Jeffrey Barsky is an owner of Barsky Diamonds on Jewelers Row
As an owner of one of the oldest original family-owned jewelry companies on Jewelers Row, I think it is important to share our perspective on the Toll Brothers' proposed Washington Square development.
I and many of my fellow merchants and building owners welcome this project. We believe Toll Brothers' proposal is an incredible step in helping to revitalize our famous and historic street. It will help bring progress, safety, and new clientele to Jewelers Row. They will eat in our neighborhood restaurants, patronize our shops and businesses, and bring renewed energy to our part of the city.
Our community, while still thriving, has evolved over the years. As a young person growing up in the business almost 60 years ago, I remember every square inch of available space in our buildings being occupied by jewelry craftsmen who were busy getting their work done well and on time, no matter how late it was. At Christmastime, it was not unusual for us to work all night, seven days a week. But that is simply not the case anymore.
Now, our successful businesses are surrounded by and are part of a beautiful residential area of the city with coffee shops, barbershops, and other retailers and restaurants. As building owners, we have continued to invest in Jewelers Row - when many others did not - and believe we should embrace the opportunities this new development would bring.
To me, Toll Brothers is offering us the best of both worlds: an opportunity to preserve the heritage of Jewelers Row while also inviting progress. It wants to protect the community, but it also wants to build upon it - literally and figuratively.
The opposition would have you believe that any disturbance to Jewelers Row would negatively impact our community. I disagree. There have already been a number of changes to our street. In some cases there have even been changes to building facades or the structures themselves that aren't consistent with the historic nature of our block. There are even several unoccupied storefronts. In contrast, Toll Brothers is committed to preserving our iconic streetscape and creating revitalized retail space for jewelers.
The Preservation Alliance and its supporters do not appear to understand the impact they may have on those of us who live, work, and own on Jewelers Row. If they are successful in designating our block as historic, it would have a dramatic impact on our property values - potentially devaluing our land by up to 50 percent. I think anyone who has invested in their own businesses and properties for decades - and in some instances generations - would understand how devastating that could be.
Instead, Toll Brothers is interested in investing $100 million in our neighborhood. Not only would this protect the community we hold dear, but it would also increase our property values.
My hope is that we will not let a select group delay progress or negatively impact what we, as the families and individuals who have long owned businesses and buildings on Jewelers Row, see as true opportunity for rejuvenating our community.