Summer 2012

A Very Public Hearing: The Landmarks Preservation Commission Hears The Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District

The hearing room was so packed an overflow crowd was relegated to an ante room. Around the room’s giant conference table, the Landmarks Preservation Commissioners sat attentive. For more than a year we had been waiting for this day – the Public Hearing for landmark designation of the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, a district encompassing more than 300 historic buildings along Second Avenue south of St. Mark’s Place and the adjoining blocks.

LPC Research Department staff presented a well illustrated Powerpoint on the history and architecture of the district. Then, one by one, the public was called to testify, starting with representatives of the local elected officials – NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NY State Senators Dan Squadron and Tom Duane, NY State Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh, and Manhattan Community Board 3 represented by Carolyn Ratcliffe, all of whom enthusiastically supported the district. A wide gamut of community and historic preservation groups, including LESPI, also made impassioned pleas for landmark designation.

Testifying for LESPI, Richard Moses described the area’s “great local, city-wide and national importance for its central role in our culture's immigration, political, music, art and theater history” and “beautifully ornate 19th and early 20th century architecture.” He also noted that LESPI had gathered over 1,000 petition signatures for landmark designation, and called on LPC to expand the district to other intact areas of the historic Lower East Side, including around Tompkins Square Park, St. Mark’s Place and blocks to the north, the Bowery and Chinatown (for full testimony see www.LESPI-nyc.org and scroll to June 26, 2012). LESPI Board members Marie Beirne (photo, above), Philip Van Aver and Advisor Joyce Mendelsohn also provided compelling testimony in support.

Community residents young and old, recent arrivals and old-timers stood up to ask the Commission to protect their neighborhood’s historic streetscapes, which remain a primary attraction of this architecturally rich and fascinating neighborhood. There was also some impassioned opposition. Clerics and parishioners of two local churches testified against being included in the district – not against the district itself – as did a few local property owners who were concerned about LPC regulations’ potential effect on future building alterations. But most of the speakers spoke for landmarking the district.

The next step? To ensure that as soon as possible the LPC schedules for the Commissioners to vote to landmark the district – still only “calendared” and therefore subject to only partial landmark protection. LESPI has stayed in touch with the LPC and City Councilmember Mendez’s office on this matter and will post on our Facebook page when the hearing is finally scheduled. Please help us accelerate the process by emailing LPC Chair Tierney at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and asking that the vote be scheduled ASAP, by September at the latest if at all possible. Thank you!

LESPI Brunches at Veselka Bowery

Toasted pampushky, kielbasa, pierogis – these were some of the delicious Ukrainian foods LESPI members and friends enjoyed at our “On the Edge of the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District” benefit brunch July 29 at Veselka Bowery on East 1st Street. The East Village’s Ukrainian

community dates primarily from post-World War II and maintains a marked presence among the neighborhood’s institutions, businesses, and culture, and we were happy to be partaking in its traditions on that warm Sunday morning.

Conversations were lively and meandered topic to topic, but two pivotal preservation-related issues received a bit more of the spotlight:

We noted that the brunch’s title – “On the Edge of the Proposed EV / LES Historic District” - referred not only to Veselka Bowery’s location across the street from the proposed historic district, but referred to the point that we are potentially very, very close to having the district landmarked: so we talked about how best to push the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to vote ASAP to landmark and ensure City Council support.

Second, the question was asked: is now the time for LESPI to expand our efforts to the Lower East Side’s intact historic streetscapes below Houston Street? Do we have a critical mass of volunteers? It seemed that we may. (Please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you’d like to volunteer).

After the brunch ended, we exited Veselka Bowery into the bright sunshine, seemingly full, happy, and energized for the day and perhaps weeks ahead.

Landmarked!

After LESPI, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and other groups advocated for NYC landmark designation for these great buildings, they have now been designated Individual Landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission:

The Bowery Bank of New York Building: a great Beaux Arts style bank building, on Bowery and Grand Streets, designed by renowned architects York and Sawyer and constructed in 1901.

The Bowery Mission Building: built in 1876 in the neo-Grec style, the building received some very nice Tudor style alterations in 1909 when it was rehabilitated to house the Bowery Mission, which to this day continues to serve New York’s poorest residents.

This is great news! To read LESPI’s letters of support see HERE and scroll down.

Kleindeutschland and NYC’s Lower East Side – Now Online!

