David Schwimmer Wades into New York's East Village Gentrification Wars

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In New York City the battle against new and old is everywhere, but its front lines could be said to be in the East Village, where "old-timers" fight tooth and nail to save their treasured businesses and buildings against the glut of Starbucks and developers. While the beloved St. Marks Bookshop was recently given a reprieve, numerous other businesses are being steadily converted from mom and pop shops to "big box" stores, even in small-box spaces, and buildings considered historic are being torn down to make room for...shall we say, significantly less historic buildings? Which brings us to the case of the erstwhile Ross from Friends.

In 2010, David Schwimmer reportedly bought an East Village townhouse built in 1852. (Though his name isn't officially attached to the deal, the New York Post's sources confirm he's the owner.) It's located at 331 E. 6th Street, two doors down from the Community Synagogue, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Though the Landmarks Preservation Commission informed him twice last year that 331 E. 6th (which, according to Street Easy, cost nearly $4 million) could also receive landmark status by the end of this year, Schwimmer tore it down anyway. 

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According to the Post, what comes next is the stuff of gentrification horror stories:

Now the five-story building will be replaced by a six-story mansion with an elevator and roof terrace, records filed with the city show.

What's especially sad about all this is that, as has been reported in local blogs including EV Grieve, the original listing for the building seemed to indicate the desire for an owner who would make it better, not tear it down: "Endless possibilities for this Oasis in the East Village! This south facing, 4 story, plus English Garden floor, mixed use townhouse will be delivered vacant. Situated on a lovely tree lined block location between Second and First Avenues, this home with its magical Tuscan inspired garden proves to be one of the finest East Village houses available. Move right into the owner’s duplex and have a beautiful home with the added benefit of income producing live/work English Garden floor and two large floor thru residential units OR transform it into the single family home of your dreams. So many opportunities for living! All things are possible, spread the word!"

Now the neighbors are pissed, and not even about Schwimmer's acting.

“All the new people are yuppie transients. If I see David Schwimmer on the street, I’ll be sure to give him my two cents!” said Charlett Hobart, a retired independent contractor who has lived on the block for the past 37 years.

If the landmarked buildings are torn down before they have a chance to be landmarked, do East Village residents feel pain? The answer seems to be yes. Schwimmer better watch his back while ordering his Frappuccino. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.