Julian Schnabel has created a monster, opponents say


By lincoln anderson

Julian Schnabel’s latest creation is getting disastrous reviews from West Village neighbors and preservationists. The artist and filmmaker’s new 11-story tower addition to his existing three-story building on W. 11th St. between Washington and West Sts. rises to 167 feet in height. But it never should have been allowed to be that tall, according to Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

At the beginning of the year, G.V.S.H.P. and neighbors protested that as the city was preparing to downzone the West Village — enforcing lower height caps on new construction — Schnabel’s workers were doing illegal construction after hours and on weekends to get the project vested — or sufficiently underway to gain approval before the deadline. Neighbors called 311 to complain about the alleged illegal work, but didn’t get a timely response, according to Berman. Ultimately, the Department of Buildings allowed Schnabel’s project to proceed.

“It’s horrible. It’s all of your worst nightmares come true,” said Berman of the new tower. “It’s really a monument to this guy’s ego. The city ruled it was vested even though dozens of neighbors, independent of each other, submitted signed affidavits [of illegal work]. You could name this the Department of Buildings Tower — because of their negligence, that thing was built,” Berman fumed. “The one bright spot is this pointing to what won’t be allowed under the new zoning,” he said.