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Developer, Preservationists Set Sights on East Village Art Commune

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It's the same old big city story: artists snap up property in gritty pre-gentrified neighborhood, have their fun, make the area cool, get pressured by rising property values and finally sell out to a developer. But in the case of 326 and 328 East 4th Street, there are twists. Oh lordy, there are twists! Like the group that has inhabited the two dilapidated townhouses between Avenues C and D since the 1950s (and owned them since 1974). The society of bohemians is called the Uranian Phalanstery and First New York Gnostic Lyceum Temple, where pastimes include all-night solstice celebrations and stockpiling decades of arty detritus?and letters from Timothy Leary, 'natch.

Now the, uh, Uranians are facing mounting tax liens and have decided to move to Harlem, the Times reports. They've struck a deal to sell the 170-year-old buildings to developer Terrence Lowenberg, who is planning on adding two-story rooftop additions designed by architect Ramy Issac, the neighborhood's most controversial tenement topper.

Preservationists, including the East Village Community Coalition and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (not afraid to head deep into Alphaville on this one) are mounting a campaign to get the buildings landmarked and prevent major changes, even though the Landmarks Preservation Commission's main man, Robert B. Tierney, said the buildings are not in good enough shape to merit landmark status. But the issue still hasn't been taken up by the full commission, meaning there's still a smidgen of hope. The GVSHP is kicking off its campaign today, highlighting the buildings' histories and preserved original details, and the group's followers have been put on alert. Must another Uranian Phalanstery suffer from the evil forces of gentrification?
· Artists’ Collective and Burial Society Goes on the Move [NYT]
· Help Us Save Two Threatened Historic East Village Townhouses [GVSHP]