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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.

 
Fall 2013

Landmark Tifereth Israel Synagogue Building!

In 1966 - almost 50 years ago – the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission calendared the Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue building for Individual Landmark designation, as one of its very early proposed designations (the LPC began its first public hearings for landmarking buildings in 1965).

Last October, amidst reports that the congregation may seek to substantially alter the building or

ca. 1916.
redevelop the site, LESPI along with other local neighborhood and preservation organizations advocated for the Commission to move on the building’s overdue landmark designation. LPC quickly scheduled a public hearing for the building, then postponed it until early 2014, with the final date still to be determined.

The building's history reflects demographic changes in the Lower East Side. In 1866 the congregation of the First German Baptist Church constructed the building at the outskirts of the LES’s Kleindeutschland neighborhood – Little Germany. In 1926 it became a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and its steeples were replaced with onion domes. The Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue arrived in 1962. The building’s bold and distinctive architecture, which remains remarkably intact from its original construction, proudly proclaims itself on the streetscape. It remains one of a diminishing collection of historic religious structures in the historic Lower East Side.

Please write to LPC Chair Robert Tierney to show your support for landmarking this important building as quickly as possible, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Feel free to borrow from LESPI’s letter shown here, and cc us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Thank you!

Tifereth Israel Synagogue building today.

Solving the Tenement Puzzle Lecture Dispels Myths

On September 25, Rob Hollander presented - to a full house - an illustrated lecture on NYC tenement architecture for LESPI at the Neighborhood Preservation Center. His lively talk included NYC’s 19th and early 20th century political, economic and social trends, immigration, real estate development, and culture. With the help of photographs, maps and other illustrations, Rob debunked many popular misconceptions about tenement architecture and life in the Lower East Side at that time.

Today, we have a seemingly relentless new construction boom in the LES. New Yorkers unhappy about this influx of massive new high-rises that dwarf and destroy the surrounding low scale, beautifully ornamented tenement buildings seek landmark protection for the area’s historic streetscapes. LESPI is at the forefront of this effort.

After the lecture the audience was treated to a wine and cheese social. Check LESPI's website and Facebook page for future sponsored lectures and events!

Rob Hollander, at the Neighborhood Preservation Center.

LESPI at 10th and Stuyvesant Streets Block Party

Sparkling jewelry, antique toys, rare books, colorful bric-a-brac, vintage clothes….in September LESPI attended the 10th and Stuyvesant Streets Block Party, our outreach table an island in a sea of collectibles, live music, and snacking treats.

Equipped with only LESPI literature, petitions, a slideshow, and friendly patter, LESPI members greeted passersby – young, old, long-time residents, students and tourists – who stopped by to say hello, learn about the historic East Village / Lower East Side, and sign on to our campaign to save the neighborhood’s historic streetscapes.

LESPI Advisers, Bruce Monroe, Eileen Kim and Murray Levi (standing) at last September's block party.

But perhaps the best advertisement for preservation was the block party itself, which buzzed with life within the backdrop of the beautiful St. Mark’s Historic District, demonstrating just how wonderfully our historic streets enrich our daily lives.

Be sure to visit us at our tabling sessions during the coming year - check Facebook for where we’ll be when. We thank the Neighborhood Preservation Center for their assistance, and the 10th and Stuyvesant Streets Block Association and Marilyn Appleberg, Association President and LESPI Adviser, for a great day of LESPI outreach, personal shopping, and fun.

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!

Looking Up in the Lower East Side

By Klay-James Enos

Since September, I have been interning for LESPI as part of an effort to complete the mapping of the historic buildings in the area below Houston Street. I grew up in the East Village, so I have a close familiarity with the neighborhood, yet over the past few months the surroundings have transformed before my eyes. Previously, preoccupied by ground-level concerns, I rarely stopped to observe a tenement cornice or a window lintel. But working with LESPI has exposed me to the historic artistry, ornamentation, and architecture that had lain above my awareness.

My surveying usually began in the morning, when the light was best for photography, and the least number of people were on the street. Surprisingly, few asked why I was taking pictures of buildings. Maybe they assumed from my look that I was an art student. (My project? “Every Building on Stanton Street.”) In a month, I covered an area from Houston to Water Street, with a couple of excursions in the East Village. If you live in the area, it's possible you saw me, with my homemade shoulder-strapped clipboard, stepping perilously into the middle of the street to snap a picture of a building's facade.

Klay-James Enos (left) with LESPI board member Britton Baine.

