Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) is a non-profit membership organization that seeks to document, honor and preserve the architectural heritage and cultural history of several downtown New York City neighborhoods: Greenwich Village, the Far West Village, the Meatpacking District, the South Village, NoHo, and the East Village. Its work toward securing historic district and landmarks protections, saving significant buildings from demolition, securing contextual zoning for sections of neighborhoods, and right-sizing plans for new construction has earned wide praise from preservation leaders.
In these historic neighborhoods, GVSHP seeks both to protect historic resources and to monitor new development via an array of advocacy and outreach efforts, involvement in governmental process and public discourse, and cultural and educational programs. Since its inception, GVSHP has helped ensure landmark designation of over 1,250 buildings, including individual sites, historic districts and district extensions. Individual-building designations include Westbeth Artists Housing, Town & Village Synagogue; 57 Sullivan Street, a Federal home built in 1817; Webster Hall, built in 1886, known for its 120 year political, social and cultural history; and the Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of the LGBT rights movement. [Link to Accomplishments Map] In addition to individual designations and district designations, GVSHP has worked tirelessly to limit the height of new development in historic areas and has succeeded in protecting nearly 100 blocks through contextual rezoning efforts.
GVSHP practices inclusive preservation that values both architectural merit and cultural heritage, with an eye toward highlighting histories of counter-culture and racial minority communities. GVSHP is the first heritage organization in New York City to succeed in designating a historic district based upon immigrant history; a building based upon the history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community; a historic district based upon counterculture history; and one of the first landmark designations for subsidized affordable housing, as well as fighting to include acknowledgement of African-American history in designations and working towards memorializing one of New York’s earliest and largest African-American communities, Little Africa.
GVSHP also educates on the economic advantages of preservation and the role it may play in preserving affordable housing and small businesses while fostering a robust, modern economy.
GVSHP has received numerous distinctions in preservation and real estate circles, such as the Preservation League of New York State's "Excellence in Historic Preservation Award" for organizational excellence (2006), Executive Director Andrew Berman's inclusion in the The New York Observer''s "The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate." , and ‘Best of NYC 2006” by the Village Voice.
GVSHP was founded in 1980 as the Greenwich Village Trust for Historic Preservation (GVT). In 1982, Regina Kellerman, a prominent architectural historian and co-founder of GVT, was named as its first executive director, and GVT moved its operations to the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue. In 1984, GVT officially changed its name to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
Throughout the 1980s, GVSHP initiated research on the history and architecture of Greenwich Village, including subjects like the Gansevoort Meat Market (a joint study with Columbia University), Bleecker Street, Broadway, and the maritime history of the Greenwich Village waterfront.
In 1991, GVSHP launched its first educational program, “Greenwich Village: History and Historic Preservation,” as a joint effort with the Merchant's House Museum, and, in 1995, designed and published a 12-page children’s workbook, “Discovering Greenwich Village,” for distribution to children in the school program. The education program has since been expanded to include field-trip style walking tours of Greenwich Village, encouraging students to examine the architectural form of Greenwich Village as a manifestation of its social history and context.
In the mid-1990s, GVSHP initiated an oral history project to document the experiences of Village preservationists of the twentieth century, many of whom were involved in defeating Robert Moses's Lower Manhattan Expressway. The participants in the oral history project include famous Village residents such as Jane Jacobs, Edwin Fancher, and Doris Diether.
Since 1999, GVSHP has operated from the Neighborhood Preservation Center, in the former rectory of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, on East 11th Street. Since being headquartered in the area, the organization has increased its focus and advocacy within the East Village.
In 2013, GVSHP released a detailed report showing the impact the organization has had in its neighborhoods regarding individual landmarks, landmark districts, and contextual rezoning. This report, now continuously updated by the organization, contains a meticulously detailed view of the organization’s accomplishments including the ten historic districts and district extensions, the forty-two individual buildings which GVSHP participated in landmarking, contextual and downsizing zoning areas, points of cultural interests and significance, as well as future projects and strategic plans.
