West Village, R.I.P.

Developers target a legendary neighborhood's last open spaces

So far, environmental analyses have been done in bits— one for the waterfront, one for the highway, one for the inland west of the highway. (They've drawn criticism from local activists.) Congressman Jerry Nadler has supported a comprehensive federal environmental analysis of the entire waterfront and surrounding area, a proposal enthusiastically supported by critics of the Hudson River Park Trust. "It's the best idea to come down the pike in a long time," says the West Village Committee's Bowser.

Organizing residents around these issues hasn't been easy. For one thing, getting people to oppose what is ostensibly a park, given the area's appalling paucity of green space, has been a daunting task. Moreover, the fragmented nature of the development in the Village makes it difficult to analyze all of this activity from a macro perspective. "It's very hard to get an overview," says Winestine. "And nobody is really in a position to understand the cumulative effect of all of these projects."

But some effort is underway. Katy Bordonaro, a resident of Morton Street, has spearheaded the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, which is fighting to preserve the manufacturing zone. Robert Malkin is working to galvanize the block associations in his area, and wants to challenge development on environmental grounds, namely its impact on air quality.

It all may seem enormously complex. But there's a simple solution: extend the Village's landmark district to the waterfront, thus protecting the blocks along Washington and West streets. That idea was first proposed by activists when the original district was established in the 1960s. And there's a legitimate reason for doing this. In addition to stopping overdevelopment, landmarking the area would protect cobblestoned streets and historic manufacturing sites that marked the area's ascendancy as a shipping port. Such a proposal has been suggested by the local community board and a number of public officials for years, but it has yet to catch fire at Landmarks. "At the moment, there's no formal discussion for expanding the district," says Terri Rosen Deutsch, a spokeswoman for the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. "It doesn't mean that it can't happen, but currently it's not on the table."

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