Wondering what or where is or was Kleindeutschland? Or what ever happened to this storied East Village / Lower East Side ethnic community? Did you know that, by 1855, New York City was the third largest “German” city in the world, after Berlin and Vienna, and by the 1870s roughly 30 % of New York’s population was made up of German immigrants and their American-born offspring? It’s true. And this population was all centered in the area of Manhattan’s Lower East Side now commonly called the East Village.

St. Nicholas Church, 127 E 2nd St, built 1848 (demolished 1960)

If you missed LESPI’s lecture, “Germany in America: Kleindeutschland and New York City’s Lower East Side” presented by Dr. Richard Haberstroh last February, take a look at Richard’s fascinating and well illustrated article now posted HERE and learn a lot about a subject that’s central to East Village / Lower East Side history.

Newsletter images by Christopher D. Brazee, Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe, Richard Moses

Support LESPI!

Donate!

Please donate to LESPI to help us in our work to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side! To donate, see HERE.

Or you can write a check to "FCNY/LESPI" and mail it to LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Volunteer!

We're looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations, and any other assistance that can help further our mission. We'd very much appreciate your help in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Stay in Touch!

Go to “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative”on Facebook and check out our site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic preservation, history and architectural updates for the LES/EV. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

About LESPI

LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer not-for-profit corporation in NY State formed in 2007 to urge the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate as historic districts intact portions of the East Village / Lower East Side. Our strategy includes documenting and mapping the historic streetscapes, starting with the East Village, and rallying community residents, city officials and the LPC to effect landmark designation. LESPI is a not-for-profit corporation in the State of New York. Our fiscal sponsor is Fund for the City of New York.

Contact us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or use the form through our web site lespi-nyc.org, or by mail at LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003.

Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue: A Success Story in Landmarking

By Marcia Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director, Kehila Kedosha Janina

Fifteen years ago, in 1997, Kehila Kedosha Janina, a synagogue built by Jews from Greece in 1927 on the Lower East Side, was a dismal place to visit. The plaster was peeling off the walls, the tin ceiling tiles were showing 80 years of wear and tear, the skylight was covered in cardboard to hide the broken glass and the ceiling was continually leaking.

It was hard to get a minyan (quorum) for services and many thought that we should close our doors and go the way of so many other synagogues on the Lower East Side. We chose to stay open and small miracles began to happen. Thanks to the help of the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and support from Community Board 3, we were proposed to New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for Individual Landmarkstatus and approved in 2004. Once landmarked, we received a matching grant from the State of New York, enabling us to clean our façade and repair the roof and skylight. We were one of the recipients of the NY Landmarks Conservancy's Lucy B. Moses award for architectural preservation in 2004 and shortly afterwards began our interior restoration.

There is no doubt that we have been lucky, becoming the beneficiary of funds from a substantial estate that enabled us to restore our sanctuary and women’s section in the upper gallery, but it is very unlikely that this would have happened without landmark status. We will begin the final stage of our restoration (the downstairs communal room) this winter with funds received from another bequest.

Our success is not solely due to luck. Our commitment to stay open and preserve our unique synagogue (the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere) has moved many to help us. Our Museum created in the women’s gallery has drawn thousands annually to our synagogue. We no longer lament the lack of a minyan! Our community is alive and proud of what we have been able to accomplish.

Kehila Kedosha Janina is, also, proud to be a member of the Lower East Side Preservation Coalition and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative. We firmly believe in the importance of preserving our past and in preserving the essence of neighborhoods that speak to that past. We succeeded and are more than willing to share our success story with others. We firmly believe that landmarking saved us. Without landmarking we might still be that dismal synagogue of 1997. Instead, we stand as a proud acclamation of what NYC Landmarking truly means.

Find out more about Kehila Kedosha Janina on our website (www.kkjsm.org). Contact us if you have questions about becoming a NYC Landmark ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). Most of all, visit us at 280 Broome Street (between Allen and Eldridge). Come and celebrate our accomplishments as we have become one of the most visited sights on the Lower East Side.

Yiddish Theater District June 3 Walking Tour: Follow Up with Tour Leaders

In June LESPI sponsored a “Jewish Rialto” historic Yiddish Theater walking tour, led by Theater Historian Cezar Del Valle, along with former Yiddish Theater actor Herbert Latner and Preservation Architect Dan Allen of Cutsogeorge Tooman & Allen Architects. The tour started at the historic Sunshine Theater on East Houston Street and meandered up Second Avenue, past numerous still-extent and now vanished Yiddish Theaters, up to the Village East Cinema at East 11th Street, a very much intact Yiddish theater from the 1920s beautifully restored by Dan Allen’s firm.

