TESTIMONY: NYC PLANNING COMMISSION November 28, 2012
RE: EAST VILLAGE / LOWER EAST SIDE HISTORIC DISTRICT
My name is Richard Moses and I am President of Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, also known as LESPI. LESPI is a not-for-profit, grass roots, all volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation of the historic streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side.
We strongly support the Planning Commission’s vote to ratify landmark designation for the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District. The East Village is an integral part of the historic Lower East Side, an area of great local, city-wide and national importance for its central role in our culture's immigration, political, music, art, and theater history. This history is reflected in the area’s wonderful variety of beautifully ornate 19th and early 20th century architecture. The scale, materials and ornament of these historic buildings provide us today with beautiful historic streetscapes and a profoundly rich urban environment. By landmarking this district, the city is ensuring that we and future generations can appreciate this legacy, a legacy that truly belongs to the community and city as a whole.
Unfortunately, development pressures in the neighborhood are intense and getting stronger all the time. Although the 2008 rezoning of the area established certain height limitations, the brute force of gentrification has resulted in ornate historic buildings and facades being demolished and replaced with generic glass and stucco boxes. If we don’t act now to save the historic areas of the East Village they’ll be lost forever.
Based on our extensive outreach, we believe that the vast majority of the neighborhood’s residents want landmarking. We have gathered over 1,000 signatures in support of historic district designation. Community Board 3 has voted in support of the district.
The landmarking of the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District will provide solid protection for the district’s historic streetscapes. However, we are asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning Commission to continue moving forward to preserve additional intact areas of the historic Lower East Side, from the east side of Tompkins Square Park west to the Bowery and Broadway, and from 14th Street south to Chinatown, as these neighborhoods are very rich in history and architecture and under increasingly destructive development pressures as well. These communities provide a beautiful, unique and fascinating urban resource highly valued by New Yorkers and visitors alike. Landmark designation will not prevent change or freeze our streetscapes in time, nor should it. But it is the only way to effectively ensure that what we cherish about our neighborhoods will survive in the years to come.