The South Village is an area rich in architectural, cultural, and historic resources, distinct from (though connected to) those of its surrounding historic communities, such as Greenwich Village, Soho, and Noho. Much of this area’s history is defined by tenements and immigrants, particularly Italian-Americans; by speakeasies, jazz clubs, beatnik coffeehouses, and folk music clubs from the area’s counter-cultural heyday of the 1920’s through the 1960’s; by crooked streets and tiny houses which may have been altered but which still retain their charm and architectural distinction.
On February 24, 2014, Village Preservation’s South Village Historic District was accepted for listing on the federal government’s National Register of Historic Places — read the nearly 200-page report chock full of rich detail on the neighborhood’s history here; see photos of the district here, and look at a map here.
National Register listing was one important step in a decade-long effort to preserve and protect this historically rich area, which also involved our securing landmark designation for most of the area. Today we look back on ten years of work to save the South Village.
Save the South Village Timeline
In December of 2006, Village Preservation submits a proposal for South Village Historic District to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, based on research undertaken beginning in 2003 funded by the Preservation League of New York State. The Italians of the South Village, a report written by historian Mary Elizabeth Brown and funded by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, is released by Village Preservation at a public meeting at Father Demo Square on Columbus Day.
In 2008, Village Preservation secures a commitment from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to begin consideration of our proposed 38-block South Village Historic District, starting with the area west of 6th Avenue.
In 2009, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) holds hearing on first phase of Village Preservation’s proposed South Village Historic District.
In 2010, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the first third of our proposed South Village Historic District known as the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II. Though the victory was sweet, there was still much to do. 83 Thompson/182 Spring Street was slated for demolition and new development. The Children’s Aid Society had also begun to solicit bids for its multi-building site on Sullivan Street touting the unused development rights which would allow a much larger, taller structure on the site. Additional sites were coming under threat and/or demolished in the area that still had yet to be designated.
On April 10, 2011, Village Preservation held a rally in front of the Children’s Aid Society on Sullivan Street calling upon the City to landmark the remaining two-thirds of the proposed South Village Historic District as soon as possible. Scores of neighbors, parents, and preservationists joined Village Preservation and speakers included City Councilmember Margaret Chin; Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council; Sean Sweeney, former Director of the SoHo Alliance and former Chair of the Landmarks Committee of Community Board 2; Jonathan Geballe, former President of Village Independent Democrats; Heather Campbell of Save A Village Education; and Professor Jerome Krase of Brooklyn College, a past president of the American Italian Historical Association. View the video HERE and HERE.
In 2012, Village Preservation continued pressuring the city by seeking New York State “Seven to Save” designation for the South Village. On March 21, 2012, Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of the State of New York announced the inclusion of the South Village on the League’s annual “Seven to Save” list, which highlights endangered historic places throughout the state. On October 8th, 2012, Village Preservation launched its “Save the South Village” video campaign. Our “Save the South Village” video campaign began as an effort to highlight the incredible history (Italian-American and so much more) of the South Village, and to call upon the City to landmark this irreplaceable but at the time endangered neighborhood. To further increase the pressure, we also pursued listing for the entire South Village on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, which was accepted by the State of New York in December of 2013 and the federal government in February of 204 (click HERE for the nomination listing).
We then made a great leap forward when in December 2013 the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally designated what it called the South Village Historic District (map), a two hundred forty-building, thirteen-block section of Greenwich Village south of Washington Square Park, which was actually the second phase of Village Preservation’s proposed South Village Historic District. Village Preservation had fought hard to get several NYU buildings originally excluded from the district included, and had more or less forced the City to move forward with this landmark action by leveraging the approval process for the nearby Hudson Square Rezoning. The South Village Historic District was the largest expansion of historic district protections in Greenwich Village since 1969.
But our job was far from complete. Village Preservation continued to push the City to designate the final third of our proposed South Village Historic District, the area south of Houston Street, in order to provide the same landmarks protections the area to the north enjoyed. After a ten year effort, Village Preservation finally secured landmark designation of the third and final phase of our proposed South Village Historic District, known as the Sullivan Thompson Historic District in December of 2016.