Summer 2011

Community Board 3 Votes to Support Two New Proposed
East Village / Lower East Side Historic Districts

The big news this summer? After several weeks of preparation and testimony, it came down to Community Board 3's Full Board vote, tallied in just a few tense minutes on July 26:

- Unanimous vote to support landmarking the Proposed East 10th Street Historic District

- 23-9, with one abstention, to support landmarking the Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic District.

Leading up to this vote, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission staff gave thorough slideshow presentations on the districts' history and significance to the CB 3 Parks Committee. LESPI testified at each hearing, along with several neighborhood residents and other preservation groups - such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, East Village Community Coalition, and Bowery Alliance of Neighbors. We made a very compelling case for landmarking the districts based upon their important history, historic architecture, and value to the community.

To counter some vigorous opposition from three religious institutions who do not want their buildings landmarked, preservationists pointed out that the landmark regulations are not onerous and that hundreds of religious organizations, institutions and businesses survive and thrive in NYC historic districts, rich and poor. We explained that the districts' historic buildings have value beyond their "bricks and mortar" - they tell the story of immigrant workers who built and in many cases handcrafted them, the immigrant families who lived, relaxed, and worshipped in them while getting started in this nation, and the renowned artists, writers, musicians, and political activists who made and continue to make these neighborhoods their homes. We spoke of how the districts' amazing architecture and ornamentation have enriched and enlivened our environment, while enriching us all in the process.

So now that CB 3 has voted to support landmarking, what comes next? The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission must now schedule its own Public Hearing to hear testimony. After the hearing is held, the LPC can then vote on designation. Once designated, the districts must be confirmed by both the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Demolition of 331 East 6th Street, a ca. 1860 building in the Proposed East Village / LES Historic District (top photo with white facade; bottom photo demolition underway as of Aug. 20). The Buildings Dept. demolition permit predates the proposed district, but the districts' buildings are still somewhat vulnerable.

Preservationists still have a lot of work to do: we must ensure that the LPC holds its hearing and votes to fully designate the districts as landmarks as soon as possible. We must make sure landmarking is not overturned by City Council. Fortunately, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez's strong support for the districts should help the process. Only when the districts are landmarked and the designation process completed will their wonderful architecture and cultural history enjoy the strong protection they deserve!

LESPI Brunch: Distritos Historicos y Comida Deliciosa

LESPI's Brunch Benefit on August 7 was a big success! We all met at El Camion Cantina on Avenue A at East 12th Street and spent the afternoon eating delicious comida latina, drinking margaritas, making new friends, and chatting with old ones.

LESPI supporters toast the LES and their preservation successes at El Camion Cantina.

The event's theme - CELEBRATE and Help Save the Lower East Side - celebrated the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission's recent calendaring for public hearing the proposed East 10th Street and East Village / LES historic districts, and Community Board 3's votes of support for landmarking the districts. It also inaugurated LESPI's campaign, moving forward, to have LPC schedule a public hearing for the proposed districts and complete the landmark designation process as quickly as possible.

LESPI has done a lot this year but there's a lot more to do - see www.LESPI-nyc.org if you'd like to help. Stay tuned for a large and very exciting event we're planning for late October. And thank you to everyone who attended and helped make the CELEBRATE and Help Save the Lower East Side event happen, including El Camion Cantina for their wonderful generosity!

Petition Signatures - Keep Them Coming

LESPI members and volunteers continued their phenomenal work collecting pro-preservation signatures from folks outside Tompkins Square Park this July and August. We've now collected more than 900 signatures to support the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission landmarking of the proposed East 10th Street and East Village / Lower East Side historic districts.

During sessions lasting just two hours - as much time as our small volunteer regiment can generally put in - we typically collect over 100 signatures, and by October we aim to reach 1,200 signed supporters. One of the most rewarding parts of collecting the signatures is discussing the districts and LES preservation with the people who step up to sign their names.

Our stack of signatures demonstrates to the LPC that substantial numbers of Lower East Side residents and visitors value the neighborhood's historic character and support its preservation. It also helps counter a small but vocal opposition who do not want their properties included in the districts. In fact, we've seen strong consensus among residents and other New Yorkers that the proposed districts must be approved and that the Lower East Side's historic architectural and cultural resources must be protected.

