Winter 2015

The Lo-Down Visits LESPI

How does modern media, in its coverage of new development projects, report on what some see as growth and what others see as destruction? How can preservationists best communicate their message to news outlets to ensure coverage? These were among the questions explored in our February "LESPI Lecture," delivered by Ed Litvak, publisher of The Lo-Down, one of the Lower East Side's top sources for neighborhood news.

Having reported on the Lower East Side since 2009, Ed shared his observations as a journalist covering a rapidly changing neighborhood. He stressed the importance of delivering unbiased, objective coverage - even when reporting on one's own community. When covering preservation issues, reporters seek to present

The Lo-Down's Ed Litvak with Traven Rice to his right

the perspective of those on both sides of the debate. It is therefore important that an organized, robust preservation community exists to represent the views of those seeking to preserve their neighborhoods’ historic structures. He advised preservationists to persist, even when it appears the odds are against them.

Ed gave important advice to preservationists who seek to get their battles reported in the media: reporters are more likely to cover stories with a human element, with a historic reference point, or by relating to current events. In today's media environment, traditional press releases are less likely to 'break through' and get attention. Rather, reporters are just as likely to report on 'untold stories' found on social media or through conversation.

The lively question and answer atmosphere - garnished with wine and cheese refreshments - was clearly enjoyed by all. LESPI thanks Ed and his partner, Traven Rice for joining us at our February meeting!

Join LESPI for 2015!

Your $20 membership dues help us work to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side. Or donate more: all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. See HERE to donate. Thank you!

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. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

LESPI T-Shirts Now On Sale!

Wear a beautiful LESPI t-shirt to show your support for preservation of the historic East Village / Lower East Side! See HERE for purchase information. All proceeds go toward supporting LESPI's work.

T-shirts are Hanes heavy duty 100% cotton.

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 Lower East Side below Houston Street, 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.

Photos by Bruce Monroe (events) and Richard Moses (Tompkins Square)

LESPI's "Ship Building in the Dry Dock District of NYC"

The era of the great clippers, ironclads and steamships has been elevated to almost mythic lore in our country. Many of these great ships were built in the shipyards of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Very few traces of these legendary yards remain.

On a frosty night in January, Laura Zelasnic provided her wonderful lecture for LESPI “Ship Building in the Dry Dock District of New York City,” on the history of these prolific shipyards. During much of the 19th century, the dry docks and yards extended along the East River waterfront roughly from E 14th Street to the Manhattan Bridge. Laura wove an intriguing story (despite technical difficulties) of a time when these manufacturers' products - giant sailing and steam ships - led to the beginnings of full scale globalization, both in the movement of immigrants to this and other countries, and the movement of trade all around the world. These great ships included the SS Savannah, which was built at the Crocker and Fickett yard at

SS Savannah

Corlears Hook in 1818 and a year later was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, and the sailing yacht America, which was built at the William H. Brown shipyard at mid century and for which the America's Cup is named.

Stay tuned to LESPI’s Facebook page for invitations to future LESPI lecture events, and / or join our email list at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Laura Zelasnic

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profiles: Eileen Kim

Too often, the public thinks of volunteer preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. But they’re actually conglomerations of individuals. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each LESPI quarterly newsletter highlights one of our Board members. For our Winter 2015 newsletter, we are highlighting Eileen Kim, a member of our Board of Directors since 2013.

Eileen is not a native New Yorker, but an immigrant, her family having emigrated from Seoul, her father South Korean, and her mother North Korean. Eileen was three months of age when the family moved to the USA. She holds three degrees, a BS in International Careers from Lehigh University, a MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons. This last degree program is what brought Eileen to New York, a city she loves.

