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Commission Approves New Historic East Village District

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The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a proposal Tuesday to create a new historic district protecting hundreds of buildings in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.

It's a neighborhood that contains some of the city's oldest buildings, some more than 200 years old.

"The East Village is one of New York's great neighborhoods, great historic neighborhoods, whether it's the immigrant history of the 19th century or the incredible artistic, musical, literary history of the 20th century," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

However, the East Village has become a target for gentrification and that worries those who want it preserved.

"We've lost a lot of the wonderful character of the neighborhood in recent years and landmarking will go a long way towards helping to protect that," Berman said.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission thought so, too, voting Tuesday in favor of creating an "East Village/Lower East Side Historic District" that covers hundreds of buildings on parts of 15 blocks between Avenue A and Bowery and St. Mark’s Place and Second Street.

It would prevent developers from tearing down or altering the exteriors of buildings. But that's precisely why one commissioner voted no, citing, in part, the number of tenement buildings and their lack of historical significance.

"The idea of proposing tenements to remember what tenements are like, we already do that throughout a huge part of New York," said commission member Margery Perlmutter.

Some community members fear landmarking will accelerate gentrification.

"Immigration has slowed to the neighborhood, primarily because of an elite class of rich people moving into the Lower East Side," said Richard Wright of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection. "And the landmark designation will threaten the very fabric of the diverse socioeconomic, cultural and physical well-being of the neighborhood.

Residents have mixed feelings.

"Very selfishly, as long as rent doesn't go up, I think it's a great idea," said one.

"It makes me kind of proud of New York, living near a historical place," said another.

The proposal now goes to the City Council for a final vote. That's expected within the next few months.

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