For those of you who haven't been by Tompkins Square while we're petitioning, come and see us! We plan to be there for a few days over September and October - we post the date and time on our Facebook page a few days beforehand. And if you can't make it in person, keep your eyes open for our on-line petition, which we plan to initiate shortly.

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.

East 6th Street before recent demolition of No. 331 (white facade), when this historic streetscape was still intact.

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.

Images by Britton Baine, David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe, Richard Moses, and Omar Perez
 
Spring 2011

Strong Support for Proposed East Village / Lower East Side Historic Districts Shown at Community Board 3 Meeting

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission presented the East Village / Lower East Side and East 10th Street historic district study areas at a packed Community Board 3 Landmarks Subcommittee meeting May 12. LPC outlined the history, architecture and overriding historical theme of the districts, whose buildings still show the area's transformation during the 19th and early 20th century from a neighborhood of merchant rowhouses to a bustling immigrant community.

East 10th Street

Many audience members signed up to speak. LESPI's Richard Moses emphasized that the historic districts are critical for preserving the area's architecture and history and would be, to LESPI's knowledge, the first districts to specifically celebrate immigration history. Most other community comments supported the LPC's plans, and though some participants also expressed concern about potential costs for owners and impacts on affordable housing, the testimony showed a powerful consensus that the community wants landmark protection for the historic buildings in these districts.

LESPI Works to Expand Historic District Study Area Boundaries

LESPI joined with Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, and East Village Community Coalition to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission expand its East 10th Street and East Village historic district study area boundaries to include additional contiguous historic buildings that further contribute to the districts. On May 18 we met with NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez, LPC Chair Robert Tierney and Executive Director Kate Daly, along with GVSHP, HDC, and EVCC to advocate for this proposal.

The good news: after some further review, LPC has agreed to extend the East Village / LES district boundaries to include 2nd Street between First and Second Avenues, and the corner of East 6th Street and Avenue A up to the Pyramid Club building (which LESPI previously supported for Individual Landmark designation).

Pyramid Club on Avenue A

LPC has also agreed to future consideration of the east side of Avenue B around and to the south of East 10th Street.

East 2nd Street

Although LPC has stated that it does not want to include the other proposed additions, we believe that these two expansions were the strongest candidates. At this point we fully support LPC's district boundaries, and are mindful that we do not want to significantly slow down LPC's scheduling for the designation process: the timeline includes LPC calendaring the districts in June for a fall public hearing, and Community Board 3 holding its public hearing in July. LESPI now wants to do everything we can to help the districts move ahead "full steam" toward landmarking. And in the meantime, LESPI is not losing sight of the fact that additional historic districts on the Lower East Side will need to be designated to truly protect the historic areas of our invaluable and vital community.

Taking A Close Look At Our Historic Streets

One of our primary goals at LESPI is to understand exactly what historic architecture exists in the East Village / Lower East Side, and to determine where this architecture is still extant in highest concentration. Our Survey and Mapping Committee, headed by preservation architect and LESPI member Britton Baine, has been hard at work identifying the historic buildings of the Lower East Side, particularly where they exist in clusters, and is continuing to analyze data about LESPI's current study area: the blocks surrounding and to the west of Tompkins Square Park. This task is central to LESPI's mission of advocating NYC historic district designation for the Lower East Side's intact historic streetscapes.

Before determining the Tompkins Square study area boundaries, LESPI members and volunteers surveyed every block of the East Village, and recorded each building's apparent age, architectural characteristics and alterations on specially devised survey forms. The committee then gave each building a rating number based on a combination of its age and the intactness of its architectural features. Buildings got high ratings - ones and twos - when they showed clear historic value and retained most or essentially all of their historic features. Original cornices, ornament, window sills and lintels, stoops, doorways and storefronts all helped to boost a building's rating. A group of highly-rated buildings on one or more blocks would be a clear place to investigate a potential historic district.

Ornamental window surrounds

Buildings got middle-range ratings - threes and fours - when they related to the higher-rated buildings in some respects such as scale or materials but were neither historic or intact enough to carry a historic district on their own. Buildings rated at five, the lowest rating, were not considered contributors, and may even detract from a district.

So, what's next? The committee is currently plotting its findings building-by-building on a map, translating the numbered ratings into color coded lots. As each block on the map is completed, the color coding quickly shows if a block is packed with important, well-preserved historic structures rated one and two, or with more neutral, not-so-historic, threes and fours.

