The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

The Real Deal looks back at some of New York's biggest real estate stories

November 30, 2010
By The Real Deal

Greenwich Village

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed making Greenwich Village a historic district 45 years ago this month.

The commission proposed a 65-block area with about 2,000 buildings roughly bounded by 12th and 13th streets to the north, University Place on the east, Washington Square South and West Fourth Street on the south and Washington Street to the west.

The move came just eight months after the city council approved the creation of the commission, founded to preserve the architecture of the city following the destruction of Pennsylvania Station.

While some proposed districts sailed through in months — such as the city’s first, in Brooklyn Heights, which was approved in 1965 — it would take three and a half years to get the designation in Greenwich Village.

Unlike in the Brooklyn neighborhood, Greenwich Village had real estate and other commercial interests that sought to block a blanket designation. In December 1966, the city bowed to opponents and proposed cutting the district into 18 smaller areas covering about two-thirds of the originally proposed space. But that proposal was abandoned in the spring of the following year, and the full 65-block district won City Council approval in 1969.

1935: EARLY EFFORT TO HALT FACTORY FLIGHT IN NYC

Factory workers in New York City

The city began what may have been its first public effort to halt the decline of factory production 75 years ago this month, even as unions and manufacturers disagreed on why businesses were leaving.

Union officials said at the time that nearly 350 dress factories that had employed about 30,000 workers had shuttered since 1927. “We are not alarmists,” said Charles Murphy, special representative to the city’s Department of Finance. “But there has come to the attention of [the city] … figures of removals of industries from New York City which cannot be ignored.”

Yet labor leaders and plant bosses differed on why companies were relocating to neighboring states such as Connecticut and New Jersey, or moving even farther away to Pennsylvania and Maryland to open so-called runaway shops.

Organized labor officials, such as David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, blamed cheaper labor, and other union representatives said it was also to escape New York’s labor laws.

Manufacturers, such as Louis Rubin, executive director of the Popular Priced Dress Manufacturers Group, said firms were leaving to escape the constant threat of strikes or work stoppages.

1903: WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE OPENS

Williamsburg Bridge


The Williamsburg Bridge opened 107 years ago this month, sparking a population boom led by Eastern European Jewish immigrants moving to Brooklyn who had been crowded into tenements on the Lower East Side.

Following the opening of the bridge, which at the time was the largest suspension bridge in the world, the population in the Williamsburg neighborhood swelled from about 105,000 people in 1900 to more than 260,000 in 1920.

Yet the desire for more space was quickly thwarted as more and more immigrants piled into the waterfront area. By 1917 Williamsburg was the most densely occupied neighborhood in the city.

However, the population surge was not the only change the new span brought. The commercial core of Williamsburg, which had hovered close to the waterfront on Broadway, moved to the east. The shift caused anger from some established store owners who had profited from the ferries that left from the end of Broadway in Brooklyn for landings in Manhattan such as Grand Street or 23rd Street.

Compiled by Adam Pincus

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