LESPI Newsletter Spring 2015
What’s Up With a Lower East Side Historic District?
LESPI has been hard at work gathering support for a Lower East Side historic district. We’ve teamed up with Friends of the Lower East Side (FOTLES) to get the backing of 19 community and preservation organizations and have been gathering petition signatures – now at around 500 and counting – to demonstrate the high level of grass roots commitment.
This neighborhood is not only defined by wonderful streets of historic tenement, commercial, religious and institutional buildings enlivened by florid ornamental cornices, door and window surrounds and spandrel panels, but it is of unsurpassed importance in our city’s and nation’s immigration and cultural history: its long and continuing tradition of diversity has helped form our identity as a land of many peoples, cultures and beliefs.
LESPI Challenges Proposal To Upzone the City
LESPI strongly opposes the city administration’s recent proposal to upzone – in one swoop – the entire city. This broad-brush approach neglects community character, ignores the fact that many areas of the city are already too densely built to allow natural light and air, further strains already overtaxed public transportation, and encourages the destruction of historic buildings. All to ostensibly encourage more affordable housing. LESPI supports affordable housing and diverse-income neighborhoods, but we believe that the best way to do this is to preserve the existing housing stock and retain neighborhood residents. Any upzoning needs to be done on a community-by-community basis, in careful consideration of each area’s unique urban environment.
LESPI’s “Lower East Side: Yesterday Today Tomorrow” Event
Adam Steinberg of the Tenement Museum and Judith Saltzman of Li/Saltzman Architects presented wonderfully illustrated lectures on Lower East Side and Tenement Museum history for LESPI’s “Lower East Side: Yesterday Today Tomorrow” event May 13. Their
talks covered, respectively, local history and architecture, from the Lower East Side’s beginnings to present day; and the conservation and architectural challenges involved in transforming the Tenement Museum property from abandoned site to the fascinating, amazingly successful, world class museum and educational institution it is today. Great presentations; and overall a great evening!
Share Your East Village / Lower East Side Family Photographs!
LESPI has now started a Flickr site to showcase family photographs from people who lived in the historic Lower East Side – meaning the East Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Bowery, anywhere from E 14th Street to about Fulton Street, east of Broadway – from the 1980s and earlier. The photos all date from the time when the individuals lived in the neighborhood.
Email your scanned family photos to us at info at LESPI-nyc dot org with, if possible, the names and stories behind the images, so we can add them to the collection. Take a look at the site so far to see what a beautiful gallery and archive we’re building!
LESPI Profiled on Bowery Boogie
Recently we got some great coverage from the local news blog Bowery Boogie. Check out this wonderful article with some nice photos! Bowery Boogie is a source we rely upon for local preservation news: you can see our periodic links to the site’s preservation- and history-related articles on LESPI’s Facebook page.
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!
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.
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!
LPC Moves to Hold Hearings For All Calendared Buildings
Last fall, we at LESPI were alarmed when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed to remove from consideration more than 95 historic properties that LPC had previously calendared for public hearing, but which after several years of waiting in limbo had never been voted on for landmarking.
We’re happy to report that, after Borough President Gale Brewer, the Historic Districts Council, LESPI, and other elected officials and preservation groups protested this “decalendaring” proposal, LPC has now decided to hold public hearings for each of these properties, which in the East Village / Lower East Side include 138 Second Avenue at E 9th Street and 2 Oliver Street. We applaud the LPC for committing the resources – not always easy for a city agency of this size – to hear and vote on these sites individually based on their merits, allowing each to have “their day in court.”
LESPI Book Series Launched at Photo Exhibit Opening
LESPI has published our first book, “East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side,” a wonderful compilation of contemporary photographs by 6 photographers, whose professional roots are in the East Village and a rollicking, beautifully written history by author Marilyn Appleberg.
Photographs by Don Freeman, Alan Gastelum, George Hirose, Onno de Jong, Marlis Momber, and Ciaran Tully show that the historic East Village is a vital, modern community, where the historic architecture and beautiful, century-old streetscapes foster creativity, self-expression and joy, as well as a diversity of people, businesses and institutions. No doubt this irreplaceable urban environment is worth saving from developers who often see relentless demolition and generic new construction as a way of cashing in on our community.
“East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side,” is intended to be the first of a series of “Lens on the Lower East Side” books which will showcase contemporary photographs and histories of other historic Lower East Side communities, such as the LES below Houston Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Bowery.
LESPI’s book was introduced last May at the opening of an exhibit sponsored by LESPI at Clemente Soto Velez Educational and Cultural Center. The exhibit, with the same name as the book, was part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Landmarks Law and Lower East Side History Month. Co-curators Carolyn Ratcliffe and Paul Bridgewater produced a stunning photographic display.
The approximately 150 people who attended the exhibit opening enjoyed wine and delicious food generously donated by Veselka on 2nd Avenue, Veniero’s Pastry Shop on East 11th Street, Piccolo Cafe Restaurant and Cafe on 3rd Avenue, and Insomnia Cookies on Orchard Street.
LESPI Celebrates with Kehila Kedosha Janina!
LESPI members were at their sociable best while tabling at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue’s first annual Greek Jewish festival on Sunday, May 31.
Along with chatting with festival attendees about the importance of landmarking and gathering petition signatures in support of a new Lower East Side historic district, we were able to sneak away from our table for some wonderful Greek dancing, music and food.
Thank you to Kehila Kedosha Janina Museum Director and LESPI Board Member Marcia Ikonomopoulos for inviting us to the event, and to KKJ for sponsoring such a spectacular afternoon!
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.
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.