commission held a hearing and everybody got a chance to state their case, weighed the evidence, and the 11 commissioners ultimately decide it didn't merit landmark status, we would have to accept that."

"But I am fully convinced if this were calendered, they would vote to designate."