Monday, July 19, 2010
Saving the historic vista
Green-Wood Cemetery’s Roman Goddess of War is about to clash with her toughest foe to date: city bureaucracy.
Area preservationists are seeking to secure a historic, though often threatened, view corridor between the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and the Minerva — a nine-foot-tall bronze statue that regally presides over the cemetery.
The cemetery is beginning a campaign to create a “197a plan,” a jargony name for something very basic: a document that would, at least in theory, force the city to consider the community’s wishes if a developer threatens the view plane.
The name “197a” that refers to a section of the City Charter that formalizes a community’s policy position.
“This is an important statement of city policy,” said Kenneth Fisher, the former councilman and attorney representing the cemetery. “It would force the city to go on the record with any deviation from that [stated] policy.”
The Statue of Liberty has stood in New York Harbor since the 1880s. When the statue of Minerva was erected in 1920 — to commemorate the crucial Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn — the goddess’s gaze was intentionally fixed upon Lady Libery.
But in 2008, that view corridor was threatened by a development at Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street. Public outcry helped persuade the developer to reconfigure his building to preserve the view.
Even before that threat, the cemetery had been calling for an official “scenic view” that would prevent out-of-scale development in a line from Minerva through Greenwood Heights and the South Slope to Red Hook, where undeveloped properties like Joe Sitt’s Revere Sugar site on Richards Street make statue-watchers nervous.
Early efforts failed when the city made it clear that it wasn’t interested in embarking on what would be a complex, unprecedented and time-consuming change that would affect an array of individual properties.
Supporters hope that the 197-a plan will give prospective developers pause if they were to consider constructing a building tall enough to breach the view plane.
But the 197-a plan is not legally binding and only serves as a guide for city agencies that might be required to review a prospective project.
Photo from Save the Vista