Petitioning for Preservation
This summer, LESPI board members took to the streets to garner, face-to-face, community support for the preservation of the historic Lower East Side below Houston Street.
Have you ever stood on the street and asked passing strangers to do something for you? “Hi, do you have a minute to sign a petition to help preserve the architecture and history of the Lower East Side?” It can be a daunting task, and involves a good deal of rejection. But when you meet the folks who do stop, who are interested in saving the beautiful old buildings that are still prominent but quickly disappearing in the Lower East Side, who sign your petition, and ask questions and wish us luck with our efforts, it makes it all worthwhile (see more photos here).
In three, two-hour sessions, we were able to collect approximately 400 signatures. Signatures mostly from LES residents, but also from outside of New York and even abroad from as far as Australia, Myanmar, and Kazakhstan. It was heartening to know that preserving the beautiful old Lower East Side of New York was not only a local concern, but a national and international one as well.
Here is what some of them had to say:
“My favorite block, amongst many, in the Lower East Side is
between Stanton and Rivington on Pitt Street, in particular, on account
of Our Lady of Sorrows. That street could be a film set from the 1920’s,
it’s like time traveling. If I were the chair of the Landmarks
Commission, the Lower East Side would be my first priority.”
–Neal Hagstrom, LES resident
“The Lower East Side is so unique to the City. The buildings, the history, the culture. We need to preserve it.”
–Jesse Missad, LES resident
“The neighborhood is so historic, we must preserve the architecture and history of the Lower East Side. ”
–Chad Merrill, from Atlanta, Georgia
“I love the Lower East Side. It’s my favorite part of Manhattan. I’d like it to stay the way it is.”
–Dominique Rochon, from Montreal, Canada
While out petitioning, sometimes folks walked by us saying, “Sorry, I don’t have time, I’ll be late.” And they’re absolutely right: we don’t have time. If we don’t
act now, the architecturally significant buildings of the Lower East Side, and the history and culture they represent, will be gone.
The petitions are perhaps the best proof we have to show the city the depth and breadth of our citizens’ love of the historic Lower East Side, and the importance of protecting it.
LESPI Event: Greeks on the Lower East Side
On Wednesday October 1, Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Director of the Museum at Kehila Kedosha Janina and LESPI Board Member, will present “Greeks on the Lower East Side – American Stories.” This program illuminates a little-know part of the American immigration story – that of the immigrants from Greece.
“Step into the Balkan world of the Lower East Side, the kafenions and dance halls, the lilting bouzouki music and the aromas of Mediterranean cooking. Learn about the Sephardic and Romaniote synagogues and the local Greek Orthodox Church. They came during the massive wave of immigration (1881-1924) but their stories were very different.”
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.
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!
Restored Cornices at 87 3rd Avenue
Heading down 3rd Avenue in early August, this writer was stopped dead in his tracks, mouth gaping, in front of 87 3rd Avenue, corner of 12th Street: the construction of a spectacular new cornice was
underway, with workers 6 stories above street level fastening steel substructure and ornate cladding to this century-old neo-Renaissance style building, which for decades had only bare walls here.
As of this writing cornice restoration work is completed at the corner building, which looks great, and has now started on the neighboring ca. 1890 building that had
also lost its cornice years ago. Both cornice designs are accurate replications based on archival photos, photos which originally helped to inspire the restoration project. The image below shows that the corner structure was originally a 5 story building (the 6th story was added in the 1970s), called the Trow Directory Building, a well-known publisher at the time.
We want to heartily thank the building owner, architect Thomas Fenniman (who’s also known for the beautiful Church of St. Francis Xavier interior restoration on W 16th Street), and Galicia Contracting for this wonderful architectural gift to the community. Their work has returned some of the majesty to this stretch of 3rd Avenue, which over time has seen its share of less-than-inspiring new buildings and alterations. Overall, a phenomenal project!
Who We Are
LESPI Board Profiles: Bruce Monroe
Too often, the public thinks of preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each newsletter shall highlight one of the Board members. For our Summer 2014 newsletter, we are highlighting Bruce Monroe, who is amongst our newest Board members, a long-time LESPI Adviser, and resident of the East Village for 38 years.
Over the course of the years that Bruce has been a LESPI member, he has designed our quarterly newsletters (such as this one!), invitations for events, photo presentation sheets, and other publications with
skills he acquired with his BA in Theatrical Set Design from North Carolina School of the Arts, and professional experience in theater set design and graphic design.
Bruce became involved in local politics and community activism in 1985, and he currently volunteers for the LGBT Community Center and the Governors Island Alliance. But it was his interest in SCUBA diving that brought him to LESPI where he met LESPI President Richard Moses, who invited him to a LESPI meeting.
“I found that historic preservation fit in well with my interest in local politics and history. One of things I love about New York City is that its history is all about constant growth, economic exploitation and tumultuous cultural diversity. That will never change, but real New Yorkers should not be complacent and allow NYC’s constant desire to be the biggest and best trample the past to oblivion. The future needs the physical presence of historic places to fully appreciate the lessons of history….”
“The people that live on the LES should have an opportunity to assess the value of cultural loss against the cost of rising real estate values and decide what their neighborhood will be in the future. The process of creating an historic district can give people that opportunity.”
LESPI is indeed lucky to be the recipient of Bruce Monroe’s knowledge, skills and passion.
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.