We followed up with the tour leaders to get their further thoughts on the subject of the Yiddish Theater, which thrived in the Lower East Side between the 1880s and 1950s and once rivaled Broadway in popularity, and the need for historic preservation in the East Village / Lower East Side.

Cezar Del Valle – Tour Leader

LESPI: Initially what interested you in theater history, and more specifically the history of Yiddish theater in New York?

Del Valle: I would imagine my first interest in theatre dates from the 1950s and watching the various live dramatic programs with my mother. Also in many ways, early television was the last stand for vaudeville with the Jack Benny Show, Burns and Allen, and Milton Berle. My mother also exaggerated her (and her family’s) involvement with radio, burlesque and vaudeville in the 1920s. In the 1960s I became a professional artist who picked up extra money working in the theatre. Since 1996 I have conducted talks and walking tours of theatre history usually with an emphasis on popular entertainment from the 1890s through the 1950s. Not just Yiddish theatre. Dime museums, early movie shows, ethnic theatre, vaudeville, burlesque and off-off Broadway are part of the history of the Lower East Side.

LESPI: What can the history of Yiddish Theater tell us about our lives as New Yorkers and Americans?

Del Valle: The hopes, the challenges and aspirations of the Lower East Side are reflected on the stages of those theatres. The struggle to find a way in America, political and social turmoil -- all part of the Lower East Side stage. The types of plays often changing as the children of immigrants became more American.

LESPI: What is the most rewarding aspect of leading tours of the “Jewish Rialto?”

Del Valle: Meeting people who remember these theatres and are able to share those memories.

LESPI: Do you believe that teaching people about an area’s cultural history – in this case the Yiddish Theater District – makes them more appreciative of the physical evidence of that history?

Del Valle: Hard question to answer. I have found it difficult, at times, in convincing historical societies of the importance of the performing arts in the history of New York neighborhoods (outside of Times Square). Once at a dinner, I was introduced as an historian to a director of a museum (remaining nameless). She asked me my field of expertise. When I said theatre, she smiled and hurried off to find someone with something more serious to offer. This actually happened to me three times. Recently a few booklets have been published about the history of certain New York City neighborhoods without mentioning any form of local amusement. This gives the impression that people once worked hard, came home, sat down, ate dinner, relaxed, and reflected on how fortunate they were to be living in a future historical district.

Those who go on my walks and attend my talks are interested in the subject. They are curious about the city and its past. Hopefully they walk away at the end with a greater appreciation and understanding of the cultural history of a neighborhood. Actually I offer several different theatre walks of the Lower East Side but the Yiddish Rialto is the most popular and requested.

Herbert Latner – former Yiddish Theater child actor

LESPI: Please describe your earliest memories of your involvement in the Yiddish Theater? How did you feel at the time?

Latner: My earliest experiences in the Yiddish theater as a little boy were both fun and exciting. The fact that I had a nice voice and liked to sing plus my knowledge of Yiddish helped me get my first job--and I loved it. I must have done well during the next few years, since I continued getting other parts in different shows.

LESPI: How did your experiences as a child actor in Yiddish Theater influence your later life, particularly as a New Yorker and East Village / Lower East Side resident?

Latner: When I got too big for "little boy” parts, I kept working backstage as a "gopher" and also in the theater concession selling refreshments during intermission. As I grew older, I retained my love for theater and actors, by continuing to see as many shows as I could and kept abreast of what was going on. I was also a great lover of radio (and recordings), especially Yiddish radio which was very popular back then.

LESPI: When you walk around the East Village, do you still feel the presence of this history around you? In what way?

Latner: To this day, I am aware of the historic importance of our neighborhood, not only because of the creative background of the Yiddish theater, but also how it influenced Broadway and even Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. For example, the Hebrew Actors Union was the first association (union) of actors in America and was a direct influence in the later formation of Actors Equity. In addition, some of the "uptown" or Broadway stars often came down to the 2nd Avenue theaters and to the Cafe Royal, which was the popular hangout of the stars of the time. Among the most famous was Paul Muni. As we stood together in our recent delightful tour outside the Cafe Royal location, it brought back some great memories, including the sidewalk of the stars, outside the former 2nd Avenue Deli.

LESPI: What are your thoughts on preserving the historic buildings and streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side? On preserving Second Avenue and the “Jewish Rialto” district?

