Lower East Side and East Village Receive Historic Landmark Status

East Village Gets Historic Status

About 330 buildings on the Lower East Side and the East Village have been approved for historic landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The designation goes into effect immediately, despite some complaints from a few of the religious institutions in the area.

The landmark status will create an historic district that will stretch up Second Avenue between East Second and East Seventh streets. Also included are a few blocks around First Avenue, with a total of about 15 blocks of buildings slated as historic landmarks.

Executive Director Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation explained that the designation is necessary if the neighborhood is to maintain its historic flavor.

"The East Village is one of New York's oldest and most historic neighborhoods," Berman said. "It's a place that has had an outsized effect on the city's and the nation's history, and it's very much in danger of losing that character due to out of context new development."

Not everyone in the neighborhood is happy with the new status, however. The designation will require permission from the LPC before any major renovations or demolitions can be done on the buildings to assure that the changes "do not detract from the special character of the city's landmarks and historic districts," according to the commission. Heads of non-profit and religious organizations with buildings in the historic areas are afraid meeting the requirements of the commission could be costly, burdening these organizations further.

Richard Wright of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, located on East Second Street between First and Second Avenues is one such neighbor with worries.

"We have spent nearly $1 million in the last decade alone conserving our building and for the city to come in and tell us that they can do it better is, quite frankly, an insult," Wright complained.  He is also afraid that the designation could lead to gentrification.

Berman says that this should not be a concern and that provisions to help non-profits maintain their buildings within the historic status with financial support are built into the law. Grants and financial aid will be made available.