By George Capsis
“Come, they are going to have a meeting at PS 3 on the redevelopment of Gansevoort Street” offered Nelly Godfrey and sweetened the plea with fried calamari at her restaurant, Lima’s Taste, right around the corner on Christopher and Barrow.
I don’t go to meetings like this anymore but rely on the words and opinions of Andrew Berman, the articulate Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who gets applause when he stands up to speak, but I can’t resist Nelly’s fried calamari.
The CB 2 chairperson announced that we would start with a half hour presentation by the developer and I heard myself saying “too long”.
There were two speakers, first architectural historian Cas Stachelberg of historic preservation advisor Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, who recited the history of Gansevoort back to the 1840’s and offered a photo of very thin, graceful iron columns of the first elevated steam railroad that ran down 9th Avenue and then traced the history of the seven original buildings starting on Greenwich Street and moving west to Washington.
The architect, Todd Poisson, spoke for the developers, Aurora Capital Associates and Neil Bender, the nephew of the famed collector of cheap (at the time) Village real estate, the deceased (1999) William Gottlieb.
The first few building will stay pretty much the same in height, and according to the real estate publication Curbed, will be rented to Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Pastis restaurant but the last two larger plots were shown with a 3 story building with an additional floor set back, and the last, a massive six story building with a funny curved two story penthouse—all in all it will stand 111 feet high (that’s big).
Not having been to a CB 2 meeting for some time I was struck with how old everyone was—a sea of gray hair—and each speaker began with how many years he/she had lived in the West Village, and I would guess they are nearly all living in rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments. To a man, they all denounced the proposed buildings. The big new buildings are luxury condos that will instantly sell for millions, bringing in people who do not have to go to Trader Joe’s to save 20 cents on a quart of milk, but will go next door to Pastis for their meals.
So the opposition to the project is not as much about saving the indifferent architecture (one building was built in 1952) but about saving the West Village from gentrification by millionaires and maybe a few billionaires.