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BRAMA, May 21, 2001, 10:00pm EDT

Shevchenko Preservation Committee springs into action at Ukrainian Festival

Stefa Charczenko, a Shevchenko Preservation Committee volunteer, talks to pedestrians about Cooper Union development plans which will affect the Ukrainian community and neighborhood residents alike. CLICK HERE to learn more about it.

New York - Thousands of visitors came to East 7th Street in the East Village to take part in the annual St. George Ukrainian Festival this past weekend. One of the most frequently visited tables was the "Save Taras Shevchenko Place" informational booth which was manned by volunteers from the Shevchenko Preservation Committee. Its task was to collect petition signatures and initiate a mail-in campaign by concerned community members in order to draw the attention of local officials to the issue of demapping Taras Shevchenko Place. The Cooper Union has submitted a demapping plan to the Department of New York City Planning which would eliminate the street. The proposal also involves the absorption of the resulting lot into the adjacent property that is leased to Cooper Union by the City of New York for $100 per year.

Cooper Union wishes to build a 9-story building (taller than the zoning for a typical residential building would permit because ceilings are higher in academic facilities) with 4 commercial shops on the street level. The building would replace the 2-story structure that currently stands on that lot. The design includes a wider the base in the new building which is why the institution wishes to acquire Taras Shevchenko Place and tack it on to their leased property lot.

The towering building would overshadow the church and school, and parishioners complain that this will block the afternoon sun's rays from reaching the stained glass windows of the church. The street is also important for its parking spaces which are being displaced. Concerned parents and immediate neighbors worry about the construction noise. Elementary and high school students at St. George would suffer the consequences of the noise level, as would the neighborhood residents who anticipate negative effects on their businesses and the surrounding 100-year-old buildings from the construction zone.

Slavko Kurowyckyj, Sr. made a well-received appeal to the crowd at the festival, asking that everyone attend the meeting at the Great Hall (Cooper Union, East 7th St.) on Tuesday May 29th (6:30pm-8pm) to hear more about the demapping of Taras Shevchenko Place and Cooper Union's development plans.

The back of the new building would face what is now Taras Shevchenko Place and St. George Church and School. Cooper Union says that by law, as the building designed, it is required to include a loading bay at the back. Loading bays are generally used for truck deliveries and trash collection. The trash and the shade, many residents and St. George parishioners feel, will turn the lot into little more than a dirty back alley, and its practical uses as a parking block will be turned into a lot benefiting only Cooper Union.

The reason why Cooper Union is choosing to build their new academic facility at this location is so that it can tear down its current Engineering School building at 8th Street. A new 16-story structure about the size of the Wanamaker building across the street is to be built in its place.

The City-leased property on Taras Shevchenko Place restricts the development of commercial property by Cooper Union to just the first floor of the building. By contrast, since the 8th Street property is privately owned by the Cooper Union, it is required to have only 2 floors of academic space in the building, and the rest - 13 floors - are to be allocated for commercial uses.

Committee Vice President Anya Sawaryn reports that approximately 1500 signatures were obtained in opposition to the demapping proposal. More importantly, she feels that awareness of the Cooper Union development has been raised in the community, something that the institution should have done long before their plans were submitted to the City.

Slavko Kurowyckyj says that the Shevchenko Preservation Committee effort at the festival weekend was "overwhelmingly successful and far beyond expectations, considering what they accomplished in just a few short days" in preparing for the event. Paraphrasing the American Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones (1779), "we have not yet begun to fight," said Mr. Kurowyckyj.

You may Contact the Shevchenko Preservation Committee at For more images of the festival, CLICK HERE. Read more about the Cooper Union demapping proposal: 4/11/01 - 'Demapping' Taras Shevchenko Place in New York City: The demise of a Ukrainian community?.

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