Alec Baldwin to moderate Judson event on gentrification

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Actor Alec Baldwin will be at Judson Memorial Church in the Village on Thurs., June 20. But he won’t be doing his uproarious portrayal of Donald Trump in comedy skits with the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” Instead, he’ll likely be significantly more serious. Because the topic will be serious.

Baldwin will be moderating a panel discussion called “Whither the Village?” which, according to a flier for the event, will focus on “the future of this iconic New York neighborhood.”

The panelists will include Donna Schaper, the Washington Square South church’s senior minister, along with Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation (formerly Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation), and Allyson Green, dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

A flier for the June 20 panel discussion at Judson Church.

The event’s goal is “to dream a little” – that is, to brainstorm about how to stem the tide of gentrification that is blotting out the historic Village.

“The story is we’re trying to make relationships with our neighbors about what to do next,” Schaper explained. “Alec Baldwin has become a friend of Judson in many ways. He wants to be at home someplace.”

The Donald-imitating actor, who lives in the Village, is not a member of the congregation, however, Schaper said.

“He’s been around [the church], he hangs out with us. We share a lot of progressive positions, as you know,” she said of Judson and Baldwin.

In fact, according to the minister, it was while walking past the famously progressive church when just 10 years old that he felt an immediate connection to the place — and to the Village.

“He likes the front sign,” Schaper said, of the historic church’s outdoor message board that bears thought-provoking aphorisms.

Actor Alec Baldwin doing his “Saturday Night Live” Donald Trump impression at a massive rally in January 2017 outside the Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle. (Photo by Milo Hess)

“Alec talks about walking by in 1968 and saying, ‘This is where I belong, this is my people,'” she said. “We work really hard on those signs. He saw the Eisenhower quote: ‘Beware the military industrial complex.’ And, so, he basically made the Village his home when he saw that.”

Schaper said while Baldwin saw the sign, it took him a sometime before he returned to the iconic Village house of worship and hotbed of activism. After marrying his wife, Hilaria, they moved to the Village from the Upper West Side in 2011. He’s had a relationship with Judson for around the last two years.

Meanwhile, the quote by “Ike” hasn’t lost its power.

“It’s become a truth,” Schaper noted. “Why do we have the wars? They’re very profitable for people.”

One thing the June 20 event won’t be is for bashing N.Y.U., something that was at a fever pitch not too long ago when the university was pushing its plan to construct four new buildings on its South Village “superblocks.” That megaproject was ultimately approved over the community’s fierce opposition.

“We’re hoping to have intelligent conversation,” Schaper stated. “No yelling at people. It’s getting very boring.”

She said she approached Baldwin to moderate the discussion “because he’s famous and we’re not.”

Speaking of N.Y.U., the event’s topic will be, as Schaper put it, “how to keep the Village as Village as possible, given that there’s one large institution here — and how can the bigness benefit the Village.”

Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria and their child outside a Liquiteria on Second Ave. and E. 11th St. in 2013. (Photo by Bob Krasner)

Another topic could be specific ideas about taking back street space for pedestrians, or as she put it, “What about closing University Place, Washington Square or Union Square to traffic? It would be good for businesses on University Place.”

Getting N.Y.U. on board with this kind of thinking and planning is an objective for her.

The event is also a way for the church to raise both its profile and some bucks for renovations. Judson is currently putting on new roof tiles — in the original red color. Now a growing congregation, they are able to install “100-year tiles” instead of the current cheaper ones, which only had a 3o-year life.

Also part of the picture, Schaper noted, is an activist group called Bricks and Mortals, which works with small churches and, like Judson, embraces a model of “citywide creative reuse of sacred sites — because it’s the only land left in the city, the churches, the synagogues.”

She’s very bullish on the upcoming discussion.

“I think it’s a real opportunity to stop gentrification,” she said.

“Whither the Village? A Panel Discussion at Judson Church,” Thurs., June 20, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., 55 Washington Square South, tickets $20. Tickets are available at https://whither.eventbrite.com .

