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July 16, 2011

On the sad campaign to forcibly Landmark our Cathedral building.

From Orthodoxhistory.org by Matthew Naimie

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is trying to have a 15-block section of the city’s East Village declared a historic district. This area includes the OCA’s Holy Protection Cathedral, which was built in 1891 and acquired by the OCA in 1943. It housed the OCA administration until the jurisdiction acquired its present headquarters in Syosset, NY. The Holy Protection parish community is opposing the proposed designation, arguing that “the congregation could not afford to meet standards that landmark designation would impose on repairs and maintenance of the 110-year-old house of worship.” I’m very sympathetic to those concerns. Certainly, as a historian, I love the concept of preserving artifacts and buildings from our past. But preserving history and Historic Preservation aren’t one and the same. The latter involves government-imposed “historic preservation” designations, and while these may seem an attractive way to preserve a venerable building, the practical results can be unjust. Here, the Holy Protection community would be legally obligated to spend more money than it can afford in maintaining the building, not just as a working church, but as a historical landmark. And it would have to go through the government’s historic preservation bureaucracy to make changes to the building in the future. All things considered, Holy Protection is best off preserving its own history without having the government get involved.

A Letter from the Cathedral to the Community Board #3 Concerning our Efforts at Mediation with the Preservationists Lobbying for the Forced Land Marking of our Building

To: Dominic Pisciotta, Board Chair CB 3, and Susan Stetzer, District Manager CB 3:
CC: Andrew Berman, Executive Director, GVSHP; Rosie Mendez, District 2 New York City Councilmember; Hon. Robert B. Tierney, Chair, LPC

From: Parish Council - The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection (Community Liaison Richard Wright)

Dear Dominic Pisciotta and Susan Stetzer:

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection (2nd Street Cathedral) has asked for a return to city-appointed mediation to bring together representatives of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the representatives from the 2nd Street Cathedral and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez.

We recently found out about a May 31st GVSHP press release that strongly implies that the 2nd Street Cathedral building may be destroyed if GVSHP proposals are not immediately implemented by the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC). This disinformation brings us great distress. The statement also disregards repeated requests by 2nd Street Cathedral representatives to stop using the community of worshipers and the church for political ends.

Last year, Manhattan Community Board 3 (CB3) referred the GVSHP and 2nd Street Cathedral to city-sponsored mediation, with specific directions to explore a “Third Way” that could prevent landmark designation on the 2nd Street Cathedral building while providing assurances to the GVSHP that mutual goals in preservation exist. The 2nd Street Cathedral clergy and parish council attended mediation in good faith and were very pleased with the professionalism and objectivity of the mediation team.

We are grateful for the CB3’s conciliatory initiative and ask for continued guidance in repairing fractured relationships within our community. It's a true community-building model that we are encouraging, not only for us, but for others in similar situations. The mediators helped us to find our common goals in preservation and community involvement, and we believed we had laid a positive foundation for improved communication and future cooperation among all parties involved. Sadly, the May 31st press release was a complete surprise to the 2nd Street Cathedral community. Once again, we have not been contacted to participate in strategic plans that implicate our community and may affect our religious freedoms and fiscal wellbeing. Despite opening our doors completely to provide clear information to all, electing a community liaison to respond to journalists and members of the community, signing a standstill agreement and giving several layers of assurances that there are no intention to modify - much less destroy - our beloved Cathedral building, we see a return to the pattern of misinformation and political maneuvering that has been so hurtful to our community.

We feel that our community is being manipulated for the sake of politics, and we are not being told of the consequences that may result from these agendas. We are feeling very isolated and are grateful for your continued guidance in uniting mutual goals for preservation and community building.

Sincerely,
Parish Council - The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection

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From The Local East Village at The New York Times

Historic District Dispute Heats Up
By STEPHEN REX BROWN, 20 Cooper Square
The divide between preservationists and the opponents of a proposed historic district in the neighborhood was on full display Thursday night, as critics of the plan derided a proposed landmark district as an insult to some area institutions.

Supporters of the planned district, covering 330 buildings near Second Avenue and one block of Tompkins Square Park, countered that it would protect the East Village from development and preserve the architectural features of the neighborhood for future generations.

Opponents of the plan, led by representatives from three houses of worship — Congregation Meseritz Syngg, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection and St. Stanislaus Church — questioned whether the district would place an undue burden on them by requiring that they pay for the increased maintenance and upkeep of their buildings.

By the end of the two-hour meeting of Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee at 41 Cooper Square it was clear that the debate is far from over.

“I see this as extra expenses for the community,” said Father Michael Suvak of the Cathedral of Holy Virgin Protection. “This neighborhood is known for its artistic and independent nature. By landmarking and adding extra red tape, it’s going against the nature of the East Village.”

Preservationists sought to assuage the concerns of religious leaders and their parishioners.

“The notion that owners are currently free to do whatever they wish, while they are overwhelmingly constrained under landmark designation is simply not true,” said Andito Lloyd, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Ms. Lloyd’s colleague, Elizabeth Finkelstein added, “Landmarking will by no means freeze your building in time.”

But some of the roughly 50 people in attendance were not buying it.

“How can landmarks tell you these buildings are more important than the people that frequent them?” said Ido Nissani, an architect who attends Congregation Meseritz [Synagogue] on Sixth Street. “We want to preserve our buildings better than how they want to preserve them.”

Ultimately, the three-person landmarks subcommittee voted in favor of the historic district proposal, which will go before the Parks subcommittee next week before being passed along to the full board later this month.

One member of the landmarks subcommittee, David Adams, abstained from voting on the larger portion of the district, saying that its size and layout “disturbed” him.

“It’s like a gerrymandered district,” he added.

REJECT PRESERVATIONIST'S DIKTAT!
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!
REJECT PRESERVATIONIST'S DIKTAT!
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!
REJECT PRESERVATIONIST'S DIKTAT!
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!

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