Sample map

Once mapping is complete - and the Tompkins Square study area nearly is - LESPI can weigh all the areas of the East Village / Lower East Side by historic architectural interest and importance, and we can then prioritize where to focus our advocacy for landmark protection.

Greek Revival Rowhouse Facades to be Spared?

When work began at the two ca. 1840 Greek Revival rowhouses at 326 and 328 East 4th Street over the winter, it looked like the contractors had blasted a hole the size of a tank through one of them. Everything behind the façades was rubble. The community was furious.

Robert Slaughter, a LESPI member who lives nearby and who has been monitoring the project, recently met with Chondary Ahmed, the project engineer, for an update. Mr. Ahmed asserted that the facades' architectural elements have been saved on site and that every effort will be made to restore them. Before construction started, most of the buildings' original features such as brickwork, ornate wood entry surrounds and hand wrought iron railings were intact.

These two buildings were once very close to the East River, before landfill pushed the water's edge blocks away. The original inhabitants worked at the port where tall sailing ships docked and where billowing white sails could have been seen from the rooftops. Years passed and the port and the neighborhood were reincarnated many times. The most recent inhabitants, Richard and Dorothea Tyler, moved in in 1974 and created the Uranian Phalanstery, a meeting ground for artists. Unfortunately, recent economic issues forced the property's sale.

328 E 4th St prior to start of partial demolition

Although LESPI believes that building renovations should preserve more than merely façade veneers, and that any rooftop additions must be scaled and placed so as not to interfere with the building's architecture, we are glad that the developer for these irreplaceable historic buildings has proclaimed his intention to respect the area's history and architecture by maintaining their beautiful facades. We'll keep you posted as the project progresses.

35 Cooper Square: Gone But Not Forgotten

On May 25 LESPI joined a crowd of about 50 to mourn and, more importantly, to protest the demolition the federal style 35 Cooper Square. Originally built by the Stuyvesant family in 1825, this building later housed such cultural figures as poet Diana di Prima and actor Joel Gray. It was one of the most important historic structures anchoring the northern end of a Bowery National Register Historic District.

LESPI, BAN and other activists rallied to save 35 Cooper Square last January

The rally, organized by Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, and sponsored by LESPI, Two Bridges, HDC, GVSHP. EVCC and several other preservation and community groups, showcased speakers including LESPI who called for landmarking and downzoning to protect the Bowery's and the Lower East Side's historic resources, and for using the demolition - which apparently had been completed that day - as a rallying cry to prevent further demolitions of our irreplaceable historic buildings and landmarks.

FILMMAKERS WANTED!

Filmmakers: are you looking for what may be the Volunteer Opportunity of a Lifetime...a chance to help make New York City history? LESPI is conducting an oral history of East Village cultural figures such as visual artists, musicians, writers, poets, photographers to illustrate how the East Village / Lower East Side - the people, streets, parks and buildings - encouraged the creation of their art.

We expect to work with several filmmakers on separate portions of the documentary. The film's primary purpose is to document the area's rich cultural history and to raise awareness of this creativity to help in the landmarking of historic districts in the area. The documentary's audience will be the New York preservation community, those interested in EV/LES cultural figures, and anyone who loves NYC history, culture and architecture. It should also be great exposure for the filmmaker. If you are interested please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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 was 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.

East 2nd Street

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.

Photos by David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe and others
 
NEWSFLASH: April 27, 2011

NYC Landmarks Commission Introduces Two New Potential Historic Districts for the East Village / Lower East Side!

Tompkins Square North - East 10th Street

Last night the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission officially released its maps of two potential East Village historic districts, which encompass Tompkins Square North and Second Avenue below St. Mark's Place. See LPC’s maps below.

Since January, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – LESPI – has held three meetings with senior LPC staff to let them know our strong support for landmarking in the East Village / Lower East Side, and our concern that if the area’s not landmarked, essentially all of the historic streetscapes will be lost to the ongoing onslaught of demolition and insensitive development. The LPC has now moved forward toward preserving these districts.

East 6th Street

These districts would be the first city designations to specifically honor the history and culture of 19th and early 20th century NYC immigration in the East Village / Lower East Side. For this reason LESPI strongly supports the LPC’s current boundaries as a very good first step in protecting the East Village’s historic resources.

We believe that there's strong community support for preservation, LESPI’s successful petitioning work in front of Tompkins Square last fall – you may have seen us there – showed us that residents want protection for the area's historic streetscapes. Other local preservation and community groups, such as Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, East Village Community Coalition, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Historic Districts Council, are also involved in this effort.

