Fear that a developer could plow under little farmhouse
BY SERGEI KLEBNIKOV | To Villagers’ dismay, a cherished farmhouse, one of Greenwich Village’s oldest buildings, recently went up for sale as a “development site.”
The quaint former farmhouse sits at the corner of Charles and Greenwich Sts. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called the little white house “an icon and emblem of the historic West Village.”
The 1,000-square-foot structure, plus its surrounding grounds, was listed for sale last month for $20 million by owner Suri Bieler, who bought it in 1988. The total property, at 4,868 square feet, offers the potential to “execute a wide variety of potential visions, from boutique condominiums, apartments or a one-of-a-kind townhouse,” according to the listing.
After buying the house, Bieler and her husband, Eliot Brodsky, restored it and added a room for their young son. Bieler told The New York Times in 2008 that she had “pined for the house since she was a child in the 1960s.”
Her broker, Andrew Greenberg, of ERG Property Advisors, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The house is believed to date from the 1800s, but wasn’t in the Village until 1967. It was formerly located at York Ave. and E. 71st St. But when the Archdiocese planned to raze it for senior housing, the owner moved it by trucks down to Charles St.
The house has literary and cultural significance, too. Margaret Wise Brown, author of the children’s picture book “Goodnight Moon,” lived in it in the 1940s.
The farmhouse is in a historic district, so it is landmarked. Berman detailed the lengthy process a developer would face to try to demolish the building and rebuild on the site. After filing an application, the developer would have to present the plan publicly at both Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, before a final, binding vote by the latter. A Department of Buildings permit would be needed to modify or raze the existing structure.
“Any application would face strong opposition,” Berman assured. However, none have been filed. “Right now, it’s just a lot of speculation,” he noted.
G.V.S.H.P. is “closely monitoring the situation,” he said. The society is collecting historical information, to be prepared to fight a potential project.
Thomas and Elizabeth Glass, the son and daughter of the owners who moved the farmhouse to the Village, have reportedly reached out to G.V.S.H.P., offering historic information on the building and their help to protect it.
Outside 121 Charles St. this week, local residents and Village lovers expressed concern about the building’s fate. One neighbor, walking her dogs, said, “It would be a shame,” if it were razed. Martha Botts, who frequently visits her daughter, who lives nearby, said destroying the humble home would be “against the spirit of the West Village.”