Fashion Designer and Former Tenant Patricia Field: NYU Killed 8th Street

Patricia Field's Former Storefront, House of Field, on East 8th Street

Earlier this year, I wrote about the state of 8th Street off of the Park, once a destination when visiting New York City, a thriving strip of unique movie theaters, stores and book shops. Particularly over the last decade, 8th Street has veered downhill with vacant store fronts left and right, despite (or partly because of?) the existence and ‘efforts’ of the Business Improvement District. The BID, formerly named the 8th Street BID before changing it to the more gentle-sounding, Village Alliance, heavily promoted the redesign of Washington Square Park, under former director Honi Klein.

The Architect’s Newspaper Blog posted an article recently, “The Trouble With Eighth Street,” revealing the existence of a report commissioned by New York University which noted the potential economic viability of the strip within the Village. Television and movie fashion designer Patricia Field (“Sex and the City,” “The Devil Wears Prada”) was quoted within the piece via a spokesperson strongly critical of the university. Ms. Field’s extremely popular store, House of Field, resided on 8th Street between 5th Avenue and University Place for close to 40 years until 2002.

It was revealed that the educational institution, and one of the largest real estate holders in New York City, largely in the area surrounding Washington Square, was Ms. Field’s 8th Street landlord, responsible for her ouster from the retail and residential space in the building.

From the piece:

The street, which once played a distinct role in Village bohemia, began as a hub for book dealers and fostered the original Whitney Museum. Eventually, the street became a district for shoe stores and edgy fashion anchored by Patricia Field. Field decamped for the Bowery about nine years ago and much of the street has since devolved into a hodgepodge of chain stores and characterless low-end retail.

Recently, NYU commissioned a report on the economy in the Village by the economic consultants Appleseed. The report identified the strip as one of a number of “soft areas where the development of new businesses can be encouraged,” particularly the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

“Appleseed was examining the economy of Greenwich Village, we didn’t tell them the specifics of what to examine,” said NYU’s chief spokesperson John Beckman. “The mentions of Eighth Street should not be taken as an indication that NYU would be directly involved in the development of the street.”

Still, one former Eighth Street stalwart isn’t buying it. “This is a bitter subject for Patricia as she was forced to not only close her store on Eighth Street but also leave her home [she was residing on the top floor of the building],” wrote Patricia Field’s spokesperson Dennis Bernard in an email. “In 2002, NYU kicked her out and all the other business followed. NYU killed Eighth Street. This all she has to say about it.”

According to a feature on Ms. Field at CityFile, the designer studied philosophy at the university, and, shortly after a gig as an assistant fashion buyer, she opened her store on 8th Street in the ’60’s until it closed in the early ‘2000s. Field’s retail store currently resides on the Bowery.

NYU’s press release touting the data found in the Appleseed report states how important NYU is to the “economic health of Greenwich Village and NYC.”

Former House of Field retail space Now: Vacant

Posted earlier this week at CityFeet, a commercial real estate site, is an advertisement that – surprise! – the former House of Field location at 10 East 8th Street is currently available:

Greenwich Village Location ~ 1600 SF ~ Floor to Ceiling Glass Store Front ~ New AC & Lighting ~ New Infrastructure ~ Hi-Ceilings Neighbors Include : Le Pain Quotidien, Capital One Bank, L’Occitane en Provence, CVS Pharmacy, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, & Mario Batali’s Otto Restaurant

It appears that NYU, behind the eradication of places with endless character like The Bottom Line and House of Field, wants to expunge any entity with a unique, free-spirited nature from the area — so as not to influence their students? for real estate reasons? It’s unclear how much influence the university had on the redesign of Washington Square Park, despite their small $1 Million investment (at least that’s what’s known publicly). For Eighth Street, a combination of greed, bad decisions and mismanagement by the arbiters of the real estate on the strip — those same entities attempting to “revitalize” it — is responsible for its demise. Perhaps they should try a new tactic?

Top Photo: KMP Blog
Bottom Photo: CityFeet

You can read and download the report NYU commissioned here:
greenwich-village-profile-2011-05-16

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Neighborhood Spotlight: Monk Thrift Shop

Monk Thrift Shop is off the Park on MacDougal Street en route to West 8th. The shop has vintage and contemporary clothing, shoes, jewelry, books, tchotchkes (knick knacks), and more. Although it’s received mixed reviews on Yelp, I find it a fun place to walk in and explore. It’s obviously surviving, unlike many on troubled West 8th Street, and it’s eclectic in a city increasingly homogenized so probably a good idea to support it. Plus they have these fabulous ruby red slippers, a la Dorothy, in their window right now!