As a resident of the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, she feels right at home with the area’s immigrants and their stories. No longer in the fashion business, she became aware of the special architecture of the neighborhood through her work as a residential real estate salesperson. She firmly believes in the need to preserve the beautiful buildings in her community. Which is how she came to be involved with LESPI, serving initially on its Board of Advisors, then becoming a Director. She currently chairs the Landmarks50 task force, sits on the Oral History and Events committees, and helps to staff LESPI tabling and petitioning sessions.

When not working, Eileen spends time with loved ones, practices the art of Tae Kwon Do, attends the opera, travels the world, scuba dives, kiteboards, meets people, and just tries to have fun, be happy and enjoy life! Eileen is proud to be on the Board of LESPI, drawn to the need to preserve the East Village and the Lower East Side, a neighborhood caught up in rapid changes and in jeopardy of losing its historic character. We are lucky to be the recipients of her passion, knowledge and energy.

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 2014

Crisis Averted!

Preservationists had a close call when, just before Thanksgiving, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission announced their proposal to remove 100 calendared buildings and districts from consideration for landmarking. By calendaring these sites in the first place, LPC had already deemed them historic and worthy of public hearing for landmark designation. Once “de-calendared”, these properties, many of which are widely known, would be vulnerable to demolition. When the announcement was made, preservationists, community activists, and elected officials quickly and loudly protested. Then, just a few days before the scheduled December 9 vote, LPC tabled the proposal until further notice.

2 Oliver Street, early 19th century Federal style

"The LPC deserves great recognition for listening to New Yorkers and backing off from that proposal,” said Richard Moses, LESPI's Board President. "The LPC plays an essential role in maintaining our city's historic fabric and architectural treasures, and we are thankful for their responsiveness to the community.”

Two East Village / Lower East Side buildings - 138 Second Avenue and 2 Oliver Street - would have been among those 'de-calendared'. No. 138 was originally built in the early 19th century when this area of Second Avenue was a wealthy residential precinct. By 1885 the building had become the Association for Befriending Children and Young Girls, reflecting the area’s transition to a more struggling German immigrant neighborhood - Kleindeutschland. A 2013 NY Times article on the avenue’s history by Christopher Gray notes that the building "boasts a very nice surviving brownstone doorway with a Gibbs [i.e. Georgian style] surround.” No. 2 Oliver Street, built in 1832, is one of a handful of early 19th century Federal-style houses that survive today.

Detail from 138 Second Avenue

LESPI spoke out emphatically in opposition to LPC's proposal. In our December 3 letter we urged the LPC to properly consider calendared sites for landmarking following the time tested process of public hearing and vote based on individual merit. This approach is essentially transparent, and allows for community input and public investiture in protecting our city’s irreplaceable historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Anthony Wood Speaks on Preservation Advocacy

Remember the importance of coalitions - and don't forget the politics. These are among the many words of wisdom imparted by esteemed preservationist Anthony Wood at his LESPI lecture "A Century of Preservation Advocacy: Lessons for Today" in November.

Preservationist and author Anthony Wood

The author of "Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect A City's Landmarks", Tony took us on a journey through over 100 years of New York preservation history, highlighting our movement's successes (Castle Clinton) and failures (the Brokaw Mansions), and the lessons we must draw from each.

Preservationists must establish broad coalitions if we hope to protect historic structures from destruction, according to Tony. For example, Castle Clinton, built in 1808 at the tip of Lower Manhattan to prevent British invasion, was saved from Robert Moses's wrecking ball by a coalition of 18 organizations that shrewdly utilized the levers of city, state and federal government. Ultimately the historic fort was saved - just barely - after a years-long stand-off with Moses. We thank Tony for his riveting presentation!