However, we expect to encounter highly organized opposition. Therefore, everyone who cares about the historic East Village should show their support for this district.

Come testify at Community Board 3 May 12 at 6:00PM, at BRC Senior Services Center at Sara Delano Roosevelt Park 30 Delancey Street, between Chrystie and Forsyth. Check for updates. We hope to see you there!

Or write a letter of support to CB3 by email or mail - see our sample letter at: lespi-nyc.org. Please send us a copy of your letter at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

East 3rd Street
LPC's East Village Study Area
LPC's East 10th Street Study Area

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.

See 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 was 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. To join LESPI use our membership form here.

Photos by Bruce Monroe
 
Winter 2010-11

LESPI's Let's Save the East Village / Lower East Side Event a Hit

NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez

On the cusp of another snowy winter storm 150 people braved the cold to attend LESPI's January 11th Let's Save the East Village / Lower East Side - Neighbors and Friends "Meet and Greet". Neighborhood residents, artists, preservationists and friends enjoyed composer Arthur Abrams's talents at the piano, tasted delicacies from local restaurants, and joined in lively conversations. Theater for the New City's wonderful art exhibit, "Preservation - Preserve or Forget", curated by Art Loisaida, complemented the evening's preservation theme.

NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez and TNC Executive Director Chrystal Field spoke on the importance of preservation. LESPI members Carolyn Ratcliffe, Richard Moses, Britton Baine, Philip Van Aver and Marie Beirne discussed LESPI's efforts to help preserve the neighborhood's historic streetscapes and cultural history. If you missed our "Meet and Greet", check out You Tube for event highlights, courtesy of LESPI member Bruce Monroe.

Photo by Seth Baum

Visit us on Facebook or at www.LESPI-nyc.org for information about future events. This event was cosponsored by LESPI, TNC, and Art Loisaida.

We want to thank the following local establishments for their generous donations: Art Loisaida, De Roberti's Pasticceria, Esperanto, Palatofino, Russo's Mozzarella and Pasta, Something Sweet, and Veselka.

LESPI's Advocacy Moves Forward

In January LESPI met with NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission senior staff to discuss our goals for landmark designation in the East Village and LPC's plans for the area. During the meeting, LESPI emphasized that the "heart and spine" of the East Village is Tompkins Square Park and St. Mark's Place,and that any historic district must acknowledge the blocks surrounding the park and to the west. LESPI pointed out that this area warrants landmark designation based on its architectural, historic, and cultural significance. We look forward to follow up meetings with the Commission staff.

In February LESPI met with NY State Assembly member Deborah Glick's Chief of Staff and Community Liaison to discuss our accomplishments and objectives. We received very positive support. We look forward to working with the Assembly member's office in the future to advocate for the preservation of the East Village's historic resources.

Can 35 Cooper Square Be Saved?

Demolition started this month on 35 Cooper Square's roof, and was abruptly halted by the Buildings Department. But it appears that the owner has corrected the DOB's Stop Work Order, and as of this writing we're waiting to see if demolition begins again. The destruction of this striking and essentially intact example of early 19th century Federal style architecture would be a great loss for the architectural and cultural history of the East Village / Lower East Side. Built by direct descendants of Peter Stuyvesant, it was more recently the home of renowned Beat poet Diane di Prima and actor Joel Gray. LESPI, with Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and other community groups, supported Bowery Alliance of Neighbors campaign for landmark designation, but it appears that development pressures were too strong to landmark this wonderful building.

35 Cooper Square: Endangered

The next step is to try to work with the developer to save the building, and the issue will be reviewed by Community Board 3 in March. But we need to continue to band together to prevent future demolitions of our neighborhood's historic architecture, and to preserve what remains of the historic East Village / Lower East Side!

What's Your Story?

LESPI is embarking on an Oral History of the East Village to highlight the remarkable cultural history of the neighborhood. LESPI's Marie Beirne, who is producing a video documentary on a history of Stuyvesant Town, is leading the effort to gather East Village historical / cultural information and interview subjects.

Do you have strong ties to the East Village? Have you lived, worked, or simply hung out here - from the 1980s or earlier? Do you have a favorite story about your time here - something funny, sad, or memorable in some other way? We'd love to hear from you. Please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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 was 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.

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.

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.

Photo left by Bruce Monroe
 
 
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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