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Village residents protest the rise of a 'Silicon Alley' near Union Square

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Dozens of residents came out Wednesday night to protest a slew of tech and commercial projects in the area

Protests have been spurred largely by this proposed tech hub
Renderings via NYCEDC

Dozens of Greenwich Village and East Village residents came out to protest a host of planned or under-construction skyscrapers in the neighborhoods, on Wednesday night. The rally was organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which is also pushing forward a rezoning of the area roughly bounded by Union Square to the north, Astor Place to the south, Third Avenue to the east, and Fifth Avenue to the west, in order to enforce some height restrictions and affordable housing requirements, where none exist at the moment.

“The mayor continues to oppose common sense zoning protections for this neighborhood that would place reasonable limits on the height of new developments, encourage the preservation and retention of affordable housing, and reinforce the residential character of these predominantly residential neighborhoods,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the GVSHP.

The rally Wednesday night was held across the street from a set of low-rise buildings at the intersection of Third Avenue and St. Marks Place. Earlier this month, a developer purchased that parcel of low-rise buildings, and intends to demolish them to make room for seven-story office and retail development.

It’s the latest new development that’s destroying the fabric of these neighborhoods, local residents argued at the rally on Wednesday. While Greenwich and East Villagers, along with their outgoing City Council member, Rosie Mendez, have been demanding protections for this area for years, this latest push for rezoning was prompted by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a new tech hub at the old P.C. Richard & Son on East 14th Street.

And that’s not the only large project in the area. At 21 East 12th Street, an Annabelle Selldorf-designed condo building replaced the iconic Bowlmor Lanes; right next door at 116 University Place, construction is underway on a Morris Adjmi-designed boutique condo building; across from the Strand Bookstore, a gloss topper is planned on the now landmarked former home and studio of Willem and Elaine de Kooning; a row of five tenement buildings were demolished to make way for the 13-story Moxy Hotel, rising across from Webster Hall.

GVSHP is encouraging the mayor to create height restrictions in the area, that would limit building heights to between 80 to 145 feet, and would have incentives for creating affordable housing. Berman said he wasn’t opposed to the tech hub per se, but was unable to get behind it without all the other neighborhood protections in place. The tech hub can only be approved through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), and will ultimately come before the City Council for final approval. The incoming City Council member from the area, Carlina Rivera, also backs the zoning protections, so it remains to be seen how the Mayor’s project will fare.

Berman encouraged attendees at last night’s rally to send letters to the Mayor, Rivera, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to keep pushing for these protections. Holding signs like “stop Silicon Alley in our neighborhood,” local residents vowed to keep fighting.

“These are unique neighborhoods, and developments like this will make all of New York City’s street look the same,” said Carole Teller, who has lived in the Greenwich Village for 50 years.

Curbed has reached out to the Mayor’s office for a comment.

UPDATE: Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, issued the following statement to Curbed:

Union Square has been a magnet for tech companies for more than a decade. The new tech education and training facility's only impact will be to open to the door to good careers in those tech firms for high-schoolers, immigrants and working people. It’s cynical and disappointing that this group would threaten the new center for the sake of zoning changes blocks away. They should know better.