Ruby Red Slippers at Monk

They also take donations and will give you a tax receipt, so, if you don’t know what to do with some old something or other, here’s a place to bring it. They are open every day 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., except Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Monk Thrift Shop
175 MacDougal Street (betw. Wash Square North and W. 8th Street)
#212/533-0553

Hawks’ Nest Across from the Park: Violet & Bobby Update

Bobby in the nest with Washington Square Park beneath

4/26 – people are keeping watch. eggs are about to hatch!

The New York Times is updating regularly (almost incredibly so) about the two hawks – named “Bobby and Violet” – and their nest across from Washington Square Park as the hatching of the 3 eggs is awaited.

The hawks set up their nest right outside NYU President John Sexton’s office (what are the chances?) at the Bobst Library on Washington Square South who certainly turned it into a publicity opportunity – video, Twitter account @NYUredtailhawks, and all.

The Latest On Violet & Bobby at the New York Times.

Previous WSP Blog Post: Hawks Set Up Nest Around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch

Photo: Christopher James/NYU

Hawks Set up Nest around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch

In late January, I wrote about the hawks looking to set up a nest near the Park. Well, they’ve found a location! Right outside NYU President John Sexton’s office. NYU has set up a videocam to watch the hawks and the hatching process.

The New York Times has the story, Watching Bobby and Violet:

Its stars are Violet (named for one of the university’s colors) and her mate, Bobby (named for Bobst Library, atop which Dr. Sexton’s office sits). And in a few weeks, if all goes well, their hatchlings.

You can see live Video Cam here. It’s awfully cute to watch even when nothing seemingly is happening.

* Previous WSP Blog Post: Washington Square Hawks Attempt New Nest in Nabe

Photo: Christopher James/NYU

Triangle Factory Fire Event – Plus Mainstream Media Omits Response to the Mayor from Reports

The Street After the Event

Signs were held with names of the 146 workers who died

Original Site Greene & Washington Place

Breaking Down Event (Washington Sq Park in background)

The Triangle Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911 and killed 146 workers, mostly young women. As I wrote last week, this past Friday marked the 100th Anniversary of the fire. I attended the annual commemoration at the site, one block from Washington Square Park. You wouldn’t know from any of the major NYC media reports that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke, he was not welcomed, and was, in fact, steadily booed. (Despite really wanting to hear the Mayor’s speech to witness exactly this – what the crowd’s response to him would be – I dashed over to Think Coffee and missed him! Luckily, there is YouTube.)

It appears Agence France-Presse was the only major news agency to report it. Was the Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary event considered so prestigious that the media did not want to tarnish the Mayor’s tenuous image further? (Google “Bloomberg booed at St. Patrick’s Day Parade” and then “Bloomberg booed at Triangle Fire” to see how this works. One will reveal mainstream media reports; the other will not.) Of course, there is YouTube and many bloggers and other sites that are more than willing to write about this. Still, it’s a bit curious.

One downside to how the event was set up – NYPD set up barricades splitting the crowd between the event’s three block radius on Washington Place, leaving Mercer Street, for example, open (but not to access the event). It dissipated the synergy of the crowd and didn’t make the event safer (the “pens” make everything feel less safe).

* Previous WSP Blog post: Triangle Fire 100th Anniversary Commemoration March 25th

* Many photos of the event, including a procession from Union Square, at Staten Island Bob’s site.

On West 8th Street; Spotted in Shop Window on Troubled Strip: “Support Small Business”

Sign spotted in the window of Andy's Chee-Pees in business since 1977

More and more for Rent signs on West 8th Street

West 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues has been in trouble for awhile now despite the local BID’s efforts to make the strip less about shoe stores and more about high end establishments. A few new spots have opened recently but so many have closed; three in a row on the south side of the street right off MacDougal, including Is-Wine and 8th Street Kitchen, both relatively new. There was another newcomer, Patty & Bun right off 6th Avenue, on the northern side. I always meant to go in. That’s now closed.

This sign, “Support Small Business,” is in the window of Andy’s Chee-Pees Vintage Clothing. This is their “flagship store,” in business since 1977. My first memory of this Village strip is from going to Postermat in the ’80’s when the block was a destination.

The status of West 8th Street has been an ongoing discussion for years now. Is there hope for it to revitalize? It is one block from Washington Square Park. What would it take?

2006: West 8th Street will be new ‘Culinary Alley’, Village Alliance says, The Villager

2008: 8th Street Ghost Town, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

2011: More Closings on West 8th Street, Flaming Pablum