LESPI Newsletter Spring 2018
Campaign to Save Two Federal Houses In the Lower East Side
In February, we joined our sister preservation organizations and called upon our community of supporters to help protect two historic early 19th century federal style houses in the Lower East Side at risk of demolition. The two houses, 206 Broadway and 22 E Broadway (the James R. Whiting House) are representative of a style of architecture that predominated during the post-Revolutionary War period but is now an increasingly rare sight.
Zhmerynka The buildings had been calendared by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark designation, but were recently de-calendared because of a 2016 law that places time limits on the public review process for designations. The city chose not to act on landmarking the buildings which are now unprotected and vulnerable to demolition and new development.
LESPI’s email campaign generated nearly 300 emails urging city officials to landmark these buildings and ensure they are protected from demolition. If you’d like to participate in the campaign, it’s not too late. You can send a message to city officials through our form. Read LESPI’s advocacy letter HERE and scroll down to December 11.
Support LESPI and look good doing it with a LESPI t-shirt! Proceeds benefit LESPI’s work. Only $25 (including shipping and handling). Show your support for the East Village / Lower East Side and Chinatown by purchasing HERE
You’re contribution will help us protect our historic streetscapes!
Join LESPI for 2018
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!
East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side
“East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side,” now in its third printing, is a wonderful compilation of contemporary photographs by photographers whose professional roots are in the East Village, and a 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.
LESPI is a grass roots, all-volunteer 501(c)(3) 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, Lower East Side below Houston Street, and Chinatown, 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.
Celebrate St. Mary’s Church on May 14
Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and St. Mary’s Grand RC Church are excited to celebrate the 192nd anniversary of the founding of St. Mary with a multifaceted event on Monday, May 14, part of Lower East Side History Month.
Father Andrew O’Connor, Rector, will present on the history of this iconic church, which was founded to serve the Irish immigrants who were arriving in large numbers into the Lower East Side during the early 19th century.
St. Mary’s is the third oldest Roman Catholic Church in NYC and the oldest complete church edifice in the NY Diocese. It continues to serve immigrant populations as it has since its inception, beginning with the Irish then following with German, Italian, Polish, Latino, and Chinese immigrants.
In 1831 the original church, located on Sheriff Street, was pillaged and burned by the Know-Nothing Party, part of a nativist movement which was anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. The current structure was begun in December of that year. The current facade and interior were designed by Charles Patrick Keely, a prolific Irish American Architect in 1870.
Guests are welcome into the Attorney Street Rectory, a townhouse built in 1840 and acquired by the church during the Civil War. The event will include, along with the lecture, a photography exhibit of St. Mary’s through the years and handiwork from the parish: sustainable fashions designed by Father O’Connor, featuring native Guatemalan cotton woven by indigenous Mayans and fabricated at the Rectory, as featured in Vogue and other publications.
Refreshments featuring Irish and Latino influences will be served. The event will end with a tour of the church and ringing of St. Mary’s Bell.
Rectory of St. Mary’s
28 Attorney Street
Monday May 14 at 6:30PM
$10 LESPI and St. Mary Parish members
Get Tickets Here (space is limited)
Contact: LESPI at
A Tour Guide’s Perspective
by Barry Feldman
I live on the Upper East Side but you can see me almost daily walking the streets of the Lower East Side. I am a New York City Licensed Tour Guide. Popular tour destinations include venerable architectural, historic and cultural sites alongside recently erected steel and glass rentals that seem to disdain their aged brick, stone and terracotta neighbors.
As I head to the subway on the way home, I look toward the Forward Building with its elaborate facade unabashedly featuring Karl Marx and his cohorts. Now a condo, the building’s wide rear windows face the former Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva. The Educational Alliance continues its mission to bring educational and social services to immigrants living on the Lower East Side. Across the street is the Carnegie Library which once housed the largest collection of Yiddish books in New York City. Chinese texts line the old book stacks now. I recall the waning days of the Garden Cafeteria. It is rumored that Fidel Castro rented rooms above the cafeteria on anonymous visits to the city. To the right, a new hotel being built in the rehabilitated Jarmulowsky Bank building, once an immigrant savings institution and now an Individual Landmark, moves toward completion.