Anthony Wood (center) with LESPI Board members Erik Bottcher (left) and Richard Moses (right)

Pinning History on Pinterest

Say you'd like to see a photo of:

- Feast of San Gennero in 1948
- Writer Jack Kerouac at Tompkins Square Park, 1953
- Third Avenue El train in 1949
- Asian American girls in Chinatown in 1965
- Horse drawn street cars, the Bowery near Canal St.
- Orchard Street during the 1970s
- Pushcarts on Hester Street in 1903
- Grateful Dead playing in Tompkins Square Park, 1967
- Rag picker's row, an alley off Baxter Street, in 1890
- Madonna in the East Village ca. 1982
- Sammy's night club on the Bowery, 1930
- General Slocum steamship disaster in 1904
- The Ramones in front of CBGB

Children's Farm Garden, Tompkins Square Park, 1934

Or you'd like to see some Lower East Side artwork:

- David Leonard's painting of Division St.
- Rebecca Lepkoff's Lower East Side photographs
- Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf murals on Houston St.
- Yiddish Theater posters
- Berenice Abbot photos of the 1930s and 40s
- Lithograph of Manhattan Street, early 19th century
- Wigstock poster featuring Lady Bunny, 1989
- George Bellows's painting The Cliff Dwellers of 1913

George Bellows's painting The Cliff Dwellers of 1913

Check out our Pinterest site to see these and much more…more than 800 in total! And "Follow" LESPI in Pinterest to keep up with the “new” historic images we keep adding all the time.

Join LESPI for 2015!

Your $20 membership dues help us work to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side. Or donate more: all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law. See HERE to donate. Thank you!

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. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

LESPI's "Greeks in the Lower East Side" Lecture Event Brings the Past Present

Why did so many Jewish Greek citizens of the late 19th and early 20th century leave their beautiful homeland, cross an angry ocean, and arrive at a distant and unknown land to make a new life? For the same reason that so many millions of other immigrants originally came and still come to this country - economic opportunity. When the Greek immigrants arrived they shared their Lower East Side community with other Jewish people from distant lands - primarily Russia, Eastern Europe, and Germany, but due to language barriers and cultural differences had to rely primarily on themselves, settling in the area around Broome and Allen Streets. It was here, in 1927 that they built Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue, which today still stands, beautifully preserved and restored inside and out, proudly serving a thriving Greek-American congregation.

Kehila Kedosha Museum Director and LESPI board member Marcia Ikonomopoulos's lecture "Greeks in the Lower East Side - American Stories" in October provided a rich account of this community's history and

Marcia Ikonomopoulos

life. Wonderfully, the packed-house audience included many descendants of the families Marcia discussed in her talk. Marcia's relaxed delivery, though filled with historical information illustrated with archival photographs, transported the audience, as if we were sitting around the family dining table, listening to tales of our family's past descendants.

LESPI members David Jarrett and Margaret McMahon chat at event reception

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue Building Landmarked!

Some phenomenal news: in October, the Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue building on East 14th Street was designated an Individual Landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building was constructed in 1866 as the German Baptist Church at what was then the outskirts of the Lower East Side’s Kleindeutschland neighborhood. Its transformation over time - from its original use to its conversion to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 1926, and finally to its conversion to its present use as Tifereth Israel Town and Village synagogue in 1962 - can be traced in the subtle changes in the building facade, most notably with the replacement of the steeples with onion domes by the Ukrainian church, and the introduction of the stained glass Star of David motif by the synagogue.

The building's importance was recognized by the LPC in its very early days as a city agency when in 1966 it calendared the property for public hearing. LESPI along with other preservation and community groups urged landmark designation after word spread that the building might be threatened. We applaud the Commission’s vote to landmark and thereby save this important historic structure for our and future generations to appreciate, enjoy, and learn from.

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue on E 14th Street

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profiles: Carolyn Ratcliffe

Too often, the public thinks of volunteer preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. But they’re actually composed of unique individuals. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each LESPI quarterly newsletter highlights one of our Board members. For our Autumn 2014 newsletter, we are highlighting Carolyn Ratcliffe, Vice President of LESPI since 2008.

Carolyn serves as our Events Chair, bringing to LESPI her vast experience organizing events and raising funds for not-for-profits. Carolyn received her B.A. as an Art Major with a Minor in History from University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, and went on to earn her Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from the Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, The New School, in New York City.

