Lower East Side Preservation Initiative: we’re local residents and preservationists who want to preserve what’s left of the historic architecture and streetscapes of Manhattan’s historic Lower East Side. This area, which is one of the city's - and country's - most diverse and historically rich communities, includes such neighborhoods as the East Village, Lower East Side below Houston St., Chinatown, Little Italy and the Bowery, extending from East 14th Street south to Fulton and Franklin Streets, and Broadway east to the East River. We're a grass roots not-for-profit organization, formed in 2007.
LESPI’s first order of business has been to address preservation of the East Village, where we were instrumental in the creation of two new New York City historic districts. We're now rallying to preserve additional historic areas of the East Village as well as the Lower East Side below Houston Street.
Why does this need to happen?
It needs to happen because the Lower East Side’s historic streetscapes and buildings serve as markers that tell us of an architectural and cultural history that has been central in the development of the city as well as the country, a history that includes generations of immigrants, artists, writers, political activists, and others who helped define who we were and are as a people. Every day now more of the area’s historic tenement, institutional, and community buildings are being destroyed in waves of development that seem out of control. This destruction destroys an important tie we have to those who came before us.
A rezoning of the East Village was recently enacted, will this help preserve its architecture?
This will help. But a lot of the historic buildings are being torn down and replaced with buildings of the same height, or their ornate facades are being removed to create modern structures with no relationship to the other buildings on the street. This is likely to continue without some kind of protection for these structures.
What’s the best way to protect the East Village’s / Lower East Side’s historic streetscapes?
Designation as a New York City Historic District by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is the best way to protect them. This is not necessary for most of the area’s streets, however there are several left that are relatively intact from when they were built in the late 19th century, and these and other historically, architecturally and culturally important streetscapes and buildings deserve protection.
The LPC has been moving in this direction, first focussing on Second Avenue below St. Mark's Place and Tompkins Square North. LESPI was instrumental in the designation of historic districts in these areas, meeting with LPC, gathering petition support for their designation, and forming an alliance with other preservation and community groups to broaden and strengthen the preservation message. Wonderfully, on January 17, 2012 the LPC voted unanimously to landmark the East 10th Street Historic District, a milestone in the preservation of the East Village / LES. This is the first NYC historic district designated in large part because of its ties to immigrant and tenement history and architecture.
Then, on October 9, 2012 the LPC voted to landmark the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, which runs along Second Avenue from 2nd Street to St. Mark's Place, and on East 6th and 7th Streets east of First Avenue..
Landmarking of this district, much larger and more diverse than the East 10th Street Historic District, is another immensely significant step toward the preservation of the community's historic resources. The full NY City Council ratified the district on February 6, 2013, with the strong support of local Councilmember Rosie Mendez, LESPI and other organizations, and local residents.
What is LESPI doing to help?
To spread the word about the importance of landmarking the intact historic architecture and streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side, LESPI on an ongoing basis meets with the LPC staff and local elected officials, works with other neighborhood and preservation groups, and gives testimony at Community Board 3 and LPC public hearings in support. We've also been tabling on Avenue A in front of Tompkins Square Park and Houston Street near the Bowery to discuss the issue with residents, workers and visitors, and ask them to sign our petition for support: so far we've gathered in total over 1,500 petition signatures.
In 2014 LESPI completed Phase 1 of our block by block survey and mapping of the East Village and Lower East Side below Houston Street. The purpose was to identify streets - in addition to the LPC's two new East Village historic districts - that retain a coherent sense of their historic architecture. Typically these are tenement blocks where most of the buildings have remained intact. We've used our survey information to pinpoint where to propose the next historic districts, and are now in the process of reviewing our proposals for new district designations with elected officials and the LPC.
How does LESPI Get Its Message Out There?LESPI spreads the word about the need for preservation of the historic East Village / Lower East Side through our Facebook page updates, web site, quarterly Newsletters, timely Newsflashes, and other printed materials.
We've sponsored more than 25 community and cultural awareness programs, primarily illustrated lectures and walking tours, including:
"Street Art and the Lower East Side" a two part event on July 23 and July 29, 2015 - including an illustrated lecture and panel discussion with author and photographer Yoav Litvin and artist Al Diaz; followed by a live art installation by recognized graffiti artist YesOne outside Clemente Soto Velez Educational and Cultural Center on Suffolk Street.
“Greeks on the Lower East Side - American Stories” - an illustrated lecture by Marcia Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director at Kehila Kedosha Janina synagogue on Broome Street and LESPI Board member, on October 1, 2014.
