2011 Village Preservation Annual Meeting and Village Awards
On June 13, 2011 Village Preservation held its 31st Annual Meeting and 21st Annual Village Awards at the Village Community School.
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Many recognize chef Anita Lo for her stint on Season One of Top Chef or her victory over Mario Batali on Iron Chef America, but Villagers might recognize her as their neighbor peddling her bike each morning to her highly successful restaurant Annisa on Barrow Street between West 4th Street and 7th Avenue. Annisa, which opened in 2000, means women in Arabic and features a wine list containing bottles made by women or from woman-owned vineyards. Annisa has earned a coveted star in the Michelin Guide, and is only one of two woman-owned restaurants with that distinction in New York.
Lo is a second generation Chinese-American who grew up in Michigan. She studied French at Columbia University, and while studying abroad at Columbia’s French language institute in Paris, she fell in love with the food. She returned to Paris to attend the prestigious culinary school L’Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, where she graduated first in her class. But it was Annisa that defined Lo’s culinary career.
After a devastating fire in 2009, Lo rebuilt Annisa. Patrons found the same quiet and peaceful dining room and the same elegant Asian-inspired cuisine influenced by French technique. The New York Times again awarded Annisa two stars, noting that in addition to the quality of the food, the dining room design is inspired—allowing for quiet conversation in an elegant setting. It is certainly gratifying for the Village to have a celebrity chef, but particularly one who calls the neighborhood home, frequents neighborhood shops, and has put down roots. Cooking exquisite and delicious meals in her small restaurant, chef Anita Lo has been a pioneer in reviving the tradition of elegant, innovative dining in the Village.
Fourth Arts Block
For ten years, the Fourth Arts Block or FAB, has fought to preserve the cultural heritage on 4th Street between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue. FAB successfully advocated to have the block designated a cultural district, won ownership rights from the city for eight buildings, and is coordinating an ambitious capital campaign that will transform an estimated 40,000 square feet of vacant space into active cultural use. In ten years, cultural space on the block will exceed 145,000 square feet. Home to more than a dozen arts groups, 10 cultural facilities and 17 performances and rehearsal venues, the East 4th Street Cultural District attracts an annual audience of 200,000, serves 1,200 artists and provides more square feet of active cultural use than any other block in New York.
The current theaters on the block began to move here in the early seventies, but the arts have an even longer history on the block: the first professional Yiddish theater production took place at 66-68 East 4th Street and 74A East 4th Street housed a German Music Society. Founded in 2001 by a coalition of local theaters and community groups who knew that their existence as arts organizations depended on building stability and a thriving arts culture, FAB welcomed more than just arts groups. Local businesses help bring foot traffic to the street and a FAB sponsored café often serves theater patrons pre-and-post shows. In addition, the Cooper Square Committee, which manages residential fair housing in the neighborhood and is a founding member of FAB, helps ensure an understanding between affordable housing and arts advocates. The Fourth Arts Block is truly creating a powerful arts legacy in a city where affordable space for artists is an increasingly rare commodity.
Poet Bob Holman has dedicated his career to organizations working to advance the art of poetry, particularly in the East Village. His central goal has been to create venues where poets can share their work, while still earning a living in their field.
Holman’s first job in New York City was with a Federal program that employed artists in their field. He took a turn coordinating the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, one of the most important and longest-running poetry organizations in New York City, from 1980-1984. He still serves on the Poetry Project’s Friends Committee today. In 1988, Holman joined forces with Miquel Algarin to reopen the Nuyorican Poets Café. The Café nurtured Latino, African American, and women poets from the neighborhood, and featured “open mic” evenings that allowed novices to take the stage. It also helped to usher spoken word and poetry slam forms to a more mainstream audience.
Through his role as founder of the nonprofit Bowery Arts + Science, launched in 1995, Holman has fostered many new poetry clubs, including his own, Bowery Poetry Club, which he founded in 2002. Holman set out to create a global space, open seven days a week, accessible and multi-lingual, or as he puts it “a safe space for artists of all stripes and aesthetics to hang out.” The Club features spoken word, performance, and storytelling forms. It hosts an artist-in-residence and poetry workshops for elementary-aged students.
Besides his enormous contribution to poetry organizations in the neighborhood, Holman is an accomplished writer who has published ten books of poetry and is a Visiting Professor of Writing at both the Columbia School of the Arts and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Judson Memorial Church
Beyond the formal classical facade of Judson Memorial Church, built by Stanford White of McKim, Mead, & White, lies a truly untraditional community of worshippers, artists, and social justice activists. Built in 1892 with the support of John D. Rockefeller and named after the father of Judson’s first preacher Edward Judson, the church has always been a place for those outside the mainstream. Its original mission was to serve the immigrant communities of the neighborhood and today, it continues its ministry to those most in need. Over its many years in service, Judson has sponsored arts initiatives, advocated for health issues, provided immigration services, and championed LGBT rights—whatever the community has needed over the years.
Programs today include the Bail-Out Theater, which provides dinner and free entertainment the first and third Wednesday of every month; the West Village Chorale, which will perform ten concerts this summer; the assembling of Bleach Kits, to help prevent the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users; and the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, which works to reform immigration enforcement practices and policies, both locally and nationally, with a special focus on preserving family unity.
Judson is currently led by Senior Minister Donna Schaper and Minister Michael Ellick. It is an “Open and Affirming” United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation and is part of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptist Churches. No matter your religious beliefs or sexual orientation, everyone is welcome at Judson—a sanctuary for progressive activism, artistic expression, and spiritual nurture.