Carolyn grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, one of the oldest and most historically important settlements in the Mississippi River Valley, with a grandmother who was deeply involved in local preservation and who nurtured Carolyn’s passion: “you could say that my interest in preservation has a lot to do with where I grew up and my family's interests.”

Living in the East Village / Lower East Side, Carolyn has always been active, and often instrumental, in preserving what is important in this special neighborhood. She has served on Manhattan Community Board #3 since 2006, and is presently the Chair of the Arts & Culture Subcommittee and Chair of the Landmarks Subcommittee. She is the curator of the Annual LES Festival of the Arts, Theater for the New City. Among her many awards, she received the Westside Community Garden Community Garden Activist Award in June 2013.

One of the great victories for the historic East Village was the restoration of St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B, overlooking Tompkins Square Park. Carolyn co-founded the Committee to Save St. Brigid and mobilized community support: this iconic mid 19th century church, reportedly built by Irish shipwrights, was literally saved from the wrecking ball after the 11th hour, when demolition had just begun. It has since been beautifully restored inside and out. Carolyn is particularly proud of her work in preserving La Plaza Cultural, an historic community garden. She is presently advocating for a community garden district to preserve all the gardens of the East Village / Lower East Side.

Carolyn's expertise and experience launched LESPI from a more informal group of advocates to a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation with a web site, printed literature, and all the trappings of an established volunteer organization. LESPI is indeed lucky to be the recipient of Carolyn’s knowledge and passion.

LESPI T-Shirts Now On Sale!

Wear a beautiful LESPI t-shirt to show your support for preservation of the historic East Village / Lower East Side! See HERE for purchase information. All proceeds go toward supporting LESPI's work.

T-shirts are Hanes heavy duty 100% cotton.

Photos by Bruce Monroe, NYC Parks Dept archives, and various

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 Lower East Side below Houston Street, 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.

 
Summer 2014

Petitioning for Preservation

This summer, LESPI board members took to the streets to garner, face-to-face, community support for the preservation of the historic Lower East Side below Houston Street.

Have you ever stood on the street and asked passing strangers to do something for you? “Hi, do you have a minute to sign a petition to help preserve the architecture and history of the Lower East Side?” It can be a daunting task, and involves a good deal of rejection. But when you meet the folks who do stop, who are interested in saving the beautiful old buildings that are still prominent but quickly disappearing in the Lower East Side, who sign your petition, and ask questions and wish us luck with our efforts, it makes it all worthwhile (see more photos here).

LESPI volunteers Marie Beirne, Richard Moses, Jean Standish and Eileen Kim

In three, two-hour sessions, we were able to collect approximately 400 signatures. Signatures mostly from LES residents, but also from outside of New York and even abroad from as far as Australia, Myanmar, and Kazakhstan. It was heartening to know that preserving the beautiful old Lower East Side of New York was not only a local concern, but a national and international one as well.

Here is what some of them had to say:

“My favorite block, amongst many, in the Lower East Side is between Stanton and Rivington on Pitt Street, in particular, on account of Our Lady of Sorrows. That street could be a film set from the 1920’s, it’s like time traveling. If I were the chair of the Landmarks Commission, the Lower East Side would be my first priority.”
--Neal Hagstrom, LES resident

“The Lower East Side is so unique to the City. The buildings, the history, the culture. We need to preserve it.”
--Jesse Missad, LES resident

“The neighborhood is so historic, we must preserve the architecture and history of the Lower East Side. “
--Chad Merrill, from Atlanta, Georgia

“I love the Lower East Side. It’s my favorite part of Manhattan. I’d like it to stay the way it is.”
--Dominique Rochon, from Montreal, Canada

While out petitioning, sometimes folks walked by us saying, “Sorry, I don’t have time, I’ll be late.” And they’re absolutely right: we don’t have time. If we don’t

Richard Moses (left) and Erik Bottcher (center) collect signatures from passersby.

act now, the architecturally significant buildings of the Lower East Side, and the history and culture they represent, will be gone.

