Neighborhood activists recently rallied to preserve this two-story brick garage at Thompson and Broome Streets that was built in 1922 in anticipation of the Holland Tunnel opening nearby. The building’s owner, the Donald Zucker Co., reportedly wants to knock down the garage and build an eight-story mixed-use building on the site.
For a garage, I guess it’s not horrible. But that doesn’t say much. The city’s historic preservation process has resulted in a number of wonderful buildings being saved from demolition or alteration. For example, the Plaza and the Dakota are landmarks, and deservedly so. Somehow, this auto-oriented building doesn’t seem to rise to the level of these treasures. Hmm, maybe there’s something else going on here.
An article in Downtown Express points to what is perhaps the real issue: “Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. director, said the garage is not only historically deserving of landmarking, but also important because the area has lost so much parking in recent years.”
A-HA! So perhaps this dispute isn’t so much about the architectural merits of the structure, but about the desire for area residents to park their cars cheaply. If parking is worth that much to the neighborhood residents, they could pay the building’s owner as much as he would make from the proposed apartment and retail building (which unfortunately would have 117 parking spaces of its own). That would be enormously expensive though, so one can see why they’ve suddenly become nostalgic for this mediocre building.
The city is swamped with automobile traffic at all hours of day and night. The Broome and Watts Street approach to the Holland Tunnel is particularly choking. The city should do what it can to promote the pedestrian lifestyle that makes New York unique in the United States. The most effective way to reduce traffic is to decrease the supply of parking spaces. The city needs fewer parking spaces, not more. And with housing costs here among the highest in the nation, New York City suffers from a shortage of housing for people of every income level that is slightly alleviated every time a new apartment building goes up. From a citywide land use perspective, this garage should be torn down and replaced by a large apartment building. Housing prices would come down, traffic congestion would be reduced, and the city’s unique pedestrian oriented lifestyle would receive a boost.
A special Starts & Fits e-mail correspondent wrote in recently to complain about two highly publicized historic preservation decisions: 1) the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision in July that prevented Apple from building a new store that frankly would have improved a nondescript and forgettable two-story rowhouse at 136 Fifth Avenue that had once been a four-story rowhouse before the upper two stories burned down in 1960. 2) The City Council’s decision a few weeks ago to not landmark Cass Gilbert’s full-block warehouse at 184 Kent Street in Williamsburg, which the Municipal Arts Society is infuriated about.
Our frustrated correspondent writes, of the preservation process: “It landmarks things that it shouldn’t, and then doesn’t landmark things that it should!” Let’s hope that Landmarks gets it right at the Tunnel Garage. Community Board 2′s Zoning Committee’s decision to allow the apartment building to rise is the right one.
- Development Sweeps Through Broome St. [The Real Estate]
- Preservationists dig in for fight on Tunnel Garage [Downtown Express]
- It’s Time to Park Your Motorcoach Elsewhere [Curbed]
- Apple battling community over design of third Manhattan store [AppleInsider]
- UPDATED: Build Different [The Real Estate]
- Post-Apple Flatiron Update: This Space For Rent [Curbed]
- City Council Tells LPC to Shove It on 184 Kent [Curbed]
- Austin Nichols Warehouse: City Council Fails Preservation Test [MAS]