Save the Village
Save the Village was formed in 1959 in Greenwich Village to push for zoning regulations that could preserve the architectural character of the area and the homes of the people who lived there.
Save the Village’s name closely reflects its mission, which was to save the architectural character of Greenwich Village. Save the Village’s key strategies included fighting evictions, seeking rent protection, and pursuing zoning and planning tools to keep the Village intact.
September 10, 1959: The Villager announces the formation of Save the Village
1959: Alan Marcus (the same man who organized the petition campaign to close Washington Square Park to traffic) led a petition drive in support of protecting New York’s neighborhoods, and fighting against evictions and demolitions in Greenwich Village
March 15, 1960: The Save the Village Committee appeared at City Hall to attend a public hearing by the New York City Planning Commission regarding the text of the New York City Zoning Law put forward by James Felt
March 1960: The Board of Estimate approves Robert Weinberg’s emergency zoning amendment, which spared the Village from destruction
May 1960: Save the Village led a protest in front of Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s office
June 1960: Save the Village founder Arnold Bergier raises the issue of implementation of the Bard Act with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
August 25, 1960: Save the Village wrote to Mayor Wagner and urged that the 200 violations in City-owned apartment houses in the Carmine Street area be corrected
Arnold Henry Bergier, a well-known sculptor and Greenwich Village resident, lived in a "picturesque studio house" located at 131 West 10th Street. His home lay in the path of a planned apartment house and parking lot construction project.1 In order to save his home, Bergier convened an emergency meeting. Amongst others, Robert C. Weinberg, Arthur Cort Holden, and Whitney North Seymour, Sr. attended this meeting. Those gathered decided that the solution for Bergier, and many others who shared his predicament, was to organize the Village in order to amend its zoning laws.2 One week later, on September 10, 1959, the Villager announced the formation of Save the Village, the new community-wide organization.3
In the Fall of 1959, while James Felt's proposed new zoning resolution was still under study by the New York City Planning Commission, Save the Village focused on implementing the Bard Act in Greenwich Village, and obtaining the passage of the Save the Village Zoning Amendment.4
On September 10, 1959, the Villager announced the formation of Save the Village, and publicized the organization's intention to obtain the kind of protection authorized by the Bard Act for Greenwich Village.5 In 1959, with evictions and demolitions spurring it on, Save the Village mounted an offensive. Alan Marcus (the same man who organized the petition campaign to close Washington Square Park to traffic) led a petition drive in support of "various city wide measures to protect New York’s cherished neighborhoods, and to rezone and save Greenwich Village from mass demolitions and evictions.”6 Save the Village effectively mobilized thousands of citizens on the grassroots level. The petitions garnered fifteen thousand signatures by January of 1960.7 In June of 1960, Save the Village founder Arnold Bergier raised the issue of implementation of the Bard Act with Mayor Robert Wagner, and Arthur Cort Holden was at work drafting "a city level zoning law to implement the Bard Law.”8 The Bard Law was not implemented in the Village at this time; however, Save the Village had successfully introduced the possibility to the Mayor and the public.9
Save the Village also supported the 1961 Zoning Resolution. In 1959, James Felt proposed a new zoning resolution to "limit the height of new buildings on Village residential streets to the present scale.”10 Felt's proposal was not designated to take effect until one year after its passage. The one-year grace period that Felt's proposal allowed left the Village vulnerable to developers, who were in a mad rush to implement new projects while the old zoning rules still applied.11 In order to protect the architectural character of the Village during the one-year grace period, Robert C. Weinberg proposed that the Village attempt to amend the old zoning in order to ensure protection in the interim.12
The Greenwich Village Association, the Washington Square Association, and Save the Village joined together to support Weinberg’s Amendment.13 On March 15, 1960, the Save the Village Committee appeared at City Hall to attend a public hearing by the New York City Planning Commission regarding the text of the New York City Zoning Law put forward by James Felt. The Save the Village Committee dramatized their appearance by wearing rosettes in the city colors, orange, white, and blue, and by wearing pre-World War I "Old Hat" black derbies. At the hearing, Save the Village supported Felt’s zoning amendment, but also sought "a stopgap measure to restrict Village Zoning to category D6, a low density designation, as an emergency precaution to prevent the demolition of Greenwich Village architecture before the new zoning took effect.”14 Finally, in March of 1960, the Board of Estimate approved Weinberg’s emergency zoning amendment, which in essence spared the Village from destruction.15
In addition, Save the Village was involved in other preservation campaigns. For example, in May of 1960, Save the Village led a protest in front of Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s office. They objected to the razing of old Village buildings to make room for luxury apartment houses. Protesters also urged that rent control laws should be reexamined.16 During this protest, Save the Village's Doris Diether notoriously led around a pig, intended to symbolize "greed and avarice" on the part of the landlords.17 On August 25, 1960, Save the Village wrote to Mayor Wagner and urged that the 200 violations in City-owned apartment houses in the Carmine Street vicinity be corrected.18
- Greenwich Village historic district designation report (New York, 1969) (signed by Commissioners)
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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- Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 235.
- ”Emergency Plans to Protect Village,” Villager, 3 September 1959.
- ”Save the Village ‘Vigilante’ Formed,” Villager, 10 September 1959.
- ”Save the Village ‘Vigilante’ Formed,” Villager, 10 September 10, 1959, as quoted in Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), page 235.
- Ibid, page 235.
- ”Accelerate Drive to ‘Save Village,’” Villager, 12 November 1959.
- Ned Schnurman, “Greenwich Village Group Fights for its Brownstones,” Newark Sunday News, 31 January 1960.
- Anthony C. Wood, Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City’s Landmarks (New York: Routledge, 2008), pages 237 and 245.
- Ibid, pages 239-240.
- ”10,000 Here Sign ‘Save’ Petition,” Villager, 19 November 1959.
- Richard J. Whalen, “A City destroying Itself,” Fortune, September 1964.
- Owen Grundy, “The Boiling Cauldron-GVA,” Villager, 22 October 1959.
- ”Savers Don Old Hats for Hearing,” Villager, 10 March 1960.
- ”Save the Village Wins at City Hall,” Village Voice, 30 March 1960.
- ”20 Pickets Rent A Pig in a Poke,” The New York Times, 22 May 1960.
- ”Pig Pickets to Save Village,” Villager, 22 May 1960.
- ”‘Save Village’ in Plea to Mayor to Correct City Housing Violations,” Village Voice, 25 August 1960.