Critical test for NYC preservationists

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The passionate battles surrounding the birth of New York’s preservation movement nearly a half-century ago seem like distant memories now. For some New Yorkers the main threat to architecture in the city is no longer the demolition of its great landmarks, but a trite nostalgia that disdains the new.

Well, think again. Over the last few years the growing clout of developers has gradually chipped away at the city’s resolve to protect its architectural legacy. The agency most responsible for defending that legacy, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, has sometimes been accused of putting developers’ interests above the well-being of the city’s inhabitants.

A proposal before the commission to tear down several buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District is shaping up as a crucial test of whether those critics are right. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Tuesday morning, and New Yorkers would do well to follow the proceedings if they care about the city’s future.

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