If you have not been to the Lower East Side for a while, rush down. Unless the city moves quickly to preserve that area, in a few years all that will remain of the iconic Jewish, Latino, Chinese and other immigrant settlements will be your grandmother’s reminiscences. The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is at the forefront, with Friends of the LES, of advocating for an NYC Lower East Side historic district which will memorialize the vibrant immigrant experience of the turn of the 20th century through today.
I notice that tourists, especially baby boomers, are disappointed by the absence of discount prices the Lower East Side was noted for; then they head toward Katz for a pastrami fix. Younger walkers enjoy the sushi restaurants and cupcake offerings, and fill the watering holes in former tenement street stores. The present can certainly be enriched by the past.
Who We Are
LESPI Board Profile: Helena Andreyko
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 Spring 2018 newsletter, we are highlighting our newest Board member, Helena Andreyko.
Helena has been a resident of lower Manhattan for over 45 years. She came to NYC at the age of 18 on a scholarship with the Joffrey Ballet, then went on to a wonderful career dancing on Broadway, television, and film. Currently Helena is Administrator for the not-for-profit Hudson River Foundation.
Helena’s parents came to New York as immigrants. Her mother and grandmother, sent here from Eastern Europe to work and send money home to help support their families, both worked in the garment district sweatshops. Her father came to New York at the age of 12, escaping the Nazis and the war through an underground network.
Helena’s appreciation for historic architecture began as a child, when her father would drive her through the streets of Philadelphia pointing out beautiful homes and landmarks. In the early 70s, she was lucky enough to live in Greenwich Village, a very different Village than it is today. The buildings were run-down but had charm, craft, and a human scale – the place felt like a neighborhood.
Once the Village gentrified, she moved to the Lower East Side, which still had the feel and character of the New York she loved. Like the Village, the buildings had style and charm, they oozed history.
But coming from the landmarked Greenwich Village, she was completely shocked when she noticed beautiful old buildings being torn down to make way for generic boxy condos. She had assumed that, after the devastation of Penn Station, the City would have protected its historic places. Since the Lower East Side held some of the City’s most important early and cultural history, why weren’t these buildings landmarked? The straw that broke the camel’s back for her was the discovery that the old Streit’s Bakery building was going to go. She ramped up her efforts to join forces with a preservation group and through the recommendation of preservationist Kent Barwick, she found LESPI. Things happen when people unite and work for a cause, by joining forces with LESPI, Helena hopes to help insure that the Lower East Side’s historic architecture is preserved for future generations.
LESPI is indeed lucky to be the recipient of Helena’s knowledge and passion.
Join us for an Architectural Walking Tour through the LES in June
Trace the history and evolution of typical tenements in the Lower East Side with urban historian, Barry Feldman on June 24. You’ll learn the history behind the gargoyles and botanicals in terra cotta that decorate the 19th century tenements of the neighborhood.
The tour ends with a visit to Kehila Kedosha Janina, the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Founded by Greek-speaking Jews from Ioannina, Greece, in 1927, the synagogue has functioned as a Jewish house of worship, without disruption, for 90 years. The KKJ Museum tells the story of 2500 years of Greek Jewish presence, the longest, continuous Jewish presence in the European Diaspora.
This tour is a collaboration between the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC) and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI).
Advance tickets are $25, day of tickets are $27*
Tickets can be purchased here.
*Tours continue as scheduled rain or shine.
Come visit us at the 4th Annual Greek Jewish Festival!
On Sunday, May 6th from 12-6 PM join Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum for their 4th annual Greek Jewish Festival. It takes place in the Lower East Side on Broome St between Allen and Eldridge St. There will be delicious food, live music, and fun activities for kids. LESPI will be tabling, so come say hi! For more information visit kkjfestival.com.