12 Responses to Alec Baldwin to moderate Judson event on gentrification

  1. I am staff preservation advocate for the oldest historic district in Ohio, German Village, immediately south of downtown Columbus. The district is predominantly German immigrant cottages covering 233 acres. We are working with the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity to conduct a study, building and analyzing a data set revealing the social as well as economic impact of historic district designation over time. (German Village was designated in 1960, listed on the National Register in '74) It is time for the preservation community to delve into our own policies toward understanding our role and responsibility as a potentially causative factor in gentrification.
    I can be reached at [email protected] for more insights. -Nancy Kotting, M.S. Preservation Planning

  2. Bennett Kremen

    This is so, so long overdue. The disaster has to be near total before anyone acts. And we're fast approaching that, yes, disastrous point of no return. Take a stroll along Bleecker Street and, after seeing the shuttered stores one after the other haunting the place like a ghost town, you'd just have to ask, "Why did we let this go on for so long?" In any other neighborhood outside the Village, seeing this decadence breaks the heart, but in the Village it shakes the soul. We never should forget that Greenwich Village is the neighborhood where the great Jane Jacob's lived. And she taught us and showed us that no power, political or economic, should ever be allowed to destroy the creative essence of the Village, which has so influenced the whole world in such profound and positive ways. That influence is needed now more than ever as our planet staggered toward environmental catastrophe. If we can't save our uniqueness down here below 14th Street and the little stores on Bleecker Street, can anything be saved?

  3. There are many issues. If landlords of these small buildings can not build larger buildings due to Landmark rules , then taxes should be frozen on all the property in this area. Amazon is currently leading to the closing of many retail stores nation wide . Property is falling in value yet taxes go up.Stores are empty for many reasons. Small businesses in Greenwich Village have to go through a timely approval process just to open Signs have to be approved over many meetings. The process needs to be speeded up. Why can’t the city clean up the streets better. Tickets are always written but the garbage department leaves messes after picking up garbage. Private carriers also leave messes . Maybe part time jobs or full time jobs can be offered to a few of the homeless who want to work to clean up the streets. Drugs are openly sold throughout the Village. If the city set up a web page individuals could photograph these sales and send them to the city. Get ready for thousands of photos.If the supply of housing is not increased in the Village how will more people be able to afford the Village.? Please do not let anymore Starbucks to open. That’s all we need, more Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks , and CVS stores to open.

    Landmark Process is confusing and they try to bankrupt small building owners.

  4. The problem with these events that do not assess blame is that you don't tell the public the real truth — which is the real injustice here. NYU is one of the largest gentrifying landlords in that area — it is now a real estate company that extracts outrageous rental fees and tuition from students as they take over more and more historic land in the Village. Check out the documentary, The Lost Village, by filmmaker Roger Paradiso, with consulting from Village-expert Sharon Woolums, and you will see that students are in such a personal financial crisis, that they sleep in classrooms or essentially prostitute themselves on http://www.seekingarrangement.com to pay high rent/tuition. And what about all the small business closings in the city? Every month, 1,200 close a month, with 8,000 jobs lost to New Yorkers. With nearly 30 councilmembers in support of the SBJSA — a law that would mandate affordable leases to small businesses — Speaker Corey Johnson could wave his magic wand and bring it to a full floor vote. But of course he refuses, being in bed with big real estate. So tell me: Alec Baldwin can make fun of Trump every weekend on SNL, but can't call out NYU or Speaker Corey Johnson for hypergentrifying this city, destroying mom and pop shops, and pushing students towards prostitution to get an education? And why is Dean Allyson Green even invited to this panel when NYU is an immense part of this problem? And Rev. Schaper doesn't want any "yelling" since it is "boring," even though the city is in a crisis of affordability? Have fun having polite conversation on a panel that will rig the real narrative of whose to blame, and when you want to get serious about changing the face of this city to truly improve people's lives, give me a call.

    • You better not take Alec's parking space in front of the Devonshire building–or else!

    • Thanks Marni for mentioning my film THE LOST VILLAGE. I appreciate it as I am now lost along with the film. Nobody outside of the Village wants to see the film in this country. It's doing well at festivals in Europe where we have received awards and recognition. Even though the problem is world wide we have been marginalized in our own country by the press and now I'm afraid by the Village itself. Or should I say by those forces in the Village itself. We have nothing to fear except fear itself. That FDR quote seems appropriate for our times in this 21st century.

  5. Marni!! Answer Facts and truth go to http://www.saveNYCjobs.org Educate youselves! Go NYC small busiensses!

  6. I fear a grand night of back-in-the-day reminiscences with little consequence. Judson is the same, but everything around it has changed, never to return. Given that, now what? Good luck.

    The church used to serve the needs of the very needy who lived nearby. Those who live nearby aren't needy now. The church probably should have moved to another location back when that was heavily on their table. But now, the wealth all around must make it very hard for the congregation to live its purpose. Good luck with that too.

  7. Ironic and rather unseemly that a Judson minister would use former bad boy actor Alec Baldwin (known for slugging reporters and fotogs) to hype this event, especially since he lives in a fancy pad off University Place, and is himself an example of gentrification in the Village.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Alec Baldwin is going to tell us about gentrification in the Village when he is part of the problem??? The only thing more hilarious would be to have someone from NYU on the panel. Oh.

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