Latner: Whatever can be done to preserve the great heritage of the Yiddish theater will be an important gift to history. One of the buildings still standing is the original Hebrew Actors Club at 31 East Seventh Street—which must be preserved - perhaps as a museum - before it is too late. To that end, unbelievably, there is still an organization, the Yiddish Actors and Friends Club (YAFAC), which still schedules periodic events (cabarets, meetings and dinners) in an attempt to perpetuate the "club." If you are interested to helping to preserve this last vestige of the culture, please contact me and I’ll fill you in.

Dan Allen – Preservation Architect

LESPI: Your firm, Cutsogeorge Tooman and Allen Architects, has been charged with the restoration of the Village East Cinema on Second Avenue and East 11th Street, which was originally opened as the Louis N. Jaffe Art Theater in 1926. How did you get involved in this project? Were there any surprises during the course of your work? Any particular challenges?

Allen: We were asked to bid on the work by the owners based, I believe, on a recommendation from the NY Landmarks Conservancy. [One] surprise was the structure of the building. Despite dating to the mid 1920's there are almost no vertical steel members, meaning the walls take the weight of the floors and roof. During our walking tour I talked about the building being a piece of theater in itself. All of the facade ornament was done in a cream colored cast stone. Despite this, the arches that run along Second Avenue are true full depth arches and had to be restored in place.

LESPI: The theater certainly looks beautiful now that the exterior has been restored - what have you found to be most rewarding about the project?

Allen: I think the most rewarding thing about completing this project is the restored appearance of the building. It really is a beloved building in the East Village and the reaction we got to the finished project from the community has been really gratifying. Also nice to see it still used as a theater albeit a cinema but still a showplace.

LESPI: In New York we enjoy a great variety of landmark historic districts. As a long-time New Yorker and preservationist, do you believe there is anything particularly special or significant about the architectural and cultural history of the East Village / Lower East Side? If so, what?

Allen: I spent part of my twenties at the Cooper Union where I studied art. The East Village means a great deal to me both as an alumnus and a New Yorker. I think both the architecture and the amazing cultural history of the East Village are absolutely significant and worthy of preservation. One of the things the tour brought home to me was that everything happened in the East Village and I mean everything from the Yiddish Theater to Visual Arts to the Beat Poets. It is a past too powerful to ignore.

 
Winter 2011-12

LESPI PRESENTS GERMANY IN AMERICA: KLEINDEUTSCHLAND AND NEW YORK CITY'S LOWER EAST SIDE

Did you know that, during the late 19th century:

* German-Americans made up almost a third of New York City’s population

* What is now the East Village was the heart of Kleindeutschland, where German-American biergartens, and social, singing and shooting clubs defined local social life

* Of the average working person’s budget of $600 per year in 1853, almost half paid for groceries, while only about 15% paid for rent - perhaps not surprising considering the living conditions of lower income New Yorkers at the time.

These and other remarkable facts were discussed at LESPI’s Germany in America: Kleindeutschland and New York City’s Lower East Side event on February 29, when Dr. Richard Haberstroh presented his lively and beautifully illustrated lecture on the history of local German-American life, culture, and architecture.

Dr. Richard Haberstroh

Neighborhood residents, preservationists, architects, German teachers, musicians, artists, and students, among others attended the event. Held at the historic Neighborhood Preservation Center on E 11th Street, the evening included a lively reception with delicious German food, beer and wine generously provided by Zum Schneider, an indoor biergarten at Avenue C and E 7th St.

And stay tuned: LESPI will be sponsoring additional lectures on the history of Irish, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Italian, Ukranian and other Lower East Side cultures in the months ahead. We hope to see you there!

SAVE BIALYSTOKER HOME!

Opened in 1931 as a home for the aged and headquarters for a "landsmanshaft" (mutual aid society), the ten-story Bialystoker Center and Home at 228 East Broadway is an imposing Art Deco style tower designed by architect Harry Hurwit. The structure is faced in golden brick and features an impressive archway adorned with twelve reliefs symbolizing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This rare surviving building reflects the history and culture of caring for generations of Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side.

The Home functioned for 80 years, until October 2011 when residents were vacated to other facilities and the building and adjoining garden were advertised for sale as “a highly desirable development site.” Unprotected by landmark status, the building is now threatened with demolition or drastic alterations by an imminent sale to new owners.

