The Fight for 35 Cooper Square

Note: It’s gone.

You know 35 Cooper Square, right?

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Sure you do. It’s that cute little building hidden in the shadow of the modern Cooper Square Hotel, a building best described architecturally as having been inspired by Optimus Prime’s phallus.

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If you had passed it today at around 4:30pm, you’d have seen a group of passionate protesters standing outside with the goal of saving the building.

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See, #35, one of only two buildings in the area that dates back to the beginning of Cooper Square, was sold to a developer, who wants to tear it down and add another space ship to the neighborhood.

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Thankfully though, the Landmarks Commission is coming to the rescue on this one though, right??

Uh, nope.

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Artist and East Village resident Sally Young unearthed a ton of history on the building: it was once owned by a great grandson of Peter Stuyvesant, as well as an undertaker, a teacher, a hotelier, and a saloon owner. In the 1900′s, it was a home to a number of artists, including Beat poet Diana DiPrima, who entertained such luminaries as William S. Burroughs, Cecil Taylor, and others.

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There’s a lot more you can read over at Vanishing NY. Suffice it to say, Landmarks’ verdict: “the property does not meet the criteria for designation.”

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It’s funny that the protest happened just shortly after the Parks Department yanked out the Pier D ruins from the Hudson, which I documented here:

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This saddens me, but I knew Pier D was going to have to go eventually – it was structurally unsound, and were it to collapse on its own, could leads to dangerous conditions for the harbor. But the Hudson has lost a small piece that gave it an identity, a history. Meanwhile, over in Coney Island…

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The bank building was recently torn down by developer Joseph Sitt – one of the last remaining buildings from its glory years. It’s gone forever. Unlike Pier D, this did not have to happen. And it doesn’t have to happen at 35 Cooper Square.

So please, sign this petition to save 35 Cooper Square. I know it might seem trivial to remove such a small building from Cooper Square, but it is important – take enough of this away, and Cooper Square might as well be Houston, Texas. Seriously, take a walk to Astor Place and look at the horizon – you could be forgiven for thinking this is NY’s new launch pad for rocket ships.

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Lastly, I get that the property was sold for $8.5million, and at that price, the developers damn well expect to be able to do whatever they want with it.

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Fuck ‘em. Could we for once show that this isn’t the case in New York?

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Two bad-ass kids.

Again, sign the petition here!

-SCOUT

PS – I was startled to see that the name of the developer behind the sale of the property was Joe Sitt – could there be a relation to Joseph Sitt, who is currently tearing apart Coney Island like Godzilla in Tokyo? Or are guys named Joe Sitt simply destined to be complete shitheads?

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21 comments

  1. how do we know it isn’t Joseph Sitt himself?

  2. They puked that monstrosity up? Didn’t make it over to Cooper Square last April. Kinda glad I didn’t. That’s beyond disgusting. Doesn’t fit in at all. Gonna sign the petiton as soon as I get out of doing this. Two more months until the 2011 Cat Sitting Tour!

  3. Petition signed, Scout. Thank you for letting people know about this.

  4. I was a Scout, and every kid should have the same opportunity.

  5. I really hope that you can save this building. I’m rooting for you from Texas. Great metaphor on the hotel.

  6. No. I would happily protest if the city was condemning the building or bulldozing it through eminent domain. But that is not what is happening here. The owners of this place are people too. This is their money, they bought it all those years ago and kept it standing when no one else wanted it. Well, now they want out. Why should they be denied their $8.5 million just so you can have a building to look at? If you want to preserve the building, then you help raise the money and buy it. Then you can look at it all you want. Hell, have the city buy it and maintain it. That would be infinitely better than just forcing the owners to suffer the full cost of providing their fellow citizens with lovely architecture.

    • You and I simply see the world differently. Keep in mind, however, I’m not advocating a mob go down and overturn bulldozers and prevent building. There is a legal process through which this building could be saved, and while it may not have met the conditions on the first application, the petition simply asks for a second consideration.

      “Why should they be denied their $8.5 million just so you can have a building to look at?”

      Lest I come off a hypocrite, I grew up in a house that is in the best preserved historic districts in the United States…but it wasn’t always that way. When my dad bought the house back in the 70′s, it and dozens of surrounding 18th century houses were crumbling and in disrepair. The formation of a historic district is all that saved these houses from being uniformly torn down. The opposition at the time was the typical short-sightedness: it’s my property, it’ll lose value, etc.