GVSHP responds to development and preservation issues as they arise, but also maintains a number of running projects and strategic plans. GVSHP took the lead in advocating for designation of the South Village as a historic district. The first section of this historic district was designated in 2010, a second in 2013, and the third and final section was designated as the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District in December 2016. In the West Village, the group continues to push for the recognition of the singular role the area has played in the LGBT civil rights movement, and has advocated for several official recognitions of this history. As the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has increasingly faulted preservation protections for New York City’s housing affordability crisis, GVSHP has consistently rebutted those claims.
Major ongoing efforts include advocacy around the proposed transfer of development rights in Greenwich Village along the Hudson River Park; supporting local independent businesses; and opposing NYU’s expansion plans, as by being a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit to overturn approvals granted for “NYU 2031.” The group consistently testifies before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and monitors applications for alterations to protected buildings. In 2016 GVSHP was able to secure legislation in the City Council which prohibited future air rights transfers from the Hudson River Park into Greenwich Village, a top goal of the organiation’s (citation)In addition to advocacy efforts, GVSHP hosts a full calendar of cultural, educational and commemorative programs. Each month, several free programs, including lectures, walking tours, panel discussions, house tours, and more, celebrate the architectural and cultural heritage in Greenwich Village, East Village, and NoHo. A continuing education program for real estate professionals includes lectures, slide shows and walking tours on aspects of architecture, zoning, and planning history. The organization holds an annual House Tour fundraiser to benefit the organization, held on the first Sunday in May. Its major members’ event is the Village Awards and Annual Meeting in June, at which important local citizens, businesses, and civic groups are recognized for their work benefiting the community.
In 2009, GVSHP introduced a first-ever Landmarks Application webpage, connecting the public with the decision-making processes for land use, development, and preservation issues. The webpage provides information on all applications reviewable by the Landmarks Preservation Commission that propose changes to landmarked property in Greenwich Village, the East Village, NoHo and the Meatpacking District. Through the website, the public can personally monitor and review any proposed changes to a landmark site in the four neighborhoods. The webpage provides information on upcoming hearings and ways for the public to engage in the review process, including in person and in writing.
In 2014, the organization produced a book of stories and artworks entitled “Greenwich Village Stories,” published by Rizzoli. This collection of art and text by contributors including Nat Hentoff, Lou Reed, Hettie Jones, Saul Leiter and Jane Freilicher is sold through mainstream booksellers as a partial fundraiser for GVSHP.
In partnership with a local business, the group places two commemorative plaques per year on sites of cultural or historic importance such as the former home of author James Baldwin , the home and foundation headquarters of sculptor Chaim Gross, and the apartment studio of visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The unveiling of each plaque is celebrated with a ceremony and reception at the site being honored.
The organization also publishes a daily blog of local and historical interest called “Off the Grid.” The blog highlights organizational news as well as produces new content responding to current events, new research, and significant anniversaries related to the preservation and history of the area.
Landmarks designation efforts
Although a large portion of the Village was designated in 1969 as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District, many buildings outside the district’s boundaries remained unprotected. GVSHP has helped secure landmark designation of over 1,250 buildings via historic district and individual landmark designation, as well as community-initiated "contextual rezonings" of nearly 100 blocks. 
Some of its more notable efforts include:
- 2016 – Sullivan-Thompson Historic District designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
- 2016 – Secured protections against any future "air rights" transfers from the Hudson River Park that would have had the potential to increase, by 1.5 million square feet, the amount of development permitted in Greenwich Village’s westernmost blocks.
- 2015 - Stonewall Inn designated as an individual landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the first landmark to be designated based on LGBT history.
- 2013 - South Village Historic District designated, largest expansion of landmark protections in Greenwich Village since 1969
- 2012 – East Village/Lower East Side and East 10th Street Historic District designated the first new historic districts in the East Village since 1969.
