List West Village as UNESCO World Heritage Site

CHERRY LANE and CHERRY LANE THEATRE, West Village, New York.  Drawing by Edward C. Caswell

New York’s West Village has through the centuries served as a crucible for creativity, as a cultural capital of New York City, a beacon “of outstanding universal value“. It has harbored and nurtured the talents of Joseph Brodsky, Norman Mailer, Ted Hoagland, Thomas Wolfe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Willa Cather, James Baldwin, Christopher Hitchens, Merce Cunningham, Gregory Hines, Julian Schnabel, John Barrymore, Herbert Berghof, Uta Hagen, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Richie Havens, Jane Jacobs, Margaret Mead, Bella Abzug, Ed Koch, William Kunstler, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, among countless other originals. It has been a place where people are let alone to find inspiration, to think, to invent, and to inspire others—its townhouses, carriage houses, worker row houses and narrow winding streets have provided a uniquely quiet charm. It is time to list the West Village as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Perhaps even as a site “in danger” because of the ongoing mayhem resulting from the city’s unsavory Open Restaurants policy by decree.

“Narrowest House in New York,” Bedford Street, West Village. Former residence of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Drawing by Edward C. Caswell

Last week, residents of the West Village convened to, in solidarity, oppose the city’s plan to make outdoor dining (i.e., outdoor booze sheds) a permanent blight on the community. Both CBS and WPIX covered the meeting.  Following are links to those tv broadcasts as well as to a YouTube of the proceedings.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site page details the nomination process

U.S. Secretary of the Interior, currently Deb Haaland, through the National Park Service is responsible for identifying sites for the United States (U.S.) Tentative List and nominating sites to the World Heritage List.

A partial list of UNESCO World Heritage Site historic centers follows:

Banks of  the River Seine, Paris (France)

Kasbah of Algiers (Algeria)

Historic Center of Old Quebec (Canada)

Historic Center of Vienna (Austria)

Historic Center of the City of Salzburg (Austria)

Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube (Hungary)

City of Luxembourg, its Old Quarters (Luxembourg)

Old City of Berne (Switzerland)

La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle Watchmaking Town Planning (Switzerland)

Hanseatic Town of Visby (Sweden)

Vilnius Historic Center (Lithuania)

Historic Center of Riga (Latvia)

Historic Center of Tallinn (Estonia)

Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Historic Center of Prague (Czechia)

Old Town of Regensburg (Germany)

Historic Center of Macao (China)

Historic Center of Patmos (Greece)

Historic Center of Rome (Italy)

Historic Center of Florence (Italy)

Historic Center of San Gimignano (Italy)

Historic Center of Sienna (Italy)

Old Town of Segovia (Spain)

Historic Center of Cordoba (Spain)

Historic Center of Oporto (Portugal)

Historic Cairo (Egypt)

Historic Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)

Old City of Sana’a (Yemen)

Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Palestine)

Historic City of Yazd (Iran)

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Israel)

Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City, a Shared History (Morocco)

Lamu Old Town (Kenya)

Historic Area of Willemstad (Curaçao)

Historic Center of Krakow (Poland)

Historic Center of Warsaw (Poland)

Historic Center of Saint Petersburg (Russia)

L’viv – the Ensemble of the Historic Center (Ukraine)

City of Bath (United Kingdom)

Historic Town of St. George (Bermuda)

Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

Historic Villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama (Japan)

Old Havana (Cuba)

Historic Center of Lima (Peru)

Island of Mozambique (Mozambique)

Historic Center of Mexico City (Mexico)

Old Town of Galle (Sri Lanka)

Monticello and the University of Virginia/Charlottesville (United States)

One thought on “List West Village as UNESCO World Heritage Site

  1. I grew up in Greenwich Village, on Bank Street, to be more exact. I lived there until age 7 (1956 or so), when my dear mother, recently divorced from my father at the time, could no longer pay the 100 a month rent. I actually have in my archives threatening letters from the landlord to evict our family. I will always remember the Christmas morning when there were no lights in the apartment, and my mother could only give us crude sculptures crafted out of modelling clay as Christmas gifts. Ok, it was 68 Bank Street. Marion Tanner, of “Auntie Mame” fame, lived at 72 Bank Street, a couple of doors down. To get to the point, what I remember fondly at that tender age were the cobblestone streets and the slate sidewalks. These emanated the most beautiful vibrations, and truly made Greenwich Village a quaint and adorable place to live. The replacement of the slate sidewalks with cement ones was one of the great atrocities of the modern age, and the tarring over of the cobblestones was equally hurtful. I hope this situation can be corrected if, as Ms. Mazur suggests, the Village becomes a UNESCO site. As far as dining outdoors is concerned, I no longer live in the Village, so I dare not speak with authority, and understand that neighbors might not want to always tiptoe between diners on their way someplace. But dining is fun, and seeing people dine is not the most awful sight I can imagine. The rat problem in New York City, said to be aggravated by outdoor dining, is unlikely to ever be solved. It is overwhelming, and I am skeptical that outdoor dining will have much effect on the immense rat population. Rats subsist on the munchies floating in the subterranean passages beneath the streets. Perhaps we can be comforted in that some people actually keep rats as pets, so rats must have some redeeming qualities. They cordially try to keep a low profile until the sun goes down. I could say much more here, but who would listen? Thank you all for your time. And let me not forget to express my appreciation to Ms. Mazur for this article, and the inclusion of the lovely illustrations by Edward C. Caswell, which bring out so much of the Village’s charm.


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