New York City now has 140 historic districts across its five boroughs. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to add one more by designating the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District, completing the preservation of the South Village.
The district has approximately 157 buildings. It includes an area bounded by West Houston Street on the north, Watts Street on the south, Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) on the west and Thompson Street on the east. Most of the eastern edge of the district borders the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District Extension. The northwest portion bumps up against the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District. The MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District and South Village Historic District are both just a little north.
Unless the City Council rejects the designation, which is unlikely given the support of Council Member Corey Johnson, any new construction or modification of existing structures in the district will have to be approved by the LPC.
The earliest portions of the district date to the 1810s. Of the properties included, 20 percent were constructed prior to 1850, 15 percent between 1851 and 1878, 20 percent between 1879 and 1900, 30 percent between 1901 and 1916, a single building between 1916 and 1929, and 15 percent between 1930 and now. It is mostly residential with rowhouses, tenements, and apartment buildings, along with many historic storefronts. Twenty-two percent have been deemed “non-contributing.”
It includes five already-designated individual landmarks, the Vesuvio Playground at the corner of Spring and Thompson streets, and St. Anthony of Padua Church at 155 Sullivan Street. There are four buildings under construction and three vacant lots.
Commissioner Frederick Bland complimented the LPC’s research staff for their work and said the growth of the district had been “extraordinarily interesting.”
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said this designation gives more credence to the notion of designating landmarks and districts for cultural reasons more than aesthetic reasons. He noted that tenement buildings aren’t always truly interesting.
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said that without the protection of the LPC, the South Village’s “sense of place” would be lost.
LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan also complimented the research team for its “excellent” work on this “challenging district.”
The lead organization pushing for designation of the South Village was the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP). Tuesday was a happy day for its executive director, Andrew Berman.
“After ten years and multiple rejections by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, it’s wonderful to finally get this last section of the South Village landmarked,” said Berman. “Today’s landmark designation will preserve the neighborhood we have been fighting for a decade to protect from developers like Jared Kushner, who have recently bought up properties in this area. The South Village embodies New York at the turn of the last century when it was awash with immigrants who, from modest beginnings, transformed our city. We want to preserve and honor that rich history, the charming architecture, and the human-scaled streets, and not watch it give way to anonymous oversized development as we have seen in so many other places.”
GVSHP had opposed rezoning the St. John’s Terminal site on Washington Street. Though activists such as GVSHP have been pushing for this district for a decade, its actual designation process was rather speedy, with calendaring and a public hearing both held in November.
Keep your eye out for those terra cotta-colored street signs!