MARCH 27, 2014, DOWNTOWN EXPRESS
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VOLuME 26, NuMbEr 21 MArCH 27-APrIL 9 2014
VEStrY StrEEt ArtIStS FEAr EVICtION
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BY NICOLAS FErNANdES
Two vehicles that regularly blocked the sidewalk behind the Smithsonians National Museum of the American Indian were moved
after an inquiry was made by Downtown Express.
A black Ford Excursion with a Texas license plate and a green Ford pickup from Maryland, typically parked on the Bridge St. sidewalk in front of the muse-ums rear loading zone from Monday to Friday and sometimes on weekends,
Feds moVe on ParKInG scoFFLaws
aFter exPress InQUIrY
Continued on page 6
BY SAM SPOKONY
Would you like to pay $4,200 a month to live in an apartment that might actually be rent-stabilized?
Probably not. In fact, you might be pretty upset with the landlord and real estate broker who tried to sell you on that deal.
And that could be why the broker who was advertising two Soho apartments at market
rate prices hastily removed those listings on the afternoon of March 24 just hours after this newspaper started asking about claims that both units are being unlawfully deregulated from rent-stabilization.
The apartments in question are units 1C and 3A of 19 Cleveland Place, a 16-unit build-ing next to Petrosino Square and theyre just two of a dozen units that some of the build-
ings longtime tenants, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, believe have been illegally deregulated by their landlord, Fontana Realty, since the landlord took over the building in 2000.
And, as has already been the case with many residential buildings across the city, the deregu-
Downtown Express photo by Scot Surbeck
HAPPY MALFUNCTION... Battery Park Citys playgrounds receive near universal praise, but sometimes accidents are even more fun. The B.P.C. Parks Conservancy ended up creating a temporary discovery area last Saturday when it drained Lily Pond because of a broken pipe. Kevin McCabe, a conservancy spokesperson, said the pond will be refi lled March 27, the fi sh are safe and no ducks were harmed during the process.
High rent in Soho building: Is it legal?
Continued on page 27
BY JOSH rOgErSI used to make fun of people who bought
lottery tickets, but about four years ago I started playing occasionally when the jack-pots were big. I soon learned my reason was quite common: my wife was pregnant.
In the next few weeks Ill join a few hundred thousand other parents in the city to play a different sort of lottery. The ticket is free and theres no chance at a big payoff, but losing will cost my family too many thousands of dollars.
Im hoping to win a public, full-day pre-K slot close to home for my son.
So Ive been closely following and reporting on what the mayor and governor say about funding pre-K expansion this September with two eyes one on how it
Continued on page 16
readInG the Pre-K tea LeaVes
2 March 27 - April 9, 2014
BY SAM SPOKONYFearing the demolition of their
118-year-old building as a developer now seeks to replace it, residents of 67 Vestry St. in Tribeca have mounted an effort to protect the site by calling on the city to landmark it.
Developer Aby Rosen, who bought the nine-story building in 2005, filed plans in February to construct a new 11-story, 42-unit building on the site, which is located at the corner of Vestry and West Sts. And since it lies by mere feet outside the bounds of the Tribeca North Historic District, which was designated in 1992, its unlikely that the city would prevent the building from being demol-ished under current circumstances.
But residents of the building, aside from their strong personal attachments, believe there is a solid case for it to be named a landmark, due to its pre-1900 historical and architectural significance, as well as the role it later played during the 1970s as a keystone of the Tribeca arts community.
It would be a loss for everyone, not just us, because were all affected when a part of the fabric of our city is lost, said Jaime Vinas, who has lived at 67 Vestry St. for the past 20 years.
The 1896 building was originally
seven stories tall, and was designed by noted architect Frederick P. Dinkelberg, who would go on, several years later, to aid Chicagos Daniel Burnham in designing the iconic and landmarked Flatiron Building, according to a researched report recently compiled by Tribeca Trust, a preservationist group which is backing the residents.
For years, the building served as one of the first warehouses for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (which is now commonly known as the A&P). And although that element of the build-ings history may not be widely known, the significance of such early A&P ware-houses seems to be generally accepted by many experts. A similar warehouse located in Jersey City, N.J. which was built in 1900, four years after the one at Vestry St. was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1978, along with being placed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
The final two stories were added to the top of the building in 1910, accord-ing to the Tribeca Trust report, and were designed by another noted archi-tect, Frank J. Helme, who also designed Brooklyns Tracy Mansion, which lies within what is now the Park Slope Historic District.
Later, in the 1960s and 70s, the Vestry St. building began to comprise artist lofts as the arts community blos-somed within Tribeca, and it later gained a legal certificate of occupancy for resi-dential use in 1977, according to city records. During that period of time, those moving into the building included famed sculptor Marisol Escobar and multi-disciplinary artist Robert Wilson, who famously directed the composer Philip Glass 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach. (After living there for 34 years, Wilson was controversially evicted from his loft by Aby Rosen in 2007, two years after the developer bought the building and began drawing up his potential plans for it.)
Ironically, in addition to his work as a developer, Rosen is also currently the chair of the New York State Council on the Arts, after being appointed to by Governor Andrew Cuomo. In fact, Rosens bio on the N.Y.S.C.A. website states he was given the position partially because of his commitment to the pres-ervation and restoration of landmark buildings.
There are still a number of artists living at 67 Vestry St. today, and they maintain strong ties to that element of the buildings history.
Im just so proud to live here, said Paul Pagk, a visual artist who moved into the building in 1988, when he was
26 years old. And the idea of protect-ing this place is, in many ways, about recognizing those who helped make this neighborhood great, who created a com-munity that helped start the Tribeca arts renaissance.
He and many of his fellow residents believe that losing 67 Vestry St. would just be another step toward forgetting the character of that past era, and trad-ing it for the generic atmosphere of todays high-end development. And the artists in particular have very personal connections to their studio spaces within the building, where they have painted or sculpted for so long.
If I were to see this place demol-ished, it would be like seeing 25 years of my life demolished, said Pagk.
Jacqueline Miro, an architect and urbanist (as well as a longtime 67 Vestry St. resident) who has worked on renova-tions at a number of buildings within Tribecas landmarked districts, also told Downtown Express that she believes 67 Vestry St. is equal to, if not superior to any of the neighborhoods already-protected buildings.
So now, residents and Tribeca Trust have joined forces to spread their mes-sage and effectively build support through numerous outlets, on their way to attempting to convince the citys Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect their building.
The Trust on March 8 started an online petition that calls for landmarking the building, gaining 1,426 signatures by press time. The residents have created a website weare67vestry.com to promote the cause, as well as a Facebook group also titled Weare67Vestry.
As a result of those efforts, they have also gained a resolution of support from Community Board 1, approved at the March 25 full board meeting, which called on L.P.C. to either individually landmark the building or include it in the North Tribeca Historic District.
Meanwhile, Tribeca Trust has sub-mitted formal application to L.P.C. a Request for Evaluation, or R.F.E. which the commission will have to consider to see if they believe the site is worth protecting with landmark status.
That R.F.E. is currently being reviewed, an L.P.C. spokesperson said.
Landmarks is currently headed by Robert Tierney, a Bloomberg appoin-tee, although Mayor de Blasio is reportedly close to appointing a new chairperson.
Rosens development fi rm did not respond to a request for comment.
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