      However, once the laws were enacted, the neighborhood slowly began to come around. Today, as Wikipedia attests, Salem, Massachusetts has the greatest concentrations of notable pre-1900 domestic structures in the United States – and it’s absolutely beautiful to walk around. My parents still cannot paint their home unless they go before a historic board for approval. But they support that. Because they know 1) if they didn’t like it, they can move anywhere else where that isn’t a problem and 2) the property value from having these policies in place has made the neighborhood infinitely more desirable as opposed to if it had all been razed to become yet another generic suburb, with cookie cutter houses.

      “Why should they be denied their $8.5 million just so you can have a building to look at?”

      Yup.

    • Got to agree, if you want to save it why don’t you buy it? Get everyone signing the petition to contribute a $1,000.

      Landmarking this building will not increase it’s value just because of it’s size relative to what the site is zoned for. The problem that I see coming up is that this view is actually counterproductive. It rewards owners who cash out and demolish structures sooner while those that carry their properties are penalized. In this case, the previous owners of the land under the Cooper Square Hotel made their money, while the owner of No. 35 might be left holding the bag. (Actually, since it looks like a developer owns the property, that person would see the reduced value from landmarking but that only encourages developers to require sites be delivered vacant upon contract, hence quicker, quieter demolitions.)

      Not sure how this conundrum is ultimately resolved though.

  7. I just walked by there last weekend. That has to be the only Asian Pub I’ve ever seen in my life.

  8. If nothing gold can stay, then certainly crumbling old buildings have to go eventually, too. Hopefully it’s not replaced by another monstrosity, but you can’t have old corpses lying around the city like Norman Bates’s mother just because they were charming when they were alive.

    • Sure you can. And as history has showed throughout Manhattan, once owners are told they CAN’T tear and build another monstrosity in its place, they do a really, really good job at making those crumbling corpses suddenly return to life (Manhattan, mind you – anywhere else in the city, and they’re just left to die).

  9. Great argument, and great defenses in the comments, Scout. I used to live around the corner from 35 Cooper, on E 5th St, about 20 years ago. It was a really charming block. There used to be a little auto parts store where that huge glass building is (I’ve described it as an up-ended boat, but I much prefer your metaphor); their metal gate had the most beautiful mural painted on it.

    I’ve signed the petition and added an impassioned plea, but I’m not sanguine about this. If there’s one thing I’ve seen in the past decade: in Bloomberg’s NYC, the developers ALWAYS win.

    • If developers always won, then there would be fewer abandoned buildings and rents would be much lower. However, while politically connected developers probably do always win, all other developers always lose, therefore cease to exist, and the city goes without enough housing.

      • “If developers always won, then there would be fewer abandoned buildings and rents would be much lower.”

        Maybe it’s because I’m not from NYC, but this doesn’t make any sense to me. If you don’t mind, please explain it to me.

  10. “Asian Pub”???

  11. Oh Jeebus well EVERYONE — take the time to actually go in Cooper 35/aka the Asian Pub. My favorite watering hole for years and years. They have all day happy hour for four bucks, which is pretty much unheard of. And cute bartenders. And edamame, kimchee, and Korean beef galore.

    That is what I’m weeping for, but when I went back in Dec and saw that thing hovering right over it, I cheered and worried at the same time. Cooper 25 has spunk. Nearly being crushed under shiny money but not bending is the NY way right?

    Right?

    BasilKiller

  12. I agree with you that #35 should be saved. That being said, I have worked in the past in a field that requires knowledge of historic preservation laws. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) outlines what criteria are required for preservation, and what doesn’t count. One if the big no-no’s is a structure’s relationship with people, i.e. just because it is associated with a historic figure doesn’t make it any more eligible for preservation than a building of the same date and style. It is more about the significance of the architectural style and whether that building is an extraordinary exemplar of the style. In this case, the preservation commission is well within its rights to not protect the building. Sorry to say, but the law isn’t on the side of #35.

  13. Ah, LoneSnark, you’re obviously not from NYC.

  14. It’s amazing with the real estate market in NYC on the verge of collapse – greedy developers still feel compelled to tear down such a charming part of East village history.

    There has been a lot to the left of this building that has been minimally utilized for years (was a vacant lot – now its got parking and a courtyard for the pub I guess) – why can’t the developers be satisfied erecting another out-of-place building THERE instead of having to tear down the building too?

  15. WOW..ANOTHER ONE?……..ASIAN PUB?……..I LOVE IT…………JACK R. ENGLISH. 75….(GODFATHER, PART 2)…….LOCATION MGR.. WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF……(FORMERLY, NYC)

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