Former NAACP headquarters in Greenwich Village may become city landmark

Posted On Wed, January 20, 2021 By

Posted On Wed, January 20, 2021 By In Greenwich Village, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Washington Heights

Street View of 70 Fifth Avenue, Map data © 2020 Google; Photo of W.E.B. DuBois in 1918 from Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

A building in Greenwich Village that once served as the headquarters for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and housed W.E.B. DuBois’ trailblazing magazine The Crisis, could become a New York City landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to calendar 70 Fifth Avenue, a Neoclassical Beaux-Arts building designed by Charles A. Rich and built between 1912 and 1914. The commission also proposed the designation of two additional properties that “reflect New York City’s diverse history,” the Conference House Park Archaeological Site on Staten Island and the Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz in Washington Heights.

Located on the southwest corner of 13th Street, the 12-story building at 70 Fifth Avenue, known as the Educational Building, was built in 1912. The national headquarters of the NAACP, which was founded in New York City, was located at 70 Fifth Avenue from February 1914 to July 1923. During this time, the civil rights organization launched critical campaigns against lynching, employment discrimination, voting disenfranchisement. It was at this site where the NAACP organized the silent protest down Fifth Avenue following the East St. Louis riots in 1917, introduced anti-lynching legislation to Congress, and many other historic legal challenges.

W.E.B. DuBois, a co-founder of the NAACP, created the magazine The Crisis as the house periodical for the organization. Considered the first magazine dedicated to Black Americans, The Crisis showcased the work of many Black artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. DuBois also later created The Brownies’ Book magazine, the first made specifically for Black children.

Groups like Village Preservation have been pushing for the building to be landmarked for over two years and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote a letter last summer to the LPC in support of its designation. Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, said 70 Fifth Avenue is just one of nearly 200 buildings the group is hoping to landmark ahead of the tech hub rezoning.

“Now more than ever, this history which speaks to our country’s ongoing struggle to overcome its legacy of racism and injustice, deserves to be recognized, elevated, and preserved,” Berman said in a press release on Tuesday. “It bears noting however that within feet of 70 Fifth Avenue are dozens of other buildings where trailblazing and history-making civil rights events, figures, and organizations took place or were located, for which we are also seeking landmark protections. We hope the city will act on those as well, before they succumb to the wrecking ball, as so many other sites in this area have in recent years.”

Another site calendared on Tuesday includes the Conference House Park Archaeological Site in Tottenville, Staten Island. According to the commission, the 20 acres of land at 29 Satterlee Street are associated with 8,000 years of occupation by Native American people and is considered the largest and best-preserved archaeological site associated with Native Americans in New York City. Plus, the site would become the city’s first landmark to recognize its thousands of years of Native American habitation, according to the LPC.

The Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz in Washington Heights was also calendared for its sophisticated Gothic Revival design and for its role it’s played in the neighborhood’s Latino community for the last four decades.

The three calendared items come as the LPC published a new framework for the agency to follow when considering designations. According to Chair Sarah Carroll, the equity framework ensures diversity and inclusion in designations, effective outreach, and transparency and fairness.

“The last year has been one of the most challenging our nation has faced, with attacks on democracy, the pandemic, with the loss of life, damage to the economy and how it exposed systemic failures, as well as the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the despair and anger expressed subsequently,” Carroll said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I believe these events made it important for us to publicly reaffirm our commitment to equity in all aspects of our work.”

A public hearing on the three properties will be held in the coming weeks. Next month, the commission plans to consider the proposed Dorrance Brooks Historic District in Harlem for calendaring.

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Neighborhoods : Greenwich Village

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