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West Village Condo's Slice of Glass Divides Community

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Architect Peter Samton's designs for a five-story (plus two-story penthouse) mixed use condominium building on Seventh Avenue between Charles and West 10th streets drew scorn and derision from local business owners and residents at a Community Board 2 meeting last week. Things weren't much different when the project, which is being developed by Continental Ventures and the Keystone Group, was presented at Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing yesterday afternoon, although in the addition to the many detractors, there were also a handful of residents who showed up to offer words of support for the new building.

The fifteen or so Village residents, including French novelist Marc Levy, who criticized the building's design, which combines brick masonry with a modern glass "slice" that extends up to the penthouse, pointed to it being out of context with the surrounding neighborhood. "In places like the West Village, the value comes from a mutuality of buildings," said one Charles Street resident. "This building will take its value from the surroundings." Another Charles Street resident commented that "Greenwich Village is known for its low sightline and here we are obstructing it." There was also quite a bit of concern about a garden and a decades-old fig tree, both of which would lose light as a result of the new building. Overall, though, the project's opponents seemed to place an undue amount of faith in the Landmarks Commission's ability—or desire—to prevent anything modern from landing in a historic district.

Five or six members of the community were also on hand to offer support for the new building, claiming that the design is attractive, contextual, and sensitive, and decried the people who spoke against it as anti-development zealots. "It's a new building," said one resident. "It's got to be creative a little bit." Others noted that the 1940 one-story building that the condos would be replacing, which has housed a number of failed businesses over the years, does not contribute anything to the community.

The Landmarks Commission's opinion on all of this remained unheard, however, as the public testimony went so long that the hearing was adjourned for the day. The commissioners will offer their thoughts and mandate any changes to the design that they believe to be necessary at another hearing at some point in the near future.
· West Village Condo Threatens Fig Tree, Light, Local Harmony [Curbed]