By Robert Widmann
When the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation website published the plans and renderings for the luxury condo building being proposed for 11 Jane Street (directly next to my building at 9 Jane), it was as if I had been struck a physical blow. I felt dizzy.
The building being proposed was a shocker—95 feet high and chock-a-block filled out to the lot-line with saleable space (an architectural innovation perfected by the Trump Organization).
And, most important to me, this construction would completely block my west facing windows and leave me facing a concrete wall shaft-way 6 feet from my windows and extending up another four stories.
I live at 9 Jane, directly next to the development site. I had chosen this apartment 57 years prior, because it was filled with sunlight pouring bright and sweet like honey through 4 west windows all afternoon long. And anytime I, or later we, looked up, there was the refreshment of the blue sky and heaven above. On certain nights, we could turn out the lights and just sit in the darkness made magical by the moonlight.
We had been told that when the Rudin Organization took over the empty St. Vincent’s Hospital, something like this could happen—that the 1% were taking over the Village—that they’d soak up the very oxygen out of the air we breathed. We thought no such thing could happen. Sure, we knew the parking garage next door was zoned C 1-6. But that was done way back when the church that owned the land needed a potential income source. It didn’t mean much then. It was an era that was surrendering chunks of Greenwich Village to exploitation wholesale. But now we lived in an Historic District. We had a Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to protect us.
But on June 7th came the second and, as it turned out, final decision by the LPC on the big, new and exploitative Gansevoort Street development. They had turned down the developer’s first plan hard, an obviously bloated scheme devoid of much charm or grace. The second plan was tighter, better looking, but still showed key structures a full story above the height restrictions the LPC had imposed at the 1st meeting.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation had researched this issue carefully.
7/8ths of that second LPC meeting on June 7th passed with detailed discussion about the width of muntins and mullions and whether certain side windows opened in or out. As time for the meeting ran out, about 15 minutes was devoted to a discussion of the large corner building at 74 Gansevoort, still showing up at a full story above the height restrictions placed on it by the LPC at its first meeting.
As Villagers at the meeting arose holding aloft placards and signs reminding the LPC of its commitment to historic heights, two commissioners argued strongly against giving extra floors away to the developer.
But when the vote was called, it went 8 to 2 in favor of the developer.
Later, I spoke about this to a friend who’d done financial analysis of real estate deals at one time, a savvy guy.
“You did well, considering,” he said. “Those commissioners are smart people.”
“They are all volunteers with the exception of the Chair, mostly architects and building trades professionals who will be moving on in a few years to bigger jobs in the building trades industry. They can’t afford to get important people in real estate mad at them.”
I began to picture the sunlight fading from my west windows.
(To be continued…)