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.”
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: