Damaging Proposal for Alterations and Excavations at 131 and 131½ Charles Street Rejected!

By Village View Staff

Photos originally published by Brown, Harris, Stevens on its listing of the property. Photo courtesy of Village Preservation.

The revised proposal for inappropriate and potentially damaging alterations to, and excavation under, the landmarked 131 Charles Street (1834) and its 19th-century rear carriage house at 131½ Charles Street, the longtime former home of photographer Diane Arbus, was not approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on August 15.

Village Preservation (formerly Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation) did an amazing job organizing against the proposal, which would have altered the house and rear house in ways that eliminated or diminished defining elements of the remarkably intact, double-landmarked structures, while also digging deep under both structures and their rear yards to create subterranean recreational space, potentially endangering these buildings and its landmarked neighbors. The commissioners echoed many of the objections raised, and pushed back on the applicant’s false contentions about the legal jurisdiction of the LPC to regulate elements of the house, and on their contentions about the history of the structures to justify their proposed changes.

More than 750 of you responded to Village Preservation’s call to oppose this application, sending more than 1,500 letters to the LPC and its Chair urging them to reject this proposal! The commissioners also cited recent issues with excavation and similar work leading to damage to landmarked properties as part of their rationale for rejecting this plan.

Village Preservation believes that the applicant can and likely will return with a revised application, though the LPC has made clear it will not accept certain elements of what has been proposed here. It will require careful monitoring and an ongoing vigorous response to help ensure that inappropriate and damaging changes are not approved in the future.