Ouroussoff on St. Vincent's
In today's Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff has a piece critical of the St. Vincent's/Rudin plan for the St. Vincent's Hospital site in Greenwich Village. The hospital and developer plan to demolish as many as eight buildings, none of which would necessarily rise to the level of landmarks in their own right. But for Ouroussoff, all are part of the eclectic fabric of the city, and in their own way contribute to the character of Greenwich Village. Ouroussoff's points points are particularly cogent in relation not only to historic preservation but also to issues such as neighborhood preservation, neighborhood character and the like.
Sadly, the hospital’s application reflects the pernicious but prevalent notion that any single building that is not a major historical landmark — or stands outside the historical mainstream — is unworthy of our protection. Pursue that logic to its conclusion, and you replace genuine urban history with a watered-down substitute. It’s historical censorship.
This perniciousness will be all too familiar to North Brooklynites - it is the notion that we hear when Council Members refer to landmarks as a "piece of trash", or when developers use demolished icons as a reference point for banal condos. It is the notion that the fabric of neighborhoods have no meaning beyond their base economic value.
Its a short article, as much news as critique, but it is a compelling argument for the preservation of neighborhood character beyond just great buildings. All the more interesting as it comes from a critic - not a fan - of Jane Jacobs. We'll leave Mr. Ouroussoff with the last word:
This is not simply a question of losing a building; it’s about masking [a complex historical narrative in which competing values are always jostling for attention] and reducing New York history to a caricature. Ultimately, it’s a form of collective amnesia.