LESPI Newsletter Summer 2011

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!


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 info@lespi-nyc.orgThis 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