- 2011 – Westbeth Building declared an official City landmark (added to State & National Register of Historic Places since 2009)
- 2010 – Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II/South Village extension designated, covering a dozen blocks proposed for landmark designation by GVSHP in 2006
- 2009 – East Village rezoning passed by NYC Council
- 2009 – Silver Towers designated as an individual landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 2009 – Webster Hall designated as an individual landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 1999, 2002, 2009 – NoHo Historic District (Main, East, and Extension, respecticely) designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 2006 – Greenwich Village Historic District extension I/Far West Village extension designated, the first expansion of the Greenwich Village Historic District since its designation in 1969
- 2006 – Weehawken Street Historic District designated by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 2004 – Hamilton-Holly House at 4 St. Marks Place and 127-131 MacDougal Street designated as individual landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 2003 – Gansevoort Market Historic District designated by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
- 2002 – Gansevoort Market named one of Seven to Save by Preservation League of New York State
- 1999 – Stonewall Inn added to National Register of Historic Places (joint effort with Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects and Designers)
Selected honors and awards
- 2013 – Vanity Fair's “Hall of Fame”: GVSHP’s Executive Director Andrew Berman was named to the magazine’s “Hall of Fame” for being “the pesky David to the Goliath developers who have come to define post-millennial Manhattan … savvy and pugnacious enough to recognize that there is no respite for the preservationist, ever, from those who would make the Village ‘bigger, glassier, newer.’”
- 2008 – The New York Observer's “100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate”: GVSHP’s Executive Director Andrew Berman was recognized by the Observer in 2008 for work in standing up to overdevelopment within Greenwich Village and its environs. Among the list of real estate developers, financiers, brokers, and government officials, Berman was the only neighborhood preservation advocate chosen to make the list of the “100 Most Powerful People in Real Estate.”
- 2007 – The Preservation League of New York State's Excellence in Historic Preservation Award: Of GVSHP, PLNYS said, “The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s efforts to build grassroots support, and to monitor and inform the decisions of New York City agencies should serve as an inspiration to other preservation organizations. GVSHP recently achieved a number of preservation goals that for decades had proved elusive. From the implementation of measures to protect the historic buildings and character of the Far West Village and Greenwich Village waterfront, to the designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, once-endangered buildings are now protected.”
- 2006 – The Village Voice's “Best Greenwich Village Defender” in “Best of NYC 2006": The Village Voice writes that “It’s been a big year in the push to preserve the Village, thanks largely to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The group’s vigilant director, Andrew Berman, has exhibited a knack for stopping 'out of context' buildings from sprouting up on quaint, historic streets, despite the red-hot development pressures."
- 2006 – New York Magazine’s “Influentials 2006”: New York Magazine says of Berman, "He persuaded the City Council to stop a spate of 'out of context' buildings in their tracks. Now he’s taking on NYU, determined not to let the university take over the neighborhood in its expansion.”
- 2006 – New York Landmarks Conservancy's Lucy G. Moses Organizational Excellence Award: The NYLC established the Lucy G. Moses award to "recognize the property owners, builders, artisans, and designers who renew the beauty and utility of New York City’s distinctive architecture."
The following designated historic districts fall within GVSHP's purview, followed by the year in which they were designated in parentheses:
- Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District (1966)
- MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District (1967)
- Greenwich Village Historic District (1969) and Extension I (2006) (includes Stonewall National Register District) and Extension II (2010)
- St. Mark's Historic District (1969) and extension (1984)
- NoHo Historic District (1999) and extension (2008)
- NoHo East Historic District (2003)
- Gansevoort Market Historic District (2003)
- Weehawken Street Historic District (2006)
- Noho Historic District Extension I (2008)
- East 10th Street Historic District (2010)
- East Village/Lower East Side Historic District (2012)
- South Village Historic District (2013)
- Sullivan-Thompson Historic District (2016)
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
- List of New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan below 14th Street
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Manhattan below 14th Street
- The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "Ten Years: A Thousand Buildings: One Hundred Blocks" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-07-09.