Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jefferson Market Library Agonistes

Caveat lector! According to the feisty Greenwich Village Block Association: The mink gloves are off!
Here's the latest from Yahoo! News

Greenwich Village's "Joan of Arc" Tells Library Lionheart:
Love It or Leave It!

Greenwich Village Block Association Challenges the New York Public Library's Scheme to Waste $2-Million of Taxpayers' $$$ to Ravage a Beloved Landmark on Sixth Avenue

New York, NY: The Greenwich Village Block Association came out swinging, as neighborhood residents sent "fighting words" to N.Y. Public Library President Paul LeClerc over the library's ill-conceived plans to squander $2-million to re-do the INTERIOR of the Jefferson Market branch, a landmark that was built in the 19th century as a courthouse.

Designed by Frederick Withers as part of the Jefferson Market judicial complex in the mid-1800s - - a triangular site that once held a jail, a police precinct, a firetower, and a marketplace in addition to the court - - this architectural triumph won the distinction as "one of the ten most beautiful buildings in America."

Vacated as a courthouse in the 1950s, and faced with the wrecker's ball [which had already demolished the jail and market-stalls], this beloved building was saved by a group of Greenwich Village activists and designated a national landmark. Though the interior was reconfigured as a neighborhood branch library and put into use, the exterior facade has not been maintained by the N.Y. Public Library.

Marilyn Dorato, GVBA President
"The Jefferson Market Library is the signature building in Greenwich Village. Its preservation and adaptive reuse was the catalyst for the creation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. While we appreciate that the New York Public Library (NYPL) houses a branch here, it is the structure that occupies a unique place in our affections," explained Marilyn Dorato, GVBA President in a letter to LeClerc.

Cynthia Crane Story, cabaret legend & landmarks savior, Chair Mulry angle/ West 11th St. Block Association
According to Cynthia Crane Story, a cabaret queen and lifelong Village resident, who continues her work to preserve and honor this architectural treasure - - and who applauds Margot Gayle who led the drive to rescue the building in 1959 - - it was several years ago that a problem with the exterior masonry developed and unsightly scaffolding had been erected. Residents naively supposed that the NYPL would locate funding for repairs expeditiously. But we were mistaken. The “shroud” of scaffolding stands and the building continues to deteriorate! Repairing the library’s “bricks and mortar” should be a priority - - rather than initiating an unsolicited interior redesign.

Carol Greitzer, former City Councilmember
Former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer was aghast when, at a recent meeting attended by more than 250 local residents, NYPL representatives coolly informed attendees that it intended to forge ahead and may close the library for extended periods. Reporters also noted that, at an October committee meeting, both NYPL representatives and CB2 members treated residents’ concerns with disdain and derision.

Doris Diether, Community Board 2 member
Community Board 2 member Doris Diether emphasized that the controversial “teen center” is unnecessary in whatever form and whatever size the NYPL intends to make it.

Elaine Abse, former school guidance counsellor
Elaine Abse, a retired school guidance counsellor, has written to public officials and pointed out that there is no need to segregate teenagers or to isolate the general population from them. A “teen ghetto” in the library is a frivolous use of public space - - as well as a waste of $2-million of tax-payers' money.

The GVBA and an army of volunteers have agreed on this: While the NYPL is the current guardian of our cherished Venetian Gothic building, the structure belongs to us. Specific elements of the renovation scheme may be worth consideration, but the NYPL must consult with the community in a transparent, respectful manner.
Will the lionhearted library leadership lie down or roar? A public forum is scheduled to take place in Greenwich Village after Thanksgiving.

* * The Greenwich Village Block Association [GVBA] is a community wide coalition of organizations dedicated to preserving and improving the quality of life for residents of this historic neighborhood. Visit
Media.Contact:Tel.:212-243-4334 -
Artist Stuart Davis painted Jefferson Market Court in the 1920s
[N.B.: NO scaffolding! The N.Y. Public Library had not moved in yet & ruined the facade!]

Jefferson Market.