The proposed South of Union Square Historic District in Manhattan contains a remarkable concentration of sites connected to key civil rights and social justice movements, as well as influential literary, artistic, and music movements.
It offers a unique window into New York City‘s development in the late-19th and early-20th century, with an eclectic array of buildings, many designed by world-class American architects.
Despite its historic importance, this neighborhood is severely lacking in landmark and zoning protections.
Over the decades, change to this area had typically been characterized by inventive adaptive reuse: factories and schools became apartment buildings; row houses and firehouses became shops, theatres, and restaurants; large printing houses, lofts, and recording studios became university classrooms and laboratories. In recent years, this positive redevelopment has become subject to aggressive development interests. Several buildings that housed artist studios, office space for civil rights leaders, and emerging nonprofits have been threatened, altered beyond recognition, or destroyed.
While the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has cited the architectural and cultural variety of the area as a reason why the neighborhood shouldn’t be landmarked, this variety and vibrancy are precisely what make the proposed South of Union Square Historic District such a vital resource to preserve. Village Preservation has designed and led the campaign for landmark designation of the South of Union Square Historic District and the League is eager to join them in this work.
The Preservation League of New York State has included the the proposed South of Union Square Historic District on the 2022-2023 Seven to Save list. The list highlights New York’s most endangered historic sites and the League offers listed places wider visibility, assistance with advocacy, and technical services.
For more information about the Seven to Save program and this year’s list, click here.
Photo of Proposed South of Union Square Historic District provided by the Preservation League of New York State.