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Minerva can still see Liberty

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She conquered the Carthaginians.

She massacred the Macedonians.

But Minerva — the Roman goddess of war — still needed three year’s worth of help from her Greenwood Heights neighbors to finally cut a developer down to size.

As a result, the nine-foot-tall bronze statue that has stood in Green-Wood Cemetery since 1920 will not lose its unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty, which had been threatened by a planned development on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street.

With concerned neighbors and cemetery officials looking on from Battle Hill on May 8, workers raised a cherry picker to the height of the proposed four-story development’s parapet and bulkhead to prove that the 11-townhouse project won’t block the iconic view.

And after a three-year fight to preserve the gaze between the statues, neighbors are pleased with the results.

“It’s a victory for the cemetery, it’s a victory for the neighborhood, and it’s also a victory for this new development team,” said Aaron Brashear of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights. “There is really no perfect solution, but I think that the developer has respected the wishes of the community and the cemetery.”

Developer Aaron Lebowitz purchased the building last spring from Chaim Nassemcweig, whose original Robert Scarano–designed project faced a groundswell of opposition. Scarano’s 70-foot condo tower, which included a notch on one side that, he said, allowed Minera and Lady Liberty to see each other, was scrapped by the city as non-compliant with existing zoning.

Lebowitz’s significantly shorter 46-foot-tall townhouses will infringe slightly on the overall vista, but the entire Statue of Liberty and its base will be visible from Battle Hill.

“Once I started to talk with everyone — the cemetery, the community board, the neighbors, I started to understand their concerns,” Lebovitz said. “Then they took me up there to look at the view, and once I saw it, I figured that I’m not going to be the one to block it. I’m not interested in doing battle with all of these people.”

Lebovitz didn’t want to go to battle with the Goddess of War, but cemetery officials say the war won’t end until the developer signs a treaty — err, a contract — banning umbrellas, chairs, solar panels and satellite dishes from the roof of the building nearest to Minerva.

“The key now would be that agreement to keep things off the roof,” said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery. “The last thing we need is to have some big, ugly umbrellas blocking the Statue of Liberty.”

Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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