LESPI was one of the first of 15 Sponsoring Organizations of Friends of the Bialystoker Home to sign on to support landmark designation. We urge everyone to attend a CB 3 meeting on Tuesday, March 20 at 6:00 pm at Campos Plaza Community Ctr, 611 E 13th St, where the Landmarks Committee will consider supporting a resolution for the NYC Landmarks Commission to landmark the Bialystoker Home. Sign-in at 6:20 to testify or just come with your friends to show support. For more information, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Horse Auction House Now Calendared for LPC Public Hearing

The Van Tassell & Kearney Horse Auction House at 128 East 13th Street is now a big step closer to landmark designation, even as an imminent sale makes the building's future somewhat uncertain. This is great news to all those who have been struggling to defend this unique building from demolition.

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has calendared a Public Hearing June 26 for the landmarking of the Horse Auction House (the same date LPC will hear the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District). This move comes at a particularly important time. According to local news sources, in 2006 the current owners had sought to replace the building with condos, and recently a state court ordered the owners to sell the property to satisfy debts. Without landmark protection, today's real-estate forces almost guarantee that the next owner will demolish the building and redevelop the site.

The Horse Auction House is a significant building for several reasons, both architectural and historical. The 1903 structure, which had once served such wealthy New York families as the Vanderbilts and Belmonts, appears to be the last surviving example of a horse and carriage auction house in New York City. During World War II it housed a training program for women working in wartime industry. For many years it was artist Frank Stella's sculpture studio.

Architecturally, the building's Beaux-Arts façade, with its small ovular and round windows, grand arch, and unusual barrel-vaulted roof profile, is not only the most eye-catching on the block, it’s one of the most architecturally distinctive in the neighborhood.

We hope that this June the LPC will give the Horse Auction House the landmark protection it deserves, and provide a happy ending to the many years of effort that have gone into saving this building. Please write to the LPC to express your support for landmarking at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Feel free to copy all or some of our letter of support which we will be posting at LESPI-nyc.org/advocacy.

East Village: Historic District Update

Most of us know by now that the biggest news this year, from an East Village preservation perspective, was the landmarking of the East 10th Street Historic District in January. Fantastic!

One lingering question hovers: what’s happening with 315 East 10th Street, the mid-19th century Gothic Revival rowhouse right in the middle of the new district? This is where the developer’s Department of Buildings application for a rooftop addition was approved just a few days before the district was landmarked, and the permit issued just hours before.

Architectural plans on file at the DOB show a rooftop addition to be built right up against the front façade, and this work is now underway (see photo, below). The addition will substantially impact the proportions of this historic building along with the scale of the blockfront. At this writing we're hoping that, but not sure whether the building's ornate cornice can or will be retained.

From what we can gather: in order to lessen the impact on the building’s architecture, the developer, the developer’s architect, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), LESPI, as well as innumerable other preservationists and local residents want to set the addition back from the front façade. However, because of 2008 East Village zoning restrictions, the developer must set his addition flush with the front façade, or apply for a relatively costly variance to allow the addition to be set back so that it's not visible from the street.

Along with No. 315, countless other historic East Village buildings with beautiful cornices, but without the protection of landmarking, sit at the mercy of this same malfunctioning zoning rule. It’s imperative that this rule receive a full legal review and that, as necessary, we work to change it so that it no longer requires developers to deface our neighborhood’s historic buildings when they build rooftop additions. To this end, LESPI has created a Zoning Task Force to tackle the issue. If you have special knowledge of or experience with the local zoning regulations and the regulatory process and would like to help, please email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

On a more positive note: the LPC has now set a June 26 Public Hearing date for the designation of the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District. This district, whose spine runs down Second Avenue from below St. Mark’s Place to 2nd Street, encompasses over 300 buildings including the heart of 19th century Kleindeutschland – Little Germany – and the “Jewish Rialto” or Yiddish-language theater district. Please plan to attend the Hearing, or write a letter of support for landmarking the district to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and cc LESPI at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . LESPI will post our advocacy letter for the district on our web site www.LESPI-nyc.org/advocacy, which you can use as a template for your letter in any way you want.

Newsletter images by Britton Baine, Julia Manzerova, Bruce Monroe and Richard Moses

Support LESPI!

Please donate to LESPI to help us in our work to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side! To donate, see here.

Or you can write a check to "FCNY/LESPI" and mail it to LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

We're looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations, and any other assistance that can help further our mission. We'd very much appreciate your help in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Go to “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative”on Facebook and check out our site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic preservation, history and architectural updates for the LES/EV. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

About LESPI

LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer not-for-profit corporation initially formed in 2007 to urge the LPC to designate as historic districts intact portions of the East Village / Lower East Side. Our strategy includes documenting and mapping the historic streetscapes, starting with the East Village, and rallying community residents, city officials and the LPC to effect landmark designation. LESPI is a not-for-profit corporation in the State of New York. Our fiscal sponsor is Fund for the City of New York.