The petitions are perhaps the best proof we have to show the city the depth and breadth of our citizens’ love of the historic Lower East Side, and the importance of protecting it.

LESPI Event: Greeks on the Lower East Side

On Wednesday October 1, Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Director of the Museum at Kehila Kedosha Janina and LESPI Board Member, will present “Greeks on the Lower East Side - American Stories.” This program illuminates a little-know part of the American immigration story – that of the immigrants from Greece.

"Step into the Balkan world of the Lower East Side, the kafenions and dance halls, the lilting bouzouki music and the aromas of Mediterranean cooking. Learn about the Sephardic and Romaniote synagogues and the local Greek Orthodox Church. They came during the massive wave of immigration (1881-1924) but their stories were very different."

The lecture and reception program will be held from 6:30-8:30pm, at Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street (btn. 2nd and 3rd Avenues). Suggested donation of $15 for admission. For further information contact Richard at 347-827-1846 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Make a reservation online HERE.

LESPI T-Shirts Now On Sale!

Wear a beautiful LESPI t-shirt to show your support for preservation of the historic East Village / Lower East Side! See HERE for purchase information. All proceeds go toward supporting LESPI's work.

T-shirts are Hanes heavy duty 100% cotton.

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. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

Restored Cornices at 87 3rd Avenue

Heading down 3rd Avenue in early August, this writer was stopped dead in his tracks, mouth gaping, in front of 87 3rd Avenue, corner of 12th Street: the construction of a spectacular new cornice was

87 3rd Avenue with restored cornice

underway, with workers 6 stories above street level fastening steel substructure and ornate cladding to this century-old neo-Renaissance style building, which for decades had only bare walls here.

As of this writing cornice restoration work is completed at the corner building, which looks great, and has now started on the neighboring ca. 1890 building that had

Cornice installation underway at the ca. 1890 structure to the east of the corner building

also lost its cornice years ago. Both cornice designs are accurate replications based on archival photos, photos which originally helped to inspire the restoration project. The image below shows that the corner structure was originally a 5 story building (the 6th story was added in the 1970s), called the Trow Directory Building, a well-known publisher at the time.

Trow Building at 87 3rd Avenue (MCNY)

We want to heartily thank the building owner, architect Thomas Fenniman (who's also known for the beautiful Church of St. Francis Xavier interior restoration on W 16th Street), and Galicia Contracting for this wonderful architectural gift to the community. Their work has returned some of the majesty to this stretch of 3rd Avenue, which over time has seen its share of less-than-inspiring new buildings and alterations. Overall, a phenomenal project!

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profiles: Bruce Monroe

Too often, the public thinks of preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each newsletter shall highlight one of the Board members. For our Summer 2014 newsletter, we are highlighting Bruce Monroe, who is amongst our newest Board members, a long-time LESPI Adviser, and resident of the East Village for 38 years.

Over the course of the years that Bruce has been a LESPI member, he has designed our quarterly newsletters (such as this one!), invitations for events, photo presentation sheets, and other publications with

LESPI Board Member Bruce Monroe

skills he acquired with his BA in Theatrical Set Design from North Carolina School of the Arts, and professional experience in theater set design and graphic design.

Bruce became involved in local politics and community activism in 1985, and he currently volunteers for the LGBT Community Center and the Governors Island Alliance. But it was his interest in SCUBA diving that brought him to LESPI where he met LESPI President Richard Moses, who invited him to a LESPI meeting.

“I found that historic preservation fit in well with my interest in local politics and history. One of things I love about New York City is that its history is all about constant growth, economic exploitation and tumultuous cultural diversity. That will never change, but real New Yorkers should not be complacent and allow NYC’s constant desire to be the biggest and best trample the past to oblivion. The future needs the physical presence of historic places to fully appreciate the lessons of history….”