"On the Block: Capturing the Disappearing Storefronts of NYC's Lower East Side" - an illustrated lecture by James and Karla Murray, photographers and authors of STORE FRONT - the Disappearing Face of New York and New York Nights, at the Neighborhood Preservation Center on May 28, 2014, as part of LESPI's contribution to the celebration of Lower East Side History Month in May.
"Moveable Feast: An Afternoon in the Lower East Side" - a tour of the Bowery and LES by theatre historian Cezar Del Valle and a kosher Greek-American lunch at the historic Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue on Broome Street on May 18, 2014.
"Solving the Tenement Puzzle" - a lecture by Rob Hollander at the Neighborhood Preservation Center in September 2013.
“Una Nuova Vita: Italian-American Immigration and Culture in New York City’s Lower East Side” - a lecture by Dr. Joseph Scelsca at the Italian American Museum, which included Italian desserts from Veniero's Pasticceria on E. 11th Street.
“Germany in America: Kleindeutschland and New York City’s Lower East Side” - a lecture by Dr. Richard Haberstroh at the Neighborhood Preservation Center in February 2012, which also featured German food and beer from Zum Schneider, a German biergarten on Avenue C.
"Jewish Rialto" historic Yiddish Theater district walking tour in June, 2012, led by theater historian Cezar del Valle, with Herb Latner, a Yiddish Theater child actor during the 1950s and 60s, and Dan Allen, a preservation architect responsible for the restoration of the Yiddish Art Theater on Second Avenue.
We sponsor neighborhood outreach events such as the Let’s Save the East Village / Lower East Side – Neighbors and Friends meet and greet at Theater for the New City in January 2011, and “Art and Architecture Slam” at the landmarked Bathhouse Studios on E 11th St in October 2011.
In 2013 LESPI / the East Village / Lower East Side was chosen to be one of the Historic Districts Council's Six to Celebrate. We'll be working with HDC throughout the year to expand our outreach, hone our message, and drum up support for landmarking new historic districts in the East Village and Lower East Side below Houston Street.
Check out photos of these events at LESPI's Flickr site.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed the Lower East Side in its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places:
“Few places in America can boast such a rich tapestry of history, culture and architecture as New York’s Lower East Side. However, this legendary neighborhood which has served as the first home for waves of immigrants since the 18th century — is now undergoing rapid development. New hotels and condominium towers are being erected across the area, looming large over the original tenement streetscape. As this building trend shows no sign of abating, it threatens to erode the fabric of the community and wipe away the collective memory of generations of immigrant families.”
What's LESPI's organizational structure?
LESPI is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation registered in New York State. We are a "grass roots" volunteer organization. To steer the organization, LESPI has a Board of Directors and Board of Advisers.
LESPI's Board of Directors is:Richard Moses, President: As a preservation architect in New York City for more than 25 years, Richard has a wide variety of preservation-related experience with the city’s private, governmental, and not-for-profit sectors. He is a founding member of LESPI. Carolyn Ratcliffe, Vice President: Carolyn is Artistic Director for Art Loisaida Foundation, Development Director for Downtown Music Productions, Curator for Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, President of the Lower East Side Performing Arts and serves on Community Board 3's Arts and Culture Task Force, the Parks Committee and is Chair of the Landmarks Subcommittee. She has been with LESPI since 2008, and has taken a leading role in the group's growth and development. Britton Baine, Treasurer: Britton is a preservation architect who has been working professionally on historic preservation and restoration-related architectural projects in New York City and the surrounding area since 2004. He is a founding member of LESPI. Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Secretary: Marcia is on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of Kehila Kedosha Janina and is the Museum Director of the synagogue museum. She is also President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry and, in that capacity, successfully nominated Kahal Shalom Synagogue on the island of Rhodes in Greece as one of the World Monument Fund’s 100 Most Endangered Sites in 1999, enabling the saving of the synagogue built in 1575. An activist and a preservationist, Marcia has been a member of LESPI since 2012.
Erik Bottcher: has been with LESPI since 2014.Bruce Monroe: A resident of the East Village for over 35 years and former art director for financial and real estate industry trade publications, Bruce is pleased that neighborhood preservationist has been added to his resume of community activism and volunteering, which also includes many years of providing design, graphics and marketing support for organizations such as the LGBT Community Center and SAGE. Bruce has been with LESPI since 2010. Jean Standish: Jean has been living in the East Village for over 40 years and, as a result of the drastic changes in the community, has become an ardent preservationist, including serving as an active member of the Boards of LESPI and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors. She has been with LESPI since 2010.