Contact us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or use the form, through our web site lespi-nyc.org, or by mail at LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003.

 
NEWSFLASH! January 21, 2012

East 10th Street Historic District is now Landmarked!

In a great victory for the campaign to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side, at Tuesday’s Public Hearing the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve landmark designation for the East 10th Street Historic District.

LESPI, along with representatives of Councilmember Rosie Mendez (a pivotal supporter of the district), Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Dan Squadron, State Assemblymember Brian Cavanaugh, and Community Board 3, as well as local residents, and other community and preservation groups, testified passionately for landmark protection for this special blockfront of buildings at the north end of Tompkins Square Park.

LESPI’s testimony, presented by Richard Moses, extolled the importance of this streetscape in the context of the East Village / Lower East Side’s history, architecture and urban environment, noting that it “is one of, if not the, most significant blockfront in the East Village” - see LESPI’s full TESTIMONY here. LESPI Board Members Marie Beirne and Philip Van Aver also testified in support of the district, emphasizing the importance of protecting this and other East Village historic resources.

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission hears testimony

Loud and sustained cheering followed the Commission’s vote. Unfortunately, the vote does not appear to have come soon enough to prevent city approval of a recently-proposed rooftop addition for 315 East 10th Street, which sits right in the middle of the new district. LESPI is now working with other preservation groups such as Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council and East Village Community Coalition to see what if any courses of action can be pursued. In the meantime, the developer has reportedly expressed his intent to the Commission and on a separate occasion to LESPI to build an addition that does not impact the building's historic appearance, so we will be pursuing this channel as well.

East 10th Street Historic District: landmarked January 17!

LESPI supports responsible development and change that respect our community’s unique architectural and cultural heritage. Now that the district is landmarked, changes to its buildings must be respectful. When building owners plan exterior construction work beyond routine maintenance, they must first apply to the Commission, which must find the work to be appropriate to the building’s history and architecture before issuing a permit. This includes future work at No. 315.

At the least, this episode at No. 315 should be considered a wake-up call for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to move forward with landmark designation for the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, a much larger district whose historic buildings are still very vulnerable to demolition, defacement, or inappropriate additions. And it should serve as a wake-up call for the Commission to move forward to protect all of the East Village / Lower East Side’s intact historic streetscapes before they are lost forever.

Let’s make sure the Commission moves as quickly as possible to protect the East Village / Lower East Side’s heritage – write to the Commission asking them to accelerate landmarking the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District as well as other intact

Richard Moses, LESPI President (left) and Philip Van Aver, LESPI Board Member (right) give testimony

historic streetscapes in the community (see our SAMPLE LETTER here and scroll to second entry, and be sure to cc LESPI at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). Also,sign LESPI’s online PETITION here asking the Landmarks Commission to expedite landmark district designation! Thank you!

Newsletter images by David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe and NYC LPC

Support LESPI!

We're looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations (which are tax deductible as allowed by law), and any other assistance that can help further our mission. We'd very much appreciate your help in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Search “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative” on Facebook and check out our site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic preservation, history and architectural updates for the LES/EV. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

About LESPI

LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer not-for-profit corporation initially formed in 2007 to urge the LPC to designate as historic districts intact portions of the East Village / Lower East Side. Our strategy includes documenting and mapping the historic streetscapes, starting with the East Village, and rallying community residents, city officials and the LPC to effect landmark designation.

Contact us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or use the form, through our web site lespi-nyc.org, or by mail at LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003.

 
NEWSFLASH! December 23, 2011

NYC Landmarks Commission Schedules January 17 Hearing Date for Proposed East 10th Street Historic District!

Sometimes the silver lining is larger than the cloud. For the Proposed East 10th Street Historic District, the threat of a rooftop addition that could have potentially damaged this beautiful building’s and streetscape’s historic character spurred the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to accelerate their schedule and hold a Public Hearing January 17.

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED:

The NYC Department of Buildings recently received an application to construct a rooftop addition on a pristine neo-Gothic mid 19th century rowhouse in the proposed district. This alteration could have potentially disrupted both the building’s historic character, by changing its scale and design integrity, and the harmonious quality of this very intact blockfront along the north side of Tompkins Square Park, between Avenues A and B.