“The people that live on the LES should have an opportunity to assess the value of cultural loss against the cost of rising real estate values and decide what their neighborhood will be in the future. The process of creating an historic district can give people that opportunity.”

LESPI is indeed lucky to be the recipient of Bruce Monroe’s knowledge, skills and passion.

Photos by Bruce Monroe, Omar Perez, Richard Moses and courtesy Museum of the City of New York

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 Lower East Side below Houston Street, 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.

 
Spring 2014

LESPI's Lower East Side History Month Event Cornucopia

To help celebrate the first annual Lower East Side History Month, in May LESPI sponsored an action-packed calendar of tours and events:

Shine-a-Light Neon Tour of the Lower East Side

(May 8): Tom Rinaldi, whose beautifully illustrated book New York Neon is the go-to source on neon history, gave a wonderful tour of the LES's great neon signage. Highlights included the ca. late 1920s Orpheum, 1930s Katz's Delicatessen, 1940s Block Drugs, 1950s Gringers and 2000s American Apparel.

We learned how to tell "pure" neon coloring from fluorescent coloring, how to date a sign from its backing material, and much more. The best way to ensure historic neon signage preservation? After the tour we discussed the issue over pastrami sandwiches at Katz's, and hope to resolve it over further conversations and pastrami.

A Moveable Feast: An Afternoon on the Lower East Side

(May 18): This two part event started with a tour by legendary theatre historian Cezar Del Valle, who guided us through the Bowery's salty 19th century history, which included not only theaters but saloons (think McGurk's Suicide Hall), burlesque houses, and dime museums.

We then landed on Broome Street at the historic Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue where, amidst the beautifully restored synagogue interiors, Museum Director and LESPI Board Member Marcia Ikonomopoulos discussed the congregation's Greek-American history. To cap off the day, we gobbled up a delicious kosher lunch of Greek yaprakes, bourekas, and kourlouia!

On the Block: Capturing the Disappearing Storefronts of NYC's Lower East Side

(May 28): Photographers and authors James and Karla Murray presented an illustrated lecture based on their books, STORE FRONT- the Disappearing Face of New York and New York Nights. The audience marveled at their beautiful Lower East Side mom-and-pop storefront images and stories based on proprietor interviews. After the lecture - held at the historic Neighborhood Preservation Center, attendees enjoyed refreshments and traded notes about favorite local stores and storefronts – many of which are gone or in jeopardy of falling victim to gentrification.

LESPI was also pleased to cosponsor with Art Loisaida and the New York Public Library two fascinating lectures on Lower East Side history at the Tompkins Square Branch Library:

Shipbuilding in the Dry Dock District of New York City - 1805-1894

Presented by Laura Zelasnic on May 7.

Before and Behind the Curtain - A History of 19th Century Theatres in the Lower East Side

Presented by Ralph Lewis of Peculiar Works Theater on May 17.

What a great feast of East Village /Lower East Side architecture and history! See more photos of LESPI's Lower East Side History Month events HERE, and stay tuned for more LESPI events coming up throughout the year.

LESPI Petitioning Drive - Heads Up!

With warm weather here, LESPI will begin our petitioning drive to request that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission create new historic districts in the East Village / LES and the Lower East Side below Houston Street, in order to protect what remains of our invaluable historic buildings and streetscapes. Check our Facebook page for when and where we'll be petitioning: join us, or simply stop by to say hello!

LESPI Board Member Philip Van Aver (left) with new supporters

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. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

What's the Latest on:

Eastern Dispensary Building at 75 Essex Street:

In March the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission sent LESPI a letter stating that it had declined to pursue landmark status for this historic 1890 dispensary, one of three of this type remaining in Manhattan. For decades this facility provided essential health services to the Lower East Side's poor immigrant families - a beacon for the community.

