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Fate of historic East Village rowhouse hangs in the balance

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A beacon of another time, the 1843 home is slated for demolition

If you’ve read If You Give A Mouse a Cookie, then you’ve seen the inside of the powder blue rowhouse at 264 East 7th Street—it’s the building Felicia Bond was living in when she illustrated the book, drawing inspiration from her own garden-level apartment.

Built around 1843, the home has had a long and storied history, but the New York Times reports that the three-story East Village rowhouse is now “entering what is likely to be its final chapter.” New owners bought the place east of Avenue C last year for nearly $3.8 million, the paper explains. Early this fall, they applied for a city permit to demolish it.

It goes without saying that local preservationists were not happy. But while they urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to put 264 East 7th Street on its calendar for landmark consideration—a move that would at least delay the issuing of the demolition permits—their request was ultimately denied. According to the commission, the building “does not rise to the level of an individual landmark.” Preservationists also made a play to get the rowhouse and four of its neighbors designated as historic district. That didn’t work either.

Still, it’s true that the building has quite a past, dating back to the mid-19th century, when the area was known as the Dry Dock District, home to “merchants and artisans toiling in the dry docks along the East River.” Later, the same strip was renamed Political Row, housing lawyers, judges, and politicians connected to Tammany Hall, the Times says, citing their own 1902 reporting about the political block.

The quintet of rowhouses are remnants of another time. Most of the rest of the houses on the block were torn down, making room for six-story multi-family tenements designed to house new immigrants arriving from Europe. (In a dark turn, the 1902 article found this very alarming: “What was once exclusively an American neighborhood became almost a foreign colony,” the piece said.)

But history alone does not a landmark make. According to the commission, the facade of 264 East 7th had undergone too many alterations to qualify for landmark designation, and the row of houses is too small to count as a historic district.

And so fate of the rowhouse is up to its new owner, Elaine Hsu, the president of GlobalServ Property One. Barbara Sloan, the operations manager at Manhattan Renovations, a general contractor representing GlobalServ, told the Times there was an info session in the works for neighbors “to discuss details surrounding potential asbestos abatement and demolition.” She did not comment on what might replace the building.