Proposed East 10th Street Historic District

HERE'S HOW IT WORKED:

When a property owner applies to the DOB for work in a proposed historic district, the LPC typically has 40 days to review the application and decide whether or not to landmark the property before the DOB grants final approval. If the LPC decides to landmark the property, the LPC reviews the design to make sure that it’s appropriate to the building’s historic architecture, and then issues a permit for the work.

LPC’s decision to set a January 17 Public Hearing date for the district’s landmark designation – which applies to landmarking the entire East 10th Street District, not just the building with the proposed rooftop addition – adheres to this 40 day time frame.

THE DISTRICT:

The Proposed East 10th Street Historic District is a remarkable surviving historic streetscape which visually defines the north end of Tompkins Square Park, and provides one of the most striking vistas within the East Village / Lower East Side. The individual buildings are excellent examples of NYC 19th century rowhouse and tenement architecture, and include styles such as Greek Revival, neo-Gothic, Italianate, and neo-Grec.

Without landmark protection these buildings will certainly lose their historic integrity, as the construction of rooftop additions, razing of ornate facades, and removal of cornices and other character defining features whittle away their historic character. Now is the time to save this unique and irreplaceable row!

For more information about the district, see LPC’s sites DISTRICT DESCRIPTION and MAP AND IMAGES.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

To help ensure that the process runs smoothly and the district is designated on January 17, the best thing is to come to LPC on that date and testify in support. LPC is located at 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor South (right above the Lexington Avenue Line City Hall subway stop). Check LPC's web site for the estimated hearing time.

If you can’t testify in person, be sure to send a letter. See LESPI’s letter supporting the district HERE - and feel free to use any or all of it for your letter. Send your letter to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by mail to the LPC’s address above, and please copy LESPI at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Additionally, to help expedite the landmark designation of the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District please sign LESPI’s online PETITION if you haven’t done so already.

And join LESPI – see www.LESPI-nyc.org – to help advocate for the protection of the East Village / Lower East Side’s other intact historic streetscape and buildings.

SIGN ON to LESPI's online petition

If you haven't already signed our online petition to expedite the NYC Landmarks Commission's landmarking of the two proposed East Village Historic Districts - sign on! Specifically, we want the LPC to hurry up and landmark the Proposed East 10th Street Historic District at LPC's January 17 Public Hearing, and to hold a public hearing for the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District by early 2012 and vote to designate the district shortly thereafter. Go to the PETITION to sign on!

Remember – just because the proposed districts are calendered, they still DO NOT have full protection from demolition or defacement. So come on board and let the LPC know that these districts need full landmark designation now, so they get the full protection they deserve. Sign the online PETITION!

And by the way: our hard-copy petition urging LPC to landmark the historic streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side is now is over 1,000 signatures strong and counting. Thanks to all who signed!

Newsletter images by David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe and Carolyn Ratcliffe

Support LESPI!

We're looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations (which are tax deductible as allowed by law), and any other assistance that can help further our mission. We'd very much appreciate your help in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Search “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative” on Facebook and check out our site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic preservation, history and architectural updates for the LES/EV. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

About LESPI

LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer not-for-profit corporation initially formed in 2007 to urge the LPC to designate as historic districts intact portions of the East Village / Lower East Side. Our strategy includes documenting and mapping the historic streetscapes, starting with the East Village, and rallying community residents, city officials and the LPC to effect landmark designation.

Contact us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or use the form, through our web site lespi-nyc.org, or by mail at LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003.

 
Fall 2011

ART AND ARCHITECTURE SLAM – AN EVENING AT BATHHOUSE STUDIOS

Artists, architects, preservationists, musicians, activists, and East Villagers of many stripes descended on the Bathhouse Studios October 20 for delicious local food, wine, and good conversation. Sponsored by LESPI and Art Loisaida Foundation, Art and Architecture Slam drew a total of about 75 people to Studio A, a large dramatic space more commonly filled with photography equipment and stagesets than with neighborhood artists and preservationists.

Guests were treated to the video piece videographer Steven Speliotis produced for the event: a brilliant collage of images of East Village / Lower East Side architecture and art that celebrated their mutual synergy and codependency. David Barish provided beautiful guitar music for the piece, and later in the evening treated us to a live performance. The venue itself was a work of art – a 1905 Beaux Arts public bathhouse with an elegant arcaded façade replete with pilasters, balustrades, and cartouches, through which one enters into the ultra-contemporary studio space within.