LESPI's Board of Advisers is:Marilyn Appleberg: a writer by profession, Marilyn has been an advocate for her East Village/ Lower East Side neighborhood for four decades. Her focus has been the protection, beautification and in 1984, the extension of the St Mark’s Historic District, one of the first designated in Manhattan in 1969. In 2012 Marilyn was honored with a Village award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recognizing 40 years as a “community leader and neighborhood activist.” She's been with LESPI since 2012, and is the author of LESPI's book "East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side." Simeon Bankoff has served as Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, a New York City preservation advocacy organization that provides technical and strategic support to groups and individuals to help save historic buildings, since 2000. Previously, he worked for a number of other New York City preservation organizations, including the Historic House Trust where he worked to acquire 18th and 19th century farmhouses for the city, and the NY Landmarks Preservation Foundation, where he helped initiate the Cultural Medallions plaque program which commemorate the residences of notable New Yorkers such as Jack Kerouac, George Gershwin and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Simeon has been with LESPI since 2016. Marie Beirne: Marie is a New York City neighborhood historic preservationist with over two decades of experience. Marie worked with the Coalition to Save City & Suburban Homes on the successful landmarking campaign for this group of historic model tenements, including serving as project manager of City & Suburban’s Oral History Project, managing its Archives Room research facilities, and leading walking tours; is working on an oral history of Stuyvesant Town - Peter Cooper Village; and leads walking tours on the history of the New York Stock Exchange, the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan. She has been with LESPI since 2011. Andrew Berman: Andrew has been Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002. He previously worked in the New York State Senate and New York City Council for Thomas K. Duane, who represented Greenwich Village, the East Village, NoHo, SoHo, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen, among other neighborhoods. In 2013, he was named to the Vanity Fair “Hall of Fame” for his preservation work at GVSHP, and was named one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Real Estate by the New York Observer. Crain’s New York Business called him “a force to be reckoned with.” A lifelong New Yorker, Andrew has an Art History degree from Wesleyan University. Andrew has been with LESPI since 2016.
Leo Blackman: Leo is principal of Leo J. Blackman Architects, a small firm specializing in adaptive reuse and additions for institutional clients, including Village Community School and Church of the Ascension. He is active in landmark and community issues in both New York City and Dutchess County. Leo is former Board president of the Historic Districts Council, and current Chair of the Amenia Zoning Board of Appeals. He has been with LESPI since 2013.
Kerri Culhane: has been with LESPI since 2013.
Andrew Dolkart: has been with LESPI since 2014.
Eric Ferrara: Eric is founder and director of Lower East Side History Project, author of several New York City history books and fourth generation Lower East Sider. He has been with LESPI since 2012.Molly Garfinkel: Molly directs Place Matters, a public history and preservation program of City Lore, New York City's urban folklife center. She has worked in cultural resource management, museum education, exhibition curation, and traditional arts presentation. Her research explores Western and non-Western building and community building traditions, theories of cultural landscapes, and histories of urbanism and city planning. She has been with LESPI since 2015. Mitchell Grubler: Mitchell is a founding member of the Friends of the Lower East Side, Chair of the Landmarks Committee of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and Co-Chair of the Culture and Historic Preservation Working Team of the Chinatown Working Group. He is Vice President for the Administration of Grants for the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance Foundation, Chair of the Queens Preservation Council and a member of the Advisory Board of the Preservation League of Staten Island. He has been with LESPI since 2014.
Linda Jones: has been with LESPI since 2011.
Holly Kaye: Holly is a planning and preservation consultant whose long-established practice is focused on fundraising & capacity building for primarily historic sacred sites through New York, heritage/cultural tourism and local economic development, including the formation of BIDs. She is the founding Executive Director of the Lower East Side Conservancy and formed the Lower East Side BID; she subsequently served both as their Development Consultant for many years. Holly has been with LESPI since 2013.Eileen Kim: Eileen has a background in arts administration and fashion design, and currently works as a New York City residential real estate salesperson. A resident of the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, Eileen has been with LESPI since 2013.
Katy McNabb: Katy is an independent preservation consultant whose practice focuses on research and community outreach. She has served as Director of Community and Government Affairs at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and Director of the Pike Place Market Historical Commission in Seattle. She has been with LESPI since 2008.