In this area, the architectural styles change as suddenly as the faces of the community, from predominantly Latino to Hasidic Jewish at the turn of a corner. Some of my favorite buildings are those with human features: neoclassical figures, charming putti, and names like “Henrietta.” The more you look at this architecture, the more you notice it looking back at you.

Growing up in a period that coincides with the area's gentrification has been a lesson in diminished expectations, but it feels important again to be a part of a movement to safeguard the neighborhood's historic legacy. These buildings are the face of the Lower East Side and have made such a vibrant community possible. I would recommend that you too join LESPI's efforts—the historic districting of the area is a cause worth fighting for.

October Six to Celebrate Tour of the Lower East Side

In October, as part of the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrate program, Eric Ferrara, Director of Lower East Side History Project and a Lower East Side Preservation Initiative Adviser, conducted a Lower East Side walking tour, which started on East Houston Street then wound its way south to Grand Street. Eric’s spellbinding tour included a wealth of information from his extensive research into local history, as well as special insights acquired from growing up on the LES in a family with long and extensive roots in the area.

Here are some of the places Eric brought us:

The Sunshine Theater on East Houston Street: the building traces its roots to a Dutch Reformed Protestant church and later German Evangelical church. However the theater, as it appears to us now, dates from the early 20th century when the area, dominated by Yiddish language theaters, was known as the “Jewish Rialto.”

Orchard Street: long one of the premier shopping destinations of the LES, Orchard Street still retains many longstanding clothing stores and some very interesting storefronts and architecture. And it’s still a great place to find a bargain.

Economy Candy on Rivington Street: founded in 1937, Economy Candy is “an old-fashioned, family-owned candy store that sells hundreds of kinds of chocolates, candies, nuts, dried fruits; including halvah, sugar free candy and of course all the old time candy you had when you were a kid.” The store is a bastion of delicious treats that’s a colorful aesthetic concoction as well.

Kossar’s Bialys on Grand Street and The Pickle Guys on Essex Street: the tour stopped for a taste of the neighborhood’s traditional LES Jewish foods at these great stores: we stocked up on half sours and various other pickle delights, then Eric treated us to fresh bialys – a real comfort food indulgence!

Eric Ferrara leads LES tour.

Throughout the tour Eric showed fascinating archival photos, pointed out architectural gems, and provided a cornucopia of historical information on such diverse topics as child labor, vaudeville, and local politics. Keep your eyes open for Eric’s Lower East Side History Project tours of the area. LESPI is part of HDC’s Six to Celebrate program for 2013, which has provided a strong and sustained boost to our efforts to preserve the historic East Village / Lower East Side.

Eric Ferrara during tour, using archival photos.

Photos by Bruce Monroe and Richard Moses, and courtesy nycago.org

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 2013

Mary Help of Christians Demolished

EDITOR'S NOTE: Despite a strong and sustained effort from parishioners, preservationists, community activists and local residents, the beautiful Mary Help of Christians Church, rectory and school were demolished in August to make way for pricey residential development and big box retail. The church was built in 1917 for the East Village / Lower East Side’s Italian-American immigrant community, and over several generations faithfully served the neighborhood’s diverse Catholic population. No longer.

Demolition underway. Photo by Bobby Williams, EV GRIEVE

Although the last two years have seen great local preservation successes such as the landmark designation of the East Village / Lower East Side and East 10th Street Historic Districts, the former Van Tassell and Kearney Horse Auction Mart on E 13th Street, the Bialystoker Home on East Broadway, and the former Citizens Savings Bank on Canal Street, among others, there have also been some significant losses. Barbara Zay, a Preservation Associate at the Historic Districts Council, discusses how, after the Mary Help of Christians demolition, to move forward:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In a neighborhood as culturally, architecturally and historically rich as the Lower East Side, it can be easy to take for granted the preservation of its built environment. Because if a building is old and beautiful, or if an important event took place there, or if it serves as an anchor for its community, someone somewhere must be doing something to safeguard it, right?

And with organizations like the Real Estate Board of New York spouting off numbers meant to convince New Yorkers that we’ve done enough to protect our architectural heritage, how is it possible that such illustrious Lower East Side buildings as 35 Cooper Square (a rare Federal building that was one of the Bowery’s oldest), 135 Bowery (another Federal gem that had even been given landmark status by the city), and most recently Mary Help of Christians (a grand façade and a hallowed ground), could each be lost to the wrecking ball? And how is it that such distinctive places as St. Mark’s Place and the tenement-lined streetscapes of Orchard Street have not yet been designated as historic districts?