Le Poisson Rouge
Le Poisson Rogue opened in 2008 in the space formerly occupied by the famed Village nightclub the Village Gate. Standing at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Streets from 1958 to 1993, Art D’Lugoff’s famed club featured musicians such as John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, and Dizzy Gillespie, and featured a thriving Latin music and comedy scene as well. Le Poisson Rouge has revived the spirit of the Village Gate, offering a multi-use performance space that hosts over 700 shows each year in all genres of music, theater, and dance. Owners David Handler and Justin Kantor are musicians in their own right, graduates of the Classical program at the Manhattan School of Music. A feeling that a disconnect existed between performers and the audience led the pair to create a venue that offered quality eclectic programming, impeccable acoustics, and bold design. While Poisson Rouge has hosted some incredibly big names in music, including Lou Reed, Norah Jones, and Moby, Handler and Kantor are most proud to be a home to a wide range of artistic communities. The venue hosts a summer program called “Baby Got Bach,” a classical music event for kids, features a festival that presents works by young composers, and even invites local organizations to use the space for lectures.
The community has certainly welcomed Le Poisson Rouge. The New York Times called the venue “an epicenter for adventurous music” and Shecky’s named the venue “a downright musical marvel.” And their outreach to the neighborhood is admirable. Le Poisson Rouge is a member of the Bleecker Area Merchants and Residents Association and Handler personally works to grow merchant membership in the organization.
McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co.
McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co. opened in 1895, several storefronts away from its current location on Christopher Street. This specialty shop wears its age proudly, with an original tin ceiling, old-fashioned scales, and vintage bins filled with imported tea leaves. Burlap sacks of coffee beans are stacked up as if they’d just been unloaded from the docks down the street.
Wing and David Wong have owned McNulty’s for more than thirty years, buying the shop in 1980. Besides the historic charm of the store, they also inherited long-time employee Tom. Together, they offer first-rate service and an unparalleled knowledge of tea and coffee. Not quite sure what coffee or tea best suits what you are looking for? Just ask. All the employees have extensive knowledge of the tea and coffee available. Regulars can even have their favorite coffee blend recorded in a card file so they never have to remember the recipe. McNulty’s has many regulars; David says he is most proud of the 2nd and 3rd generation of customers from the neighborhood who shop there.
Despite the history that pervades this shop, the business is not old fashioned. McNulty’s does a brisk catalog business, has a recently revamped website, and updates its Facebook fans on a regular basis. Even with the innovations, McNulty’s offers a rare sense of continuity to the community that Villagers truly love.
It is easy to walk past P.E. Guerin’s building on residential Jane Street without realizing that behind their green door is the oldest decorative hardware firm in the United States and the only metal foundry in New York City. The company was started in 1857 by French immigrant Pierre Emmanuel Guerin and has been on Jane Street since 1892. It supports talented artisans who do everything by hand, creating exquisite work.
The showroom and pattern room on the ground floor is a jumble of samples from every period and style imaginable, supervised by sleepy cats. The factory is located on the four floors above. The techniques and the terminology for the work involved may be cryptic to the uninitiated: mold making, pouring, cutting, brushing, fitting, turning, filing, chasing, and plating. It takes about 60 employees to create the custom pieces that are the backbone of the business. Martin Grubman is a manger and has been with Guerin for about 24 years. Terrel Elders is the foreman and has worked at Guerin for about 35 years. Lengthy periods of time on the job for most industries, but not surprising for a firm where the employees talk about the difference between the speed of the outside world compared to the slow and meticulous pace of the Jane Street foundry.
The founder, Pierre Emmanuel Guerin, was a pioneer in artistic metalwork in New York City. Examples of his work can be found in public buildings, parks and residences throughout the city, including Greenwich Village. While the company is now run by Andrew F. Ward, Pierre Emmanuel Guerin’s great grandnephew, examples of the company’s hardware can still be found in the neighborhood. P.E. Guerin has donated brass lettering to Fire Squad 18 on West 10th Street and tree pit fences to local block associations in recent years.
Restoration of the Nave of the Church of the Ascension: Fourth Annual Regina Kellerman Award
The Regina Kellerman Award is presented each year in honor of the Society’s first executive director, who tirelessly dedicated her career to the preservation of the architecture and built environment of Greenwich Village.
The Church of the Ascension, located on Fifth Avenue at 10th Street, has seen many renovations over its 170 year history. The latest, undertaken to accommodate a new organ and to address deteriorating conditions, was long overdue. Despite repairs to the roof, masonry, and leaded windows, many issues needed to be addressed. Leo Blackman of Leo J. Blackman Architects and the historic preservation contracting firm Preserv addressed structural changes to accommodate the weight of the organ, repaired plaster and paint and completed updates to the electrical, lighting, and audio systems. The immense job necessitated the protection of the church’s historic details, including the pews and the John La Farge painting “The Ascension of Our Lord,” which hangs above the main altar. Built in 1840-1841 in the Gothic-Revival style by Richard Upjohn and renovated in 1885-9 by Stanford White, the church had deteriorated and was painted many times.
Evergreene Architectural Arts conducted a microscopic analysis of the existing layers of paint and identified two separate “paint campaigns.” The original 1849 interior had been painted in a faux-stone motif, in dark brown and red colors in keeping with the brownstone of the exterior. The analysis also showed that the Sanford White renovation repeated the decorative motif, but in lightened colors to address concerns that the original was too dark and dreary. Ultimately, the restoration team, working with parish leadership, decided to restore the Sanford White era paint scheme.The result is lovely; the faux stone adds a feeling of density and weight to the walls that enhances the presence of the beautiful stained glass windows and unifies the disparate artistic and architectural elements that were added over time.
The new organ, donated by former parishioner Sir Edwin Alfred Grenville Manton and the first French-built organ ever to be installed in New York City, looks and sounds wonderful in its new home. It was dedicated on May 1 and a special concert series continues through June 24.