Joyce Mendelsohn: Joyce is the author of The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited, was the first Director of Education at the LES Tenement Museum, is on the board of the LES Jewish Conservancy and is a founding member of Friends of the Bialystoker Home. She received the first Lillian Wald Award from Henry Street Settlement and a Grassroots Preservation Award from the Historic Districts Council. She has been with LESPI since 2009.
Sara Romanoski: has been with LESPI since 2014.
Catalina Salazar: has been with LESPI since 2012.
Robert Slaughter: As Founder, President & Creative Director of the Arts Olympus, Robert Slaughter has vast experience in all areas of production including working with the United Nations, the Los Angeles Inner City Cultural Center, and the Miami Tourist Development Authority. In Miami, he was one of the founders of the now famous “Deco District” in South Beach, having produced all the entertainment for “Art Deco Week,” and helped create the first “International Film Festival.” He is an East Village resident who has been with LESPI since 2010.
Jack Taylor: for more than three decades, Jack has been at the forefront of NYC preservation advocacy and the driving force behind important landmark designations: from the grouping of Individual Landmarks around Union Square and the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in the 1980s and 90s, to the Tammany Hall landmark designation in 2013. His tireless efforts have been recognized with the Historic Districts Council’s Landmarks Lion Award and the Victorian Society New York’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Jack has been with LESPI since 2013.
Osvaldo Valdes: has been with LESPI since 2011.
Philip Van Aver: a recognized fine artist and East Village resident since 1969, Philip has been active in local preservation efforts for many years, including the successful campaigns to landmark the Ottendorfer Library, the Charlie Parker Residence, and PS 64. He was a member of the Lower East Side Joint Planning Committee’s Executive Committee and a founding member of CODA – Coalition for a District Alternative. Philip has been with LESPI since 2008.
Kate Waterman has been with LESPI since 2015.Anthony C. Wood: Tony is a preservation activist, teacher, historian, and grantsmaker. He is the Founder and Chair of the NY Preservation Archive Project, and author of Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks (Routledge, 2007). He has held many important preservation-related positions, including Chair of the Preservation League of New York State, Advisor and Trustee, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Chair of Partners for Sacred Places, and Chairman Emeritus of the Historic Districts Council of New York City. Since l993 Tony has been the Executive Director of the Ittleson Foundation. Tony has been with LESPI since 2015.
LESPI has five committees:
Survey / Mapping: Britton Baine, Chair; Marie Beirne; Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos; Bruce Monroe
Events: Carolyn Ratcliffe, Chair; Marie Beirne; Holly Kaye; Robert Slaughter; and Jean Standish
Outreach: Erik Bottcher, Chair; Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos; and Eileen Kim
Oral History: Marie Beirne, Chair; Eileen Kim; and Bruce Monroe
Architectural Design Review: Britton Baine, Chair; Erik Bottcher;and Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
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LESPI President Richard Moses speaks about LESPI's past, present and future in this 2017 LES History Project PODCAST.
LESPI's fiscal sponsor is Fund for the City of New York.
LESPI in the News
An Uncertain Future for East Village Rowhouses - The New York Times, November 26, 2016.
Protests Continue Against Demolition of East Village Tenements For Hotel - Bedford and Bowery, October 20, 2016.
As Development Heats Up, Landmarked Lower East Side Historic District Isn’t Any Closer to Happening - Bowery Boogie, June 21, 2016.
Alongside Katz’s Pastrami, Luxury Condos - The New York Times, April 22, 2016.
Proposed Lower East Side Historic District Picks Up Support; Tenement Museum Stays on the Sidelines - The Lo-Down, November 9, 2015.
Preservationists oppose landmark deadline bill - Town & Village, September 11, 2015.
Graffiti Artist YesOne Paints Before a Live Audience at The Clemente - The Lo-Down, July 31, 2015.
In Action in LES with YESONE and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative - Bowery Boogie, July 30, 2015.
New York City's Fight for Cultural Preservation - Huffington Post, June 26, 2015.
Preservationists Rally For a Lower East Side Historic District - Curbed, June 22, 2015.
Preservation Groups Ask Landmarks Commission to Declare Lower East Side Historic District - The Lo-Down, June 22, 2015.
On the Ground with the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative - Bowery Boogie, June 12, 2015.
(FOR EARLIER LISTINGS SEE RESOURCES/USEFUL LINKS TAB)
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You can help LESPI in our campaign to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side by making a donation here, or at the button below.
Or you can send a check made out to "LESPI/FCNY" to LESPI, c/o Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003
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