Church facade, pre-demolition.

The answer to all of these questions is that historic preservation is, was, and will always be a community-driven endeavor that relies on active participation and vigilance from a broad range of local residents, business owners and advocates. Landmark or not, a significant site requires our eyes, ears and voices. The Historic Districts Council, New York’s citywide advocate for historic buildings, is proud to work with LESPI, one of its 2013 Six to Celebrate.

LESPI, in its role as watchdog, relies on everyone’s efforts, whether joining a rally, sending letters to politicians, testifying at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, or just engaging in the conversation. All of these things make a big impact.

If there are lessons to be learned from the demolition of Mary Help of Christians, they are that we must continue to fight for our built heritage and that we can never become complacent. Our historic buildings provide physical links to the past, contribute to the urban experience, and enhance our quality of life. Their loss chips away at neighborhood character and our own sense of place. After all, it is the broad network of diverse neighborhoods that make New York City wonderful as a whole.

6 to Celebrate East Village Walking Tour

If you attended the Historic Districts Council’s 6 to Celebrate walking tour last June (the East Village / Lower East Side / LESPI is one of HDC’s 6 for 2013), you were in for a delicious surprise - preservationist Elizabeth Finkelstein led a wonderful “off the beaten path” exploration which highlighted the neighborhood’s lesser-known history, architecture and preservation

Elizabeth Finkelstein leading East Village tour in June.

challenges. The tour’s revelations included these tasty tidbits:

- The former Wheatsworth Bakery at 444 East 10th Street, an Art Deco / Viennese Secessionist style bakery factory built in 1927-28, was known for its Wheatsworth crackers as well as for inventing the Milk-Bone dog biscuit in 1908.

- 143-145 Avenue D originally served as the Dry Dock Banking House. At first glance a typical late 19th c. vernacular building, the facade still shows traces of its original 1827 construction.

- The recently landmarked Van Tassell and Kearney Horse Auction Mart at 126-28 East 13th Street, built in 1903-04, catered to New York’s elite families, including the Vanderbilts. During World War II the building served as an assembly-line training center for women, and later housed the studio of renowned modern artist Frank Stella.

SAVE THE DATE!

Solving the Tenement Puzzle: Dispelling Myths and Misperceptions of an Architectural Vernacular

An illustrated lecture by Rob Hollander on NYC tenement architecture in the context of local political, economic and social history

September 25, 2013, 6:30PM at Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street Suggested donation: $10

For more info or to reserve see HERE or email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Six to Celebrate Tour of Lower East Side

Tour the historic Lower East Side with Lower East Side History Project Executive Director and author Eric Ferrara
Sunday, October 6 at 11:00AM
See HERE for more info

Bright Lights, Big City: Neon Signage in the Lower East Side

Seemingly every color of the rainbow, every script, letterform (font), and line drawing has found its way into neon signage at some point over its 100 year history. The first inklings of interest in gas illuminated lighting extend back at least to the 17th century. By the end of the 19th century the technology had developed to where gas tube lighting was starting to be used as rudimentary lighting in architectural settings.

By the 1920s neon signage technology had matured and the new aesthetic was all the rage. Its popularity is evident in old photographs of New York – think Times Square - and in Hollywood films of the period – think Busby Berkeley.

However interest in neon signage as a sophisticated advertising medium began to fade as early as the late 1930s. Its seemingly ubiquitous use and flashy aesthetics led to popular distaste. Soon it became associated with “seedy” urban neighborhoods and business establishments. By the 1950s and 60s neon’s supremacy as outdoor advertising was supplanted by other forms of signage. Only recently has popular interest in this medium reawakened.

New York’s East Village / Lower East Side has had its share of great neon signage. Many signs still exist, such as: Veniero’s Pasticceria on East 11th Street, Gringer & Sons on 1st Avenue, Block Drugs on 2nd Avenue, and Russ and Daughters on Houston Street. Some have been lost: Ratner’s on Delancy Street, Jade Mountain / Chow Mein on 3rd Avenue, and Second Avenue Deli on 2nd Avenue come to mind.

In June, LESPI with the Historic Districts Council sponsored Bright Lights, Big City: A History of Neon Signage in NYC’s Lower East Side, featuring author and historian Tom Rinaldi. Tom’s fascinating and strikingly illustrated lecture covered neon’s history,

Tom Rinaldi lectures on LES neon signage

technology, and aesthetic impact on NYC’s Lower East Side, based on his recently published book New York Neon. Afterward, everyone nibbled on delicious Italian cookies courtesy of Veniero’s Pasticceria, sipped wine, and traded notes on favorite neon signage.

