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City Gives 13-Block Home Of Village Folk Scene Landmark Status

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The historic nature of Greenwich Village isn't in doubt, but the city bestowed Tuesday an official designation meant to protect an even larger area of the neighborhood from out-of-character development. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

The streets and shops of the southern portion of Greenwich Village are legendary for their role in the counterculture of the '50s and '60s.

"While all of the Village was known for this countercultural activity, this was really a nexus of it because of all these Italian cafes and coffeehouses and little working-class bars that became the place that artists and writers gravitated to," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Now, they're officially city landmarks, meaning that any changes to the roughly 250 row houses and tenements in the new district will now need to be approved.

The district is bordered by West Fourth Street to the north, Sixth Avenue to the west, LaGuardia Place and West Broadway to the east, and West Houston Street to the south.

The landmarking means that the distinctive character of this neighborhood will now remain the same.

"You can preserve the important character of the neighborhood and that can really be an engine for future economic growth, and that's what we really want to see happen," Berman said.

Included in the new district are four New York University buildings, something that preservation activists say is a big deal. NYU is planning a major expansion of its facilities outside the district, which led some to wonder what it might do here, although the school says it actually supported the landmarking.

Among the people NY1 spoke with who live and work in the area, there are two schools of thought: an appreciation for maintaining the historic value of this area, and also a wariness about restricting development.

"As an artist, it meant a lot, and I think we need to keep it for future generations," said one person. "Let all of the other areas turn into big high rises."

"We should be allowed to develop as much as we can to try and boost the economy a little bit," said another.

This is phase two of a three-phase preservation project for the South Village that Berman's organization began in 2006. Phase one, stretching three blocks west from Sixth Avenue to sections of Jones Street and Morton Street, was landmarked back in 2010. Phase three, south of Houston Street, is still being evaluated.

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