Why Preservation?

The Lower East Side Is A Living History that’s a special part of New York City’s soul. It’s a collection of legendary neighborhoods. It’s beautiful old buildings and streetscapes that form a unique architectural and human synergy.

But Its Physical Fabric – Its Buildings And Streetscapes – Is Under Attack.  Historic structures are being bulldozed, imploded, and jackhammered, one ornate tenement block, one handcrafted façade, one floral cornice at a time. The destruction is continuous, seemingly oblivious to economic forces. Even beyond New York, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has recognized this threat and designated Manhattan’s Lower East Side as one of the country’s eleven most endangered historic places.

What If The Lower East Side As We Know It Disappeared Completely – its scrappy creative spirit and beautiful face morphed into a hodgepodge of massive unrelated, undistinguished hotels, developments and new high rise buildings perched on the heads of distinguished old structures?  This Is Not Far Fetched. It’s happening now at a fast pace. 

Unchecked development leads to the loss of cultural history; neighborhood context and cohesiveness; human-scale civility; creative, educational, and spiritual spaces. It destroys the architectural signposts that mark the neighborhood’s central and vital role in our country’s immigrant history, political history, art, music and theater history. The Lower East Side is an important part of this history, one that’s always been unique.

What’s The Best Way To Protect The Streetscapes And Structures Of The East Village / Lower East Side? Rezoning will help. But only when the New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designates our historic streetscapes as historic districts will the neighborhood’s future be ensured. 



Lens on the Lower East Side East Village & Chinatown Books

LESPI’s Book on the East Village

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LESPI’s book on Chinatown

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What Is Historic Landmarking?  When a historic district is officially designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, its special architectural features are protected. This doesn’t mean that buildings can’t be changed. It does mean changes must be made thoughtfully. It means historic streetscapes and building facades must be respected, that they cannot be wantonly defaced and destroyed. It means an end to the careless, ad hoc destruction of a neighborhood’s history and heart. 

What Does It Take?  Donations, volunteers, constant vigilance, political clout, and pro bono legal assistance. Support from local people and all those who believe that our neighborhood’s past upholds its future is critical. You can really support preservation in our neighborhood – join LESPI

What About The Future?  New York City is a magnet, and it’s growing to accommodate the influx. But thoughtful growth, planned to save our history, will build a better future for our city.

How Can We Respond?
The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – LESPI.
We’re local residents and preservationists working to identify and document East Village and Lower East Side streets that retain their historic architecture. Our aim is to survey the Lower East Side. We’re working to rally our neighbors and government officials to obtain landmark status for the historic streets and buildings of the East Village/ Lower East Side.  LESPI is an advocate, standing up to preserve the architecture and streetscapes of the Lower East Side.  Contact us – join our effort! Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – helping to preserve New York’s Lower East Side.

What can you do? HELP PRESERVE THE East Village! The Lower East Side! Chinatown!

LESPI is an organization composed of local residents and preservationists who want to preserve the architecture and streetscapes of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. LESPI is particularly interested in protecting the Lower East Side’s historic streetscapes. There are several left that are relatively intact from when they were built in the late 19th century.