At the Edge: East Village Art in the 1980s

Keith Haring. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Jill Moser. Gran Fury. David Wojnarowicz. For a relatively brief time these artists and others like them, whose artistic styles, techniques and personalities could vary widely, somehow forged a strong and vibrant East Village aesthetic whose influence remains with us today.

In July LESPI with Smart Clothes Gallery sponsored At the Edge: East Village Art in the 1980s at the wonderful Smart Clothes space on Stanton Street. The highlight: Sur Rodney Sur’s beautifully illustrated lecture on East Village art, artists, and culture during this period. As a mainstay of the East Village art world, including as co-director of the highly influential Gracie Mansion gallery from 1983-88, Sur Rodney discussed the many artists and their works from an academic perspective as well as from his own rich professional and personal experience.

Sur Rodney Sur’s talk drew from his rich professional and personal experience.

At the Edge refers to the East Village’s location at the edge of Manhattan, physically and economically (at that time), as well as the sense that during the 80s this community stood at the precipices of both local gentrification and the devastation of AIDS. But this all too brief East Village artistic movement left its mark: perhaps because of the pioneering work of these innovative souls, artists can now express with less reticence the diversity of viewpoints, cultures, and orientations that make our city great.

After the lecture, before heading out into the exceptionally hot summer night, LESPI members,

LESPI's Richard Moses, Smart Clothes Gallery's Paul Bridgewater, and Sur Rodney Sur

friends, artists, and art lovers perused Smart Clothes Gallery’s exhibit Thrills and mingled over wine, cheese and art-infused conversation. A beautiful evening!

Photos by Bruce Monroe, Richard Moses and Bobby Williams

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.

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!

 
Spring 2013

It's a Celebration!

We really had something to celebrate: after much hard work - including petitioning, testifying at public hearings, letter writing, coalition building, and many other forms of outreach – we were thrilled when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission stepped up and landmarked the phenomenal East 10th Street and East Village / Lower East Side Historic Districts last year.

So on May 9 nearly 100 people joined us for a party at the Bathhouse Studios at E 11th Street. There were a few brief congratulatory speeches – Richard Moses, president of LESPI, proclaimed that the districts were,

to his knowledge, “the first historic districts landmarked primarily for their tenement building architecture and role in immigration history.”

He thanked Councilmember Rosie Mendez for her critical support, our other local elected officials, Community Board 3 and especially the Landmarks Subcommittee, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, our sister preservation and community organizations, and everyone who worked so hard on these designations.

Mostly, however, the party’s focus was on chatting, eating, and drinking – it was widely agreed that the celebration was one of the most fun events we’ve held to date (which is saying something)!

The party was hosted and sponsored by Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI), co-hosted by Bathhouse Studios, cosponsored Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and East Village Community Coalition, and supported by friends Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Friends of the Lower East Side and Lower East Side History Project.

We heartily thank the Bathhouse Studios, especially Alyssa Adams, Historic District Council’s 6 to Celebrate Program, especially Barbara Zay, and Kehila Kedosha Janina on Broome St. for their ongoing support; and Carmel on 108th St in Forest Hills, El Camion Cantina on 1st Ave., Mastiha Shop on Orchard St., Metropolitan Citymarket on 2nd Ave., Souvlaki GR on Stanton St., and Veniero's Pasticceria on E 11th St, for their generosity and delicious food and refreshments!

LPC Landmarks Bialystoker!

On May 21 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to landmark the historic Bialystoker Home - a great victory for the preservation of the historic Lower East Side!

See the LPC's designation report for a fascinating history of this important LES building.

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!

Mary Help of Christians Needs Our Help Now

Chanting “don’t tear it down!” a large group of neighborhood residents, parishioners, and preservationists rallied on May 16 to protest the planned demolition of Mary Help of Christians on E 12th St. The church complex, consisting of a beautiful, Italian classical style church dating from 1917 and a historic rectory and school building, played a central role in the life of the Lower East Side’s Italian American immigrant community over several generations. The church’s bold architecture continues to dominate the streetscape.

