Cooper Sq. at ‘tipping point’ as 1825 building faces demo


By Albert Amateau

Preservation advocates gathered in front of 35 Cooper Square on Friday afternoon demanding that the Landmarks Preservation Commission protect the early-19th-century, Federal-style building by giving it landmark designation.

L.P.C., however, has said the building has been too altered by the addition of a brownstone coating to its facade to qualify as architecturally eligible for historic designation.

For the past decade, the building was the location of Cooper 35 Asian Pub — a bar popular with New York University and Cooper Union students. Last November, 35 Cooper Square and its adjoining space at the corner of E. Sixth St. were purchased for $8.5 million by Bhatia Development, an organization that intends to demolish the building. Indeed, the Asian Pub served its last drink on Saturday night Jan. 22 and closed for good.

Last Friday’s rally, led by David Mulkins, chairperson of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, or BAN, included Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Tom Duane, as well as preservation leaders Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, and Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

“This is one of the most significant buildings on this street,” said Mulkins. “If we lose this building, Cooper Square loses a much earlier sense of its history,” he added. Mulkins referred to the recently built 20-story Cooper Square Hotel across E. Sixth St. from the site, saying, “If we have this kind of out-of-scale, out-of-context development, we will destroy the sense of place that we get in these historic neighborhoods.” He noted that the Bowery was one of the world’s most renowned neighborhoods.

“The Bowery that has been known over the centuries is vanishing before our eyes,” Bankoff said. “At this point we have to say, Stop.

“The Landmarks Preservation Commission said this building cannot be designated because it has been altered,” he went on. “Of course it was altered, it’s more than 100 years old.”

Demonstrators waved signs saying, “Build Memories, Not Luxury Hotels,” and displayed photos showing the neighborhood as it was at the turn of the last century. Carolyn Ratcliffe, an East Village preservationist, carried a poster reminding passersby that the poet Diane diPrima and the singer Liza Minnelli once lived in the building.

Jim Power, 62, “The Mosaic Man,” who transformed lampposts all over the neighborhood with tile mosaics, urged demonstrators to employ direct action to preserve the area. Power was also incensed about the city’s proposed alterations that would close Astor Place between Lafayette St. and Fourth Ave., which he fears would eliminate lampposts with his mosaics.

Glick, who sent a letter to L.P.C. Chairperson Robert Tierney urging him to reconsider his finding that the building does not qualify for landmark protection, told the Friday crowd that, “We are at a critical point. There is a tipping point at which this area will no longer have a connection to the past.” Glick pledged not to give up her efforts to save the building, which dates back to 1825.

Duane, whose district includes the building, said, “There is so little left of our beloved Village, of the history we’re proud of. To risk losing a piece of that, even just one building, is tragic.”

Last fall, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez also sent a letter to Tierney urging landmark protection for the building, located on a site once owned by a member of the Stuyvesant family.

The original address of 35 Cooper Square was 391 Bowery, according to a research paper that Sally Young, a BAN member, sent to L.P.C. The original two-and-a-half-story building, with a gambrel roof, twin dormers and large end chimneys, had a ground-floor storefront with a brick arch and decorative cast-iron pilasters added around 1876. The crushed-brownstone stucco covering the Flemish-bond brick facade was likely added around the same time.

Owned by the Stuyvesant family, it was first occupied by a John Snider. By 1867, Herbert Marshall sold liquor out of the ground floor, continuing until 1876. In 1900 the building apparently operated as a hotel. In the second half of the 20th century, a painter, J. Forrest Vey, whose works are in the Whitney Museum of American Art, lived in the building. In the 1960’s, tenants like diPrima and Minnelli began renting upstairs rooms in the building. Poet diPrima and her then husband, Alan Marlowe, ran a few seasons of the New York Poets Theatre from 35 Cooper Square. Claude Brown, author of “Manchild in the Promised Land,” also lived there. In 1970, Stanley Sobossek, a painter, ran a bar on the ground floor.

In 1976, a woman named Hesae owned a restaurant known by that name at 35 Cooper Square until 1990. She returned around 2000 and ran Cooper 35 Asian Pub until last Saturday.