Block Association Leader Brings History Into the Present

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Richard Blodgett has spent decades getting to know the Charlton Street community By Rebecca Temerario Richard Blodgett didn't expect to fall in love with New York. After graduating from Middlebury College in 1962, Blodgett relocated to New York City for a job with the Wall Street Journal. In 1968, Blodgett moved to his current address. Forty-four years later, Blodgett remains a resident of historic Charlton Street, where he serves as president of the Charlton Street Block Association, a position he has held on and off for 10 years. Blodgett instantly fell in love with Charlton Street because of the old houses and neighborhood charm. "Everybody knows each other. I have a neighbor who has been here since 1941," he said. Charlton Street possesses a rich history; Aaron Burr is credited with the conception of Charlton Street, naming the road after Dr. John Carlton, a former president of the New York Medical Society. John Jacob Astor funded the street's development, and George Washington once resided in the area. Other notable residents have included poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, singer Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. As Charlton Street's resident community builder, Blodgett "likes interacting with people-it's a wonderful way to know neighbors and work together for the community." Blodgett's block association contains 325 houses on Charlton Street from Sixth Avenue to Varick Street. The Charlton Street Block Association is also responsible for the upkeep of Charlton Plaza, aneighborhood park. "We have a lot of resident gardeners," Blodgett said. Blodgett also serves on the South Village Advisory Board, part of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "Dick has been the president of the Charlton Street Block Association for more years than I can count," said Andrew Berman, head of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "He is a neighborhood historian and has led fights to address traffic safety issues and to preserve the character of his neighborhood. He knows everyone in his little micro-neighborhood south of Houston Street." Blodgett not only knows his neighbors, he knows his restaurants and shops too. Speaking of a favorite restaurant in the South Village, Once Upon a Tart, Blodgett can say that he "was there the day it opened, twenty-some years ago." Pointing to vintage pictures on the wall, Blodgett comments that Once Upon a Tart was once a bakery. He even knows the owner. Blodgett's role as community builder and historian doesn't stop there. He has partnered with Berman and the South Village Advisory Board in order to historically preserve the South Village, and designate the area from Sixth Avenue to West Boulevard, between West Third Street to Watts Avenue. Unlike Charlton Street, which was designated as a historic district in 1966, that area isn't protected from the possibility of buildings being torn down. Blodgett wants to change that. Currently, Blodgett is involved with the Coalition for the Pedestrian Safety and Houston and Sixth. After a woman was killed near that intersection in August, the Coalition has petitioned the Department of Transportation for "a dedicated green light for pedestrians, so that they can cross while all traffic at the intersection is stopped," said Blodgett. The Coalition collected 1,624 signatures on their petition, and is supported by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Blodgett and the Community Board are currently awaiting a response from the DOT. Blodgett has also been an instrumental voice in a proposed rezoning of Houston Square. The area near Trinity Church as it stands now is mostly commercial, but seeks residential zoning. Blodgett is working with Trinity Church on the issue of building height; he stresses that the tall buildings would change the character of Houston Square. In his role as president of the Charlton Street Block Association, Blodgett has become an integral voice of his community. He has even penned an extensive history of Charlton Street. Blodgett will surely join the list of notable Charlton Street residents as future historians and community builders look back on his admirable service to his community.

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