Residents and Officials Trying to Preserve Neighborhood Built by Italian-American Immigrants

The city is poised to create a new historic district in an area just south of Houston Street that was once home to many Italian-American immigrants. NY1’s Michael Scotto filed the following report.

These former tenements lining Sullivan and Thompson Streets were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to preservationists, they tell the story of the Italian-American immigrants who once called the neighborhood home.

Now, the area, which includes the state's first Italian church, is on track to become the city's newest historic district.

"There's just an incredible array of row houses and tenements and artists' lofts that speak to both immigrant experience and the artist experience over the last two generations," said Andrew Berman of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Preservationists have been fighting for a decade just to get a hearing on the issue.

On Tuesday they got one, after City Councilman Corey Johnson said creating the historic district would make him more likely to support a massive development project along the Hudson.

The proposed Sullivan-Thompson historic district would encompass 160 buildings from West Houston to Watts Street, and Sixth Avenue to just west of West Broadway.

Supporters say the district is needed now to keep developers from coming in and destroying the neighborhood's low-rise character.

Recently, Donald Trump's developer son-in-law Jared Kushner purchased buildings in the area. The landmark designation would make it harder to remodel buildings and nearly impossible to tear any of them down.

"Without its designation as an historic district, this neighborhood will surely lose some of its important features to mounting development pressures that are increasing all around it," said Councilman Johnson.

But some in the area, including the Catholic Church, say some of the buildings don't warrant protection and fear a blanket land marking designation will make it costly for them to repair or alter their properties.

 "The ever-expanding designation of historic districts has burdened many neighborhoods throughout New York City and this pending designation will not be any different," said Joseph Rosenberg of the Catholic Community Relations Council.

A vote to landmark the area is expected next month, likely on December 13.

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