Citing the church as “one of the most historic buildings in one of the most historic neighborhoods in our city and country,” LESPI president Richard Moses emphasized that the site’s developer, Douglas Steiner, needs only “a little creativity” to find a way to preserve rather than demolish the church: the design for his new luxury apartment building could readily utilize the site’s existing large open space without requiring demolition. Adding another layer to an already complex and historically important site: the day before the rally we learned that, prior to the church’s construction, the land had served as a Catholic cemetery, and that thousands of people may still be buried there.

LESPI's Richard Moses addresses the Mary Help of Christians Rally

The rally, initiated and sponsored by LESPI with other neighborhood and preservation groups, received a lot of press coverage, including a spot on NBC’s 11:00PM news. But to date Mr. Steiner has declined to meet with us or, to our knowledge, even comment on the planned demolition. So we’re looking for the rally to galvanize further actions opposing the demolition, hopefully resulting in Mr. Steiner deciding to preserve rather than destroy the church.

Mary Help of Christians Church on E 12th Street

Lower East Side History Month

Earlier this month we attended the kickoff meeting for “Lower East Side History Month”, an annual celebration starting in May 2014 that will highlight the broad and rich history of the LES and explore how it can inform and inspire our present and future. The project welcomes diverse community-based groups and individuals to participate through a variety of public events, exhibits, tours, and learning opportunities. "It was like spontaneous combustion - all the many LES groups represented at the meeting were so eager, with splendid ideas on how to contribute toward making this event fabulous!" said Marie Beirne, LESPI Board member, who attended the kick-off. LESPI plans to participate fully during May 2014: we’ll post events on our website as we get closer to the date. If you’d like to get involved contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Photos by David Jarrett, Richard Moses and Barbara Zay

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 2012-13

NY City Council Says Yes to East Village / Lower East Side Historic District!

NY City Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee’s Public Hearing January 29 on the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, landmarked just last October, was critical: by law the Council has the right to uphold, reject, or decrease the size of an historic district designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Public turnout for the Hearing was impressive, with approximately 20 people speaking in support of the district, and 3 against.

Here are some excerpts (in support, of course!):

"The scale, materials and ornament of [the district’s] historic buildings provide us today with a profoundly rich urban environment….Historic district designation is the only way to effectively ensure that what we cherish about our neighborhoods will survive in the years to come."
– LESPI testimony given by Richard Moses, President

Councilmember Rosie Mendez proclaims her support for the historic district

"What makes the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District so significant is the rich tapestried story that the buildings tell, longitudinally, from an immigrant-centric, labor and social activism perspective. …. The architecture, institutions and cultural realms that remain and will be preserved under this plan reflect the shared histories, substantial contributions and religious faiths of successive waves of German, Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, Chinese and Latino residents."
- NY City Councilmember Rosie Mendez

Carolyn Ratcliffe, Marie Beirne, and Jean Standish of LESPI provide testimony

"…tens of millions [come] to our city annually to absorb our cultural, social and architectural history, as well as some making the pilgrimage to visit their roots where their ancestors landed in NYC.…they and their children’s children will return again and again to experience the joy of having walked in the steps of their ancestors."
– Marie Beirne, LESPI Board of Directors

"I believe the landmark designation plan as proposed will be an important step toward ensuring that the neighborhood I love can withstand the forces that would alter it so radically that it would no longer be a place I (and so many others) could call home."
– Jim Eigo, East Village Resident

Thankfully, and due to the strong support of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, LESPI and other local community and preservation groups, residents, and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Subcommittee voted 5-0 in support of the district with its boundaries intact.

Then, on February 6, the full City Council ratified the Subcommittee’s approval.

The East Village / Lower East Side Historic District designation is now finalized: a great reason for us all to celebrate!

LPC Hears Bialystoker!

The campaign to landmark the historic Bialystoker Home took a big step forward Tuesday morning, February 12, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a Public Hearing attended by more than 40 supporters of landmark designation. Close to 20 people spoke in favor. Significantly, Gary Ambrose, a member of the Bialystoker Board, stated that the Board was not opposed to designation. He was followed by Council Member Margaret Chin, other elected officials, experts on Jewish art and

Bialystoker Home on East Broadway. Photo: Edenpictures.

architecture, and local architects who all spoke in favor of landmarking. LESPI provided written testimony in support. Linda Jones, Joyce Mendelsohn (both members of LESPI’s Board of Advisors), and Mitchell Grubler, founding members of Friends of the Bialystoker Home, Carolyn Ratcliffe of Community Board 3 and LESPI, other neighborhood and preservation groups, and numerous local residents expressed their support.