Bathhouse Studios on East 11th Street, built in 1905 as the Free Public Baths of the City of New York

During the course of the evening, Richard Moses of LESPI briefly discussed the need to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side’s historic architecture, and how our urban environment strongly affects our creativity and sense of well being. Carolyn Ratcliffe of LESPI and Art Loisaida spoke of how rising costs are forcing artists out of the neighborhood, how the community lost one its largest art venues at old PS 64 and how more and improved art venues need to be made available for local artists.

The event was an outreach and fundraising success. But mostly it was about getting together in a wonderful historic landmark and catching up with friends, chatting with neighbors, and enjoying a beautiful East Village autumn evening.

We want to thank the many great local establishments who generously donated to this event, including: De Roberti's Pasticceria, 1st Avenue; El Camion Cantina, Avenue A; Esperanto, Avenue C; The Immigrant, E 9th St; Jane McNichol; Met Foodmarket, 2nd Avenue; Palatofino, E 7th St; Percy’s Tavern, Avenue A; Russo’s Mozzarella and Pasta, E 11th Street; Something Sweet, 1st Avenue; Two Boots Pizza, Avenue A; Veniero’s, E 9th Street; Veselka, 2nd Avenue; Zucker Bakery, E 9th Street; and Art Loisaida. We also want to thank Steven Speliotis and David Barish for their artistic contributions, and Onno de Jong and Bruce Monroe for the event’s graphic design. And finally a large thank you to Bathhouse Studios, and to the many members and friends of LESPI and Art Loisaida who made the evening such a success!

SIGN ON! LESPI's petition is now online

Sign on! LESPI’s new online petition urges the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to hurry up(!) and landmark the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side and East 10th Street Historic Districts. How? By holding a public hearing by no later than the beginning of 2012 and voting to designate the districts shortly thereafter. Go to the PETITION to sign on!

Remember – just because the proposed districts are calendered, they still DO NOT have full protection from demolition or defacement. So come on board and let the LPC know that these districts need full landmark designation now, so they get the full protection they deserve. Sign the online PETITION!

And by the way: our hard-copy petition urging LPC to landmark the historic streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side is now is over 1,000 signatures strong and counting. Thanks to all who signed!

Proposed East 10th Street Historic District

LESPI Announces Incorporation

In early October, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative was recognized by New York State as an official not-for-profit corporation - a very exciting step for us! Incorporation legally establishes LESPI's ability to perform our mission: to inform the public about the East Village / Lower East Side's rich architectural and cultural history, and to advocate for landmark historic district designation for the area's intact historic streetscapes.

In order to bring our operations in line with state law for corporations, we've replaced our previous governing system - LESPI's Steering Committee - with a Board of Directors that will now take the helm. The board members are:

Richard Moses - President
Carolyn Ratcliffe - Vice President, Secretary
Britton Baine - Treasurer
Marie Beirne
Ricky Leung
Jean Standish
Philip Van Aver

As you may know, Richard, Carolyn, Britton, and Philip served on LESPI’s Steering Committee prior to our incorporation. Now we'd like to give a special welcome and thanks to Marie, Ricky, and Jean for officially joining on.

LESPI is also in the process of creating a Board of Advisors – a group of individuals with specialized knowledge and experience that support our mission. To date, we welcome Linda Jones, Katy McNabb, Bruce Monroe, Robert Slaughter, and Osvaldo Valdes. We want to additionally recognize and thank Katy McNabb for her four years of service and sage advice as a Steering Committee member, and we're glad she will continue to be a part of LESPI from her new home in Vermont.

LESPI's next organizational step is to apply for 501(c)(3) status, in order to gain Federal recognition of our not-for-profit status. Though we currently operate under the umbrella of a separate 501(c)(3) corporation, this recognition will allow LESPI to assume additional financial independence and continue to build organizational strength and support for our cause.

Newsletter images by David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe, Richard Moses, and Carolyn Ratcliffe

Support LESPI!

We're looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations (which are tax deductible as allowed by law), and any other assistance that can help further our mission. We'd very much appreciate your help in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Search “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative” on Facebook and check out our site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic preservation, history and architectural updates for the LES/EV. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

About LESPI

LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer not-for-profit corporation initially formed in 2007 to urge the LPC to designate as historic districts intact portions of the East Village / Lower East Side. Our strategy includes documenting and mapping the historic streetscapes, starting with the East Village, and rallying community residents, city officials and the LPC to effect landmark designation.

Contact us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or use the form, through our web site lespi-nyc.org, or by mail at LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003.

 

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The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is dedicated to preserving the historic streetscapes of the Lower East Side, including the East Village, Lower East Side below Houston Street, Bowery, Chinatown and Little Italy