Citing less need, Children’s Aid may leave Sullivan St.


By Albert Amateau

The Children’s Aid Society is considering the sale of its buildings on Sullivan St. where it has been a part of the Village for more than a century.

In a letter to families who take part in the society’s Arts and After-school Program and the New Acting Company classes and productions in the Sullivan St. complex, the center’s executives said the decision was not final but is under “serious consideration.”

If the society decides to sell the buildings at 219 Sullivan St. and 175 Sullivan St., it is likely that its Arts and After-school Program and the New Acting Company would close after June 2012.

“We are aware that this news will come as a shock to many,” said a Nov. 28 letter signed by Richard Buery, the society’s president and chief executive officer, and Bill Weisberg, chief operating officer. “The programs are wonderful and the staff is comprised of supremely talented and caring people,” the letter continued.

The society, dedicated in 1853 to help poor children thrive, now has 45 locations in the five boroughs and Westchester. The Children’s Aid Society has been in the Village since 1892, and was named in 2005 as the Phillip Coltoff Center in honor of the society’s retired president. The early-childhood annex was opened at 175 Sullivan St. 20 years ago, and the main center at 219 Sullivan St. was renovated in 1994.

“This is really heartbreaking,” Buery said on Wednesday. “We constantly struggle with difficult decisions about which services are most closely aligned with our mission. We will be working hard to support families and staff through this transition.”

In a Nov. 30 news release, Buery further said, “While the Greenwich Village community shows a continued demand for quality and affordable early-childhood and after-school programs, the neighborhood has changed radically in the 119 years since this center opened, and it’s clear the community no longer needs us in the way that higher-poverty New York neighborhoods do.”

The society board of trustees, which meets on Dec. 16, must ratify any decision to sell the Village buildings.

Buery said on Wednesday that it was very early in the process and the society has not yet hired a broker. But he acknowledged that the society has received offers to buy the Village properties.

The buildings are located within the area that the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation originally proposed for the South Village Historic District. Although the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated one-third of the proposed district, the Children’s Aid Society buildings were not included in the designation.

“The loss of the Children’s Aid Society, an institution which has been in this community for over a century, would be tragic,” said G.V.S.H.P Executive Director Andrew Berman in a letter to L.P.C. “If its buildings were to be sold prior to landmark designation, it would likely lead to their demolition and replacement with either a condo or dormitory high-rise, which would compound the tragedy. We are urging the city to keep its long-overdue promise and move ahead with consideration of this area for landmark designation right away.”