The Commission cited the building's "vernacular style," "lack of identifying signage" and "unsympathetic ground floor infill" as reasons to deny landmark protection for the building, which is currently for sale and in danger of demolition. These are not compelling reasons to reject landmark designation, in our opinion. In fact, the building is highly significant with regard to Lower East Side architectural and immigration history, identifiable as an institutional building by its strong design and street presence, essentially intact from its original construction, and clearly deserving of Individual Landmark designation. LESPI will be joining other local preservation groups to follow up with LPC on this issue.

The Eastern Dispensary Building on Essex Street

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue at 334 East 14th Street:

On March 25 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission held a Public Hearing for the landmark designation of this wonderful religious structure, first built in 1866 as the German Baptist Church in what was then the Lower East Side's Kleindeutschland neighborhood. The LPC held its first public hearing on this important building in 1966. Recently the congregation has expressed interest in altering or redeveloping the site, but to date the LPC has still not taken action.

Tifereth Israel Synagogue building on E 14th St ca. 1916

Write the LPC at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and let them know that both buildings are wonderful, irreplaceable markers of our neighborhood's history, that deserve and need landmark protection as soon as possible. See HERE for LESPI's letters requesting landmarking, and feel free to borrow text. Also, please cc us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profiles

Too often, the public thinks of preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each newsletter shall highlight one of the Board members. For the first of what we hope will be a regular column, we are highlighting Britton Baine, Treasurer of LESPI.

Britton’s education gave him an excellent background as a preservation architect, having received his undergraduate degree in Architecture from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, his Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA and his Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University in NYC. As part of his Master’s program at Columbia, Britton participated in a study on the Bowery, seeing firsthand the rapid changes in this lower Manhattan neighborhood.

LESPI Treasurer and cofounder Britton Baine

Since 2005, Britton has worked as a licensed architect at Superstructures Engineers and Architects in NYC, giving him hands on experience working with a wide variety of buildings of all ages in the city and the surrounding region. His work involves introducing new technologies (waterproofing systems, structural repairs, roofing systems) into existing buildings, many of which are historic, while having as little impact as possible on the appearance of the building, and in some cases re-introducing historic elements (cornices, etc.) that were removed in the past.

Britton naturally came to historic preservation growing up in a Dallas, Texas community that was experiencing a lot of teardowns of historic houses. His grandparents lived in a home that was originally a Quaker meetinghouse which pre-dates the Revolutionary War, and the home still remains in the family, with Britton instrumental in enabling his family to appreciate the value of its historic fabric.

Britton is proud to be a founding member of LESPI, drawn to the need to preserve the East Village and the Lower East Side, a neighborhood caught up in rapid and seemingly haphazard changes and in jeopardy of losing its historic character. We are lucky to be the recipients of his passion and knowledge.

Photos by Bruce Monroe, Richard Moses and courtesy panoramio.com, unless otherwise noted

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 Lower East Side below Houston Street, 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.

 
Winter 2013-14

Two Historic LES Buildings in Landmark Pipeline:

Important Hearings Coming Up

LESPI’s mission is to work toward the creation of NYC landmark historic districts in the historic Lower East Side (E 14th to Fulton Streets). However, historic buildings worthy of Individual Landmark status are also on our radar. Here are two important landmarking candidates:

Eastern Dispensary Building

For decades, this striking 1890 Italian Renaissance style building at 75 Essex Street provided health care services for the Lower East Side’s poor. Today, though the exterior remains almost completely intact from its original construction, it is threatened by development pressures.

LESPI testimony at several Community Board 3 hearings, presented by Jean Standish and Eileen Kim, along with testimony from other neighborhood and preservation groups helped initiate the first procedural steps in the landmarking process. The March 6 hearing witnessed a vocal divergence of testimony, from preservationists wishing to save the building and its important history, to the owner who stated his desire to redevelop the site or build on top of it.

