East Village protest held over planned demolition of five apartment buildings

Demonstrators rally against  the destruction of  apartment buildings in the East Village  to make room for a hotel on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016.
Demonstrators rally against the destruction of apartment buildings in the East Village to make room for a hotel on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Five Beaux Arts apartment buildings on East 11th Street are slated to be demolished and East Village preservationists and preservationists smell a rat.

Protesters rallied at the site Monday and accused Mayor Bill de Blasio and his mayoral appointee to the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors, David Lichtenstein, of placing business ahead of residents by allowing a hotel to be built on the site — when the buildings could have been landmarked.

Lichtenstein is CEO of The Lightstone Group, which bought the properties in April from PanAm Equities for $127 million, with plans to demolish the classic structures and erect a 300-room Marriott “Moxy” hotel designed to appeal to young tourists, according to The Real Deal.

“It is totally hypocritical and inexplicable that the mayor would allow good housing to be demolished for a totally unnecessary hotel no one wants or needs,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

The betrayal is analogous to the deed-lifting scandal associated with nearby Rivington House, in which city officials allowed a nursing home to be turned into luxury condos, depriving the city of tens of millions of dollars and a much-needed facility, Berman said.

“This is another example of the mayor selling out this neighborhood and his principles,” Berman complained.

The five now-vacant buildings, across the street from Webster Hall, range from 112 to 120 East 11th St. and represent roughly 100 apartments.

“Landmarks Preservation Commission determined these buildings did not meet the merits of historic designation,” said mayoral spokesman Austin Finan. “Moreover, the designation would not have prevented the property’s conversion into a hotel.”

Units in one empty building looked to be recently renovated and tenant-ready, with gleaming wood floors and sparkling new, if mid-range, appliances. No one knew what had happened to their tenants, though names remained on doors and buzzers.

Lightstone said via statement that the company “has a strong record of preserving the historic fabric of New York City while working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is our understanding that the LPC reviewed and formally rejected the Request for Eligibility.”

Landmarks had agreed the structures were “landmark eligible” in 2008 but ignored pleas to save them until earlier this month, when one of the buildings “was already being gutted,” complained Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy & communityoutreach for the Historic Districts Council, located a block away.

“This project will insert the mediocrity which New York is increasingly losing its immunity to, and is anti-East Village,” she said.

“These buildings are the fabric of our neighborhood,” declared state Sen. Brad Hoylman. “We need affordable housing: We don’t need fancy hotels,” he added.

Berman implored attendees to write the mayor to demand that he block the building’s destruction or prevail upon Lichtenstein and Lightstone to preserve the buildings.