The next step is for the Commission to schedule a vote on designation. We believe the prognosis is good – check our Facebook page for updates on this very important Lower East Side

Newsletter images by Richard Moses unless otherwise noted

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 “Una Nuova Vita: Italian-American Immigration and Culture in NYC’s Lower East Side” Evening a Hit

They came mostly from southern Italy: the regions of Sicily, Campania, Abruzzo, and Calabria. They travelled in cramped steamships across a wide ocean to make a new life: una nuova vita. They arrived at Ellis Island and, if deemed healthy, continued to Manhattan and the mainland beyond to make their new homes. For centuries Italians have been moving to this country, but from the 1880s to the 1920s some 4 million Italian immigrants, the largest influx, arrived in New York by this arduous route.

The new immigrants typically moved into Manhattan’s Lower East Side, into a large community located around what later came to be called Little Italy. The area extended south to Canal Street, north into what is now called the East Village, and west into southern Greenwich Village. This broad swath, the largest Little Italy in the U.S., was actually several neighborhoods,

Mulberry Street ca. 1900. Photo: earlypics.com.

each with distinct customs, culture, and dialect based on the residents’ home region. Although the immigrants shared a pride in their native culture, they generally came from great economic and social hardship, and sought with much hard work to assimilate to their new country. Within a few generations, the immigrant families had mostly left Little Italy for East Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and then the suburbs. They found success in American society. The few blocks of Little Italy we see today are a small reminder of this thriving community of generations ago.

On Tuesday, February 5 LESPI sponsored: "Una Nuova Vita: Italian-American Immigration and Culture in New York City’s Lower East Side," at the Italian American Museum - a beautifully preserved historic Italian-American banking hall on Mulberry Street.

Dr. Joseph Scelsca speaking at Una Nuova Vita Event.

Museum President Dr. Joseph Scelsca gave a spirited and well-illustrated lecture on the history of Italian immigration. Afterward, audience members – almost 40 people attended - offered their own families’ stories, enjoyed delicious Italian cookies courtesy of Veniero's Pasticceria on East 11th Street and, of course, sipped

Enjoying the century-old Italian American banking hall, museum exhibits, and dolci Italiani (sweets) from Veniero's

vino. Stay tuned for future LESPI Lower East Side cultural events as our series progresses – contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you’d like to be added to our email list. Molto buono (very good)!

LESPI Chosen for Historic District Council’s Six to Celebrate 2013!

LESPI / the historic East Village / Lower East Side was recently chosen as one of the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrate neighborhoods for 2013. We’ve now started working with HDC to expand our outreach, refine our message, and improve our operations. HDC kicked off the this year’s program January 29 with a Six to Celebrate Launch Party

From left: HDC's Simeon Bankoff, LESPI's Richard Moses, NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and LESPI's Philip Van Aver, Joyce Mendelsohn, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Jean Standish, and Marcia Ikonomopoulos. Photo courtesy HDC.

University Settlement on Eldridge Street, attended by representatives of this year’s Six, last year’s Six, HDC Board members, preservationists, and community members. We’re looking forward to a productive year working with this august and very in-the-know city-wide historic preservation organization!

Six to Celebrate 2013 Launch Party. Photo courtesy HDC.

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.

 
Fall 2012

Now Landmarked: the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District!

Its time had finally come: now the East Village – originally part of Manhattan’s Lower East Side – has sizable historic district landmark protection to help preserve its irreplaceable collection of historic rowhouses, ornate tenement buildings, stately religious sites, and proud commercial structures. When the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, at its October 9 Public Meeting, voted resoundingly 6-1 to landmark the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, LPC staff noted that most of the district’s

Landmarks Preservation Commission October 9 Public Meeting

streetscapes have not changed substantially in over 75 years. With all the demolitions and large-scale development going on in the East Village, if the district hadn’t been designated now it would have been too late.

All of the Commissioners who voted yes spoke enthusiastically for designation. They noted the architectural and historic importance of the district’s buildings and streetscapes, and its incredible cultural history as a home to immigrants over the last two centuries and to an artistic, music, literary and political life that has resounded around the country and world.

However, one surprising, actually disturbing note during the Public Meeting process was the exclusion – banishment, really – of six buildings along First Avenue. This had not been previously announced.

