In Greenwich Village We're Against Everything

Those who have read my "About" page know that one of the aspects of Greenwich Village orthodoxy that I find odd is the tenet that "the current built environment is optimal and all attempts to change it in any way must be opposed at all costs."  It's been a while since I've given an update on that subject here.

The big news in the Village is that two new condo buildings are in the process of going up.  One is on Charles Street down by the Hudson River, and the other is on the former site of St. Vincent's Hospital on Seventh Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets.  Both are rather large:  150 Charles Street has close to 100 apartments, all of large size, and the other one, known as Greenwich Lane, has close to 200.  And they are really expensive.  The web site for 150 Charles Street shows no more apartments available -- it's completely sold out! -- but according to this article on Curbed from July, they got an average of more than $3000 per square foot.  That means that they got something close to $1 billion for the building.   Here is a list of availabilities at the Greenwich Lane -- they're looking for over $3000 psf as well.  $3000 psf means about $3 million for a typical two-bedroom apartment.  But if that seems a little cozy to you, they have a townhouse at the Greenwich Lane for $25.25 million.  There have also been reports that the penthouse atop 150 Charles has sold for $34 million.  Mind you, this building is still a year plus away from completion.

In case you want to get a look at either of these buildings, try their websites.  150 Charles is here, and the Greenwich Lane is here.

And what is the reaction of Greenwich Village to the coming of these two super-high-end buildings.  Why, of course, outrage!  Multiple lawsuits have been filed trying to stop 150 Charles, and the New York Post today reports on yet a new one.  Or check out this 11 minute video put together by some of our angry neighbors a couple of years ago.  Meanwhile the Greenwich Lane makes Villagers' blood boil even more, because it is on the site of the former hospital.  But the opportunities for lawsuits have been less since the site was acquired by the developer at an auction in the Bankruptcy Court -- not much you can do about that.  Still, literally every candidate who ran for office in the last election swore that they would have fought harder and somehow saved the hospital and prevented the condos.   Here is my article on that subject, and below is my picture of Bill de Blasio as a candidate swearing his eternal opposition to condos replacing hospitals.

Am I the only one who thinks it's odd to fight to the death to prevent new high end development?  Other places where I have lived would have killed to have someone want to build such a building in their town, let alone to have people willing to pay these prices prepared to move in.  That's how taxes get paid!  As one example, New Haven, Connecticut, has spent decades trying to get someone to invest in their downtown area, with remarkably little luck.  Same for my childhood home town of Poughkeepsie, New York.

What is it about the Village that makes many of us hate new development so much?  One hypothesis is that it's just a form of snobbishness -- we're so superior to others that we don't want these tacky nouveaux riches moving in with their tasteless new buildings.  I also have another hypothesis, which is that rent regulation has a lot to do with it.   It is very noticeable that people living in rent regulated apartments (which still is around half of the people in the Village, plus or minus) are among the strongest opponents of new development.  In my observation, they tend to perceive new development as a threat.  The new development is always and inevitably high priced, which, I suppose, gives their landlords an even greater incentive than they already had to try to get rid of them.  Given the incentives that they face, it appears that the best thing for the rent regulated tenants would be for the neighborhood to have no new development and no upgrading at all, and just fall into gradual decline and decay.

Needless to say, homeowners such as yours truly have a somewhat different perspective.  But you don't see anyone in the Village publicly speaking out and saying that rising property values are a good thing.