What is up with Community Board 2? Approves NYU’s demolition plans for 133-139 MacDougal Street / Provincetown Playhouse despite widespread community disapproval

Manhattan Community Board 2 voted 37-1 (with 2 abstentions) to approve NYU’s proposal to demolish 133-139 MacDougal Street, the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments.

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation(GVSHP) noted, at last week’s general meeting(June 19), speaker after speaker spoke out against NYU’s demolition plans and ONLY NYU and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer‘s office spoke in favor of demolishing the Provincetown Playhouse and yet the Community Board voted with them.

Who exactly does the Community Board represent?

After NYU’s initial plans to totally demolish the historic Playhouse were revealed, heated protest caused the University to back down – somewhat. According to GVSHP, NYU “did agree to preserve the four walls and entry facade of the theater portion of the building, although NYU originally claimed there was nothing worth preserving about the theater.”

The Real Deal, a real estate blog, wrote about the history of the building:

“The building, originally four separate townhouses, was combined in the early 1940s. In 1916, the Provincetown Players, including playwright Eugene O’Neill, called 139 Macdougal Street home, and two years later moved three houses down to its current home at 133 Macdougal. The Players, famous for experimental theater, book-ended the four houses with fellow radicals living in between them.

In the early 1900s, the Washington Square Bookshop promoted modern literature at 135 Macdougal. Next door at 137 Macdougal stood the Liberal Club, the self-proclaimed ‘Meeting Place for Those Interested in New Ideas,’ whose famous members included Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair and Margaret Sanger.”

The article notes that, “… the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation deemed [the location] eligible for historic preservation this week.” NYU’s plans include a new building “with two extra floors to be used by its School of Law.”

Andrew Berman, head of GVSHP, commented: “Unfortunately there seem to be a little too much eagerness [by the Community Board] to accommodate NYU at the expense of our neighborhood’s history and character.”

Then, if you look at their track record on Washington Square Park, Community Board 2 voted twice in favor of the “renovation” of Washington Square Park again despite widespread community disapproval.

The Board eventually rescinded their approval when the New York City Parks Department’s lack of transparency and withholding of information became impossible to ignore.

That being said, neither Community Board Chair Brad Hoylman, nor NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, seem to remember that the “approval” was rescinded. The Community Board chairs are often seen featured in photos with Commissioner Benepe and the BID (Business Improvement District) members holding checks towards the Park’s redesign.

So, who exactly does the Community Board represent?