Final boundaries of East Village / LES Historic District

During the Meeting LPC staff noted that these buildings were left out of the proposed district because they had been too compromised by ornament removal and other insensitive alterations to the point where they lacked an architectural style. But upon closer look, it’s clear that this applied to only some of the buildings. About half clearly contribute to the district. And as importantly, these properties had formed a “bridge” between the west and east portions of the district. Now, with the properties removed, the district is actually composed of two smaller districts, with no connection between them. So a person exploring the east district could one day come across a wall of glass-front modern buildings along First Avenue and never have a clue that the other half of the district is across the street and just down the block. LESPI is following up on this issue to see what can be done.

In all, however, we’re very happy with the new East Village / LES Historic District, and thank the many residents who came out and spoke for the need to preserve what’s special about this very historic neighborhood; our colleagues from other community

and preservation groups that worked hard with us to get the district passed; the local elected officials, particularly NY City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who actively supported the designation; and the LPC for moving very quickly from its June Public Hearing to landmark designation just four months later.

But this is no time to rest on one’s laurels. We need to keep moving as quickly as possible toward the landmarking of the historically intact areas of St. Mark’s Place, the blocks to the north, and around Tompkins Square Park, as well as the areas south of Houston Street. The wrecking ball is always fast at our heels – so there’s no time to lose!

LESPI Celebrates Our First 5 Years!

In case you haven’t heard, LESPI turned 5 this year! To celebrate we held a Birthday Bash for our friends and supporters at the Smart Clothes gallery at 154 Stanton Street. What a great time! Over the course of the evening a stream of people came by to express birthday wishes, have a bite of birthday cake and a

glass of wine, and admire the gallery’s phenomenal show “Crossing Houston.” Curated by Hall Bromm and Gracie Mansion, the show focused on artists working in the East Village during the 1980s – a period that LESPI sees as having critical importance in East Village cultural and artistic history.

We want to thank Paul Bridgewater and Justin Hysell for hosting the event at their gallery, Veniero's Pastry Shop on E 11th Street for contributing delicious

birthday cake, our business supporters Emigrant Savings Bank and Veselka on 2nd Avenue for their assistance, and LESPI’s many members and friends who keep our organization vital and moving ahead with due speed. We’re looking forward to our next five years of preservation activism!

Newsletter images by David Jarrett, Bruce Monroe, and 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. 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 Looks South

Anyone who tells you that if you’ve seen one tenement building you’ve seen them all has probably never been to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or at least been there and really looked at the architecture. During LESPI’s first preliminary survey below Houston Street we saw a sampling of almost every type of tenement building – Pre-Law, Old Law, and New Law, with facades ranging from simple to ornate to extravagant – on streets peppered with historic commercial buildings, Federal era rowhouses, and synagogues.

It seemed that we saw every style of cornice, window lintel, entry surround, and decorative embellishment, often competing with each other aesthetically from building to building. Britton Baine, who led the survey, Richard Moses, Marcia Ikonomopoulos, and Rob Hollander moved like a posse through the streets, noting levels of historic architectural integrity and photo documenting street views, facades and ornamentation. What we also saw during our survey was ongoing destruction of historic cornices and other irreplaceable architectural features, without regard to the effect on the community’s heritage - which reminded us that we must move extremely fast to create landmark districts below Houston Street before the buildings are stripped or demolished.

LESPI survey team members Rob Hollander, Marcia Ikonomopoulos and Britton Baine

At the end of our survey session, Marcia, Museum Director at the landmarked 1927 Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue at 280 Broome Street, treated us to a private tour of the historic synagogue’s beautiful interior and the museum’s fascinating exhibit. We also were lucky enough to experience a delicious Greek lunch in the synagogue dining room.

If you’re interested in helping us survey the Lower East Side below Houston Street and have a background that involves preservation, architecture or history, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Thank you!

A Brief History of LESPI

LESPI’s all about landmarking, so we were very happy this year to reach a landmark of our own - our 5th birthday. But as we celebrate our recent landmarking successes and look toward the future, people may want to know, how did LESPI begin?

In 2007, Richard Moses and Britton Baine, both preservation architects and professional colleagues, happened to attend a screening of Slumming It: Myth and Culture on the Bowery, Scott Elliott's historical documentary film about that famous street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The film inspired them to want to help preserve the Lower East Side's rich history and architecture, especially in light of the real-estate development pressures on the neighborhood. Not wanting to stand by and watch as 150 years or more of history was lost piecemeal to the construction of generic high-rise condominium towers, they decided to form a group that would seek to protect what remained of the historic Lower East Side and East Village.