The Eastern Dispensary Building on Essex Street

To help: CB3 is holding a hearing on the proposal on March 25. Support landmarking:
Testify in person at CB3 - see Calendar HERE for more information, and let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Submit written testimony: email Susan Stetzer, District Manager, Community Board 3, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Cc us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
See HERE for a letter you can use as a model.

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue Building

Originally built in 1866 as the German Baptist Church, this early Kleindeutschland house of worship at 334 East 14th Street still presides over its modern streetscape due to the boldness of its design. In 1926, the building was converted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and in 1962 it was converted to its present use as Tifereth Israel Town and Village synagogue. It

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue Building

continues to play a vital role in the community, and remains an important landmark in every sense of the word.

To help: The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a Public Hearing for landmark designation of the building Tuesday, March 25th at 9:30 am. Support landmarking:
Testify in person at LPC at 1 Centre Street, see HERE for more information, and let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Submit written testimony: email Robert Tierney, Chair, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Cc us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
See HERE for a letter you can use as a model (scroll down).

What's Next? LESPI Moves Forward

Now that we’ve finished Phase 1 of our survey work and mapped the results, LESPI is in the process of meeting with our sister preservation and community organizations to compare notes and solidify plans for the next steps in preserving the historic East Village / Lower East Side. Time is of the essence - stay tuned.

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. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

“El Sueno” Celebrates Loisaida

This winter, LESPI partnered with Art Loisaida Foundation,(ALF), Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and CHARAS to present "EL Sueno," a multi-faceted art, music and local history project whose theme was the Latino Immigrant's Dreams in the Lower

"El Sueno" exhibit photograph by Marlis Momber

East Side. The two month event kicked off November 6 with an opening reception for the “El Sueno!” visual arts exhibit at the Theater for the New City, which was accompanied by live music performances. Curated by Art Loisaida Director and LESPI Vice President Carolyn Ratcliffe, the show presented the wonderfully diverse work of 18 local Latino visual artists.

El Sueno's program included screenings of period and contemporary films on the squatters movement in the East Village / Loisaida. During the 1970s and into the 80s, local landlords increasingly abandoned their aging residential buildings, or denied basic services such as heat, hot water, and repairs. Residents banded together to move into and rehabilitate the buildings, primarily historic tenements with their own rich histories, using their own labor and materials to make them their own.

In December “Viva Loisiada” by Marlis Momber, “The Heart of Loisaida” by Marcie Reaven & Beni Matais, “11th Street Movement” by Stuart Leigh, and “Umbrella House” by Catalina Santamaria, presented first at the Neighborhood Preservation Center and later at the Lower East Side Girls Club, examined the lives and work of the squatters, many of whom were working artists and writers. The filmmakers relied primarily on interviews and contemporary footage, portraying the

"El Sueno" film screening event at LES Girls Club

often daunting challenges residents faced in making these buildings and streets their homes. Following the films there was lively audience discussion with the filmmakers, who spoke of their work and subject matter; Carolyn Ratcliffe, Carlina Rivera of GOLES and Chino Garcia of CHARAS, who answered questions about the neighborhood during this period; and LESPI President Richard Moses, who spoke about the need for preserving Loisaida’s important history.

El Sueno provided a fascinating and beautiful look at Loisaida / Lower East Side art and history. We want this wonderful multifaceted event to also serve as a model for future cultural events.

Photo-op: LESPI on flickr!

Want a colorful photo history of LESPI? Browse our Flickr site HERE . Choose “Sets” to browse albums, including LESPI neighborhood petitioning and building survey sessions, lectures, tours, parties, and a lot of East Village / Lower East Side architecture. Don’t miss this very interesting collection!

Lower East Side tour at Gus's Pickles

Photos by Richard Moses and courtesy panoramio.com, unless otherwise noted

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 Lower East Side below Houston Street, 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.

 

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 129

Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in /home/onnojan/hosted/lespi-nyc.org/templates/ja_purity/html/pagination.php on line 135


Page 2 of 6

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