Yassky Opposes Buildings’ Demolition
A development battle on the Williamsburg waterfront is pitting City Council member David Yassky against the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
In December, Mr. Yassky was instrumental in revoking the landmark status of the Austin, Nichols & Co. Warehouse, a designation that was backed by the Landmarks Commission and Mayor Bloomberg. Mr. Yassky said at the time that designating the warehouse building would stifle waterfront development.
This time, Mr. Yassky will oppose the demolition of two buildings dating back to the Federal period. Developer John Zazza of the Fulton Landing Corporation is seeking to clear the way for a 21-floor condominium tower.
A group of local activists say they twice petitioned the Landmarks Commission this year to schedule a hearing for landmark designation of the buildings, and twice they were denied.Today, the group will hold a rally in front of the buildings to support preserving them.
The local activist who has led the effort to preserve the buildings, Hannah Bloch, said she wants to turn the houses into a museum of local history. One of the two-story buildings, she says, housed a social club and dance hall for much of the 19th century.
“If it were in the Village it would be landmarked. But in Williamsburg, nothing,” Ms. Bloch said.
Ms. Bloch has the backing of the community group representing the area’s Orthodox Jews, the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. Typically, the area’s fast-growing Orthodox community has supported residential development over preservation efforts.
The Bloomberg administration recently rezoned the Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhoods to allow for more housing. City officials predict that the neighborhoods will grow to accommodate the city’s expected population increase.
The president of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, Robert Furman, said the Landmarks Commission’s failure to schedule a hearing shows favoritism towards developers.
“We are concerned that the commission bends over backwards to accommodate developers, and this isn’t the first time,” Mr. Furman said.
A member of the Landmarks commission with knowledge of the buildings could not be reached for comment last night.
An aide to Mr. Yassky, Evan Thies, said that the council member has been a strong supporter of preserving the area’s character, and has proposed several buildings for landmark designation.
“David has clashed with Landmarks in the past, but that was almost exclusively over one building,” Mr. Thies said.
By DAVID LOMBINO – Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 18, 2006
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