Richard and Britton along with other volunteers began holding brainstorming meetings to determine the best way forward. Within a few months, they were fortunate to be joined by Carolyn Ratcliffe, prominent in the East Village's artistic, cultural and political world, whose extensive experience with not-for-profit organizations provided a wealth of practical help and guidance. With the expertise provided by Carolyn, Philip Van Aver, an artist and local preservation activist, and a handful of other dedicated preservationist and community volunteers, the as-yet-unnamed group began to survey the East Village’s streetscapes and reach out to other local groups to coordinate efforts.

One of LESPI’s first decisions was to determine its boundaries of interest: the historic Lower East Side, which as defined by the Encyclopedia of New York extended from E 14th Street south to below Chinatown and from Broadway to the East River. Soon after, we agreed upon a name: Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, more conveniently known as LESPI. With the help of a grant from NY City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, we were able to secure the services of graphic designer Onno de Jong to create our web site - LESPI-nyc.org - and logo, solidifying our identity as an historic preservation organization.

In 2011 we incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, and subsequently gathered an esteemed Board of Directors and Board of Advisors that adroitly steer our organization through the stiff headwinds of the city’s landmarking process (for a listing of Board members and bios, see http://www.lespi-nyc.org/presentation.html). We have three standing committees: Survey and Mapping, Outreach and Events, and Oral History.

From early on, LESPI worked simultaneously to educate the public about the importance of the Lower East Side to both local and national history, to identify and document what historic architecture was still extant throughout the neighborhood, and to advocate for the preservation of our community through landmarking.

With the assistance of many volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds and strong alliances with other groups, we could count many tangible preservation successes. But a major turning point came in January 2011 when LESPI met with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission senior staff to request that the LPC pursue, as quickly as possible, the creation of landmark districts in the East Village. In so many words, we were told “yes.”

Right away LESPI went to work, actively petitioning in the neighborhood to gather and show popular support (gathering over 1,000 signatures for landmark designation), meeting with elected officials and LPC to press our concerns, and strengthening our alliances with other groups to help move the landmarking process along. The result: two new historic districts in the East Village / Lower East Side encompassing some 350 buildings: the East 10th Street Historic District designated last January and the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District designated this month, an impressively quick response from the LPC.

LESPI petitioning at Tompkins Square 2011

We’re now expanding our efforts to south of Houston Street. We look forward to continuing our successful track record as we move to help preserve more of the historic Lower East Side. We hope you join us for our next 5 years!

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.

 
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.

 
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
 
 
Fall 2010

LESPI'S RECENT WORK

carolyn getting signatures
Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection at 59 East 2nd Street. Photo courtesy of Barry Munger

LESPI Petition Drive

Sign Me Up!

The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative’s (LESPI) has been getting great public support for our drive to have the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) landmark architecturally and historically important areas of the East Village / Lower East Side. Over the last two months LESPI’s first three petition drives gathered nearly 400 signatures, after just a few of hours of petitioning!

135 Bowery
135 Bowery

Landmark these Sites!

LESPI has been a strong advocate for landmarking individual historic buildings as well as historic districts.

In July LESPI testified in person at and wrote a letter of support to Community Board 3 for landmarking the Orthodox Church in America Cathedral at 59 East 2nd Street (see photo). We joined other community and preservation groups seeking protection for this architecturally important East Village building. Steering Committee member Philip Van Aver’s testimony was mentioned in the newspaper East Villager, and we’ve heard that our presence had a great impact at the Board’s meeting.

We’ve also testified and/or sent letters to the LPC to support landmarking many other EV/LES sites, such as 135 Bowery, 101 Avenue A, 326 and 328 East 4th Street, and we supported the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors drive to have the NYC Department of City Planning downzone the Bowery’s east side.

Web Site Update:

Our web designer Onno de Jong of Circular Creation is updating our web site to include LESPI’s cultural data base, a map with cultural information about the East Village that connects to images of the sites. The first map delineates LESPI’s Tompkins Square study area. We expect to have it on line for viewing within the next few weeks. Check it out at www.LESPI-nyc.org.

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.

LESPI now on Facebook

carolyn getting signatures
Carolyn Ratcliffe and Philip Van Aver collect signatures for LESPI

Search “Lower East Side Preservation Initiative” on Facebook and check out our new site! If you click the “Like” button you’ll receive periodic LESPI updates on Facebook on topics like historic buildings in danger of demolition, NYC Landmarks Commission actions affecting the EV/LES, LESPI petition drive dates, etc. You’ll also be showing support for our cause!

 



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