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Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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Literary History Gives Way to Another Greenwich Village Condo Tower

Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Landmarks Preservation Commission, luxury condo tower, Greenwich Village, Grove Press.

The brick box at 66 University Pl., former home of Grove Press, never won a beauty contest.

Sept. 20, 2021

She was never in danger of winning any beauty contests. The four-story brick box with a green awning at 66 University Pl. near Washington Square may not be much to look at, but at one time in was home to Grove Press, which fought and won landmark obscenity cases that allowed it to publish banned books by Brooklynite Henry Miller and Englishman D.H. Lawrence. Grove also published Samuel Beckett and other modernist masters.

Despite cries of protest from preservationists, the India-based real estate firm, bSafal, has filed plans with the Department of Buildings for an 11-story, 28-unit residential project on the site. The project would stand 125 feet tall and span about 66,000 square feet, Crain's reports.

The condo tower is coming to Greenwich Village in the wake of failed efforts by the community group Village Preservation to designate part of the neighborhood, including 66 University Pl., as the South of Union Square Historic District. “The building was the home to Grove Press, which really changed the face of literature in America in the mid-20th century,” says Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation. “It’s disappointing in general that the current administration has no regard whatsoever for preserving or celebrating our city’s history, and it’s especially galling that it’s being lost for 28 super luxury condos that will probably, in most cases, be the second or third homes or the investment properties of their owners.”

But the developer and architect defended their project, stressing that it would be in keeping with the style of other buildings in the neighborhood and would a property that had become an eyesore, regardless of its historical significance. "It was just an abandoned building," says Ameesh Agarwal, president of the bSafal India subsidiary bSafal Inc.

Richard Nemeth, principal at the architecture firm KPF, which is designing the building, echoed these sentiments. The building will not be a skyscraper that clashes with the rest of the neighborhood, he contends, but one that complements and enhances the architecture of the surrounding properties. "I do think it will be a vast improvement over what's there now, history notwithstanding," Nemeth says. "We're not trying to fight the Village or fight the Village architecture. We're trying to enhance it and make it better."

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) studied and analyzed the area in 2018, which led to seven buildings being designated as landmarks the following year. However, 66 University Pl. was not one of them. "In our careful evaluation, LPC staff did not find this 1958 building to merit consideration as an individual landmark," says agency spokeswoman Zodet Negrón, "and in our extensive study of the large area Village Preservation requested the agency evaluate south of Union Square, we have not found it to rise to the level of a historic district."

In other words, only beauty queens need apply. The legendary Grove editor Barney Rosset, who died in 2012 at 89, is no doubt spinning in his grave. 

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