By Carol Yost
Andrew Berman, executive director of the nonprofit Village Preservation (formerly known as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation), has an impressive resume. In his time at Village Preservation, the organization has:
- Helped secure landmark protections for over 1,250 buildings in our neighborhood.
- Helped secure zoning protections for nearly 100 blocks.
- Secured groundbreaking recognition and protections for sites associated with African American, women’s, LGBT, and immigrant history, as well as for affordable housing developments.
- Saved the former homes of great artists like Willem de Kooning and Frank Stella from the wrecking ball.
- Conducted hundreds of educational programs for tens of thousands of adults and children—most, free of charge.
- Created online resources—used by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe—celebrating and illuminating the history of our neighborhood.
Next January Andrew Berman will have been at Village Preservation for 20 years. Wow! How can we follow up on that?
During the time I’ve been acquainted with Andrew, I’ve been struck by his tireless advocacy on behalf of saving the unique character of the Village, and by his friendly manner and prompt clear answers to any inquiries. He was also one of those involved in trying to save Saint Vincent’s Hospital. He continues to fight to save many buildings of historical, architectural, or cultural value. He also looks at the impact a particular issue involving a building will have on nearby buildings and neighborhoods. If a site is not in the catchment area of Village Preservation but is the center of a controversy that could affect the Village because it might set a precedent for zoning changes, building heights, and so on, you will hear from Andrew about it as well. He is often quoted in the press, and has written articles for WestView News and The Village Sun.
The Village Preservation blog about Village history is so extensive that I could only sample a few items, regretting that I couldn’t read everything. I have also attended a few of the organization’s educational programs. At one of them I was thrilled to learn about the antebellum African American theater company that enjoyed only a short residency in the Village, but since it was the first in the United States anywhere, it was fascinating and noteworthy. The theater members bravely fought against White prejudice with grace and humor. At another program I was very surprised to learn of the great Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran’s time in the Village. Having lived with my family in Beirut for about eight months during 1956-1957, at the age of 10, I’ve always been intrigued by Gibran without knowing much; during this program I began to learn a lot more. This gives you just an idea of the great range of subjects that Village Preservation covers, and, in turn, the incredible history of the Village itself.
Andrew is opposed to the SoHo/NoHo rezoning plan, and has argued against it effectively. His work is remarkable in its scope, and is indispensable.