LESPI Newsletter Summer 2015

LESPI Newsletter Summer 2015

Summer 2015

Anti-Preservation Legislation and Rezonings Loom

LESPI has come out strongly against NY City Council’s recent proposed legislation – Intro 775 – that if enacted would endanger all future landmarking efforts in the East Village / Lower East Side, as well as in other historic communities throughout the city. Intro 775 would put strict time limits on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s work to designate new Individual Landmarks and historic districts. If the LPC could not meet the mandated deadlines, the proposed designation would be removed from consideration for five years.

LESPI along with many other preservation and community organizations joined forces to oppose this legislation. Although LESPI is not against establishing reasonable, flexible timelines for LPC to follow, any legislation must respect the difficult and time consuming work required for LPC to gather historical information and perform neighborhood outreach in preparation for public hearing. See LESPI’s September 3 letters to NYC Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez opposing the proposal HERE.

Demolition of Mary Help of Christians, E 12th St, 2013. Note historic interior architecture. Photo EV Grieve.

Intro 775 came along shortly after the NYC Dept. of City Planning’s proposal last spring to upzone the entire city in one swoop. LESPI also opposed this plan, which will increase congestion, diminish light and air, and increase development pressure in historic neighborhoods such as the East Village / Lower East Side – see our June 9 letter to Community Board 3 and May 27 letter to NYC Dept. of City Planning HERE (scroll down). This proposal is still being considered.

Please contact your Council Member and Community Board to let them know your opposition to these proposals as they stand! Feel free to use LESPI’s letters as models for your own, and we would appreciate if you copy us on your correspondence.

LESPI along with all New Yorkers who care about their city need to remain constantly vigilant against poorly conceived legislation and rezonings that threaten the very fabric of our urban environment. Let us know if you would like to assist LESPI in future efforts against preservation-unfriendly proposals such as these by writing letters and/or presenting public testimony. Thank you!

Public Hearings Coming Up!

On November 5 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has scheduled for public hearing the landmark designation of two early East Village / Lower East Side buildings:

138 Second Avenue, north of St. Mark’s Place.

138 Second Avenue: originally a Federal style row house dating to 1832, this fine building is a rare survivor from the early 19th century when what was originally Peter Stuyvesant’s farm was being subdivided for development.

2 Oliver Street: a Federal style house dating from 1822.

Both buildings show the earliest phases of development for the historic Lower East Side, and should be preserved as unique markers of this important era in our city’s history.

These public hearings are part of the LPC’s recent effort to clear up a backlog of calendared properties. We applaud the agency’s hard work in bringing these proposed designations along with other backlogged properties forward.

Please write to LPC at backlog95@lpc.nyc.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and let them know that these these historic buildings deserve to be protected by landmark designation, and send a copy of your testimony to us. Check LESPI’s Facebook page for when we will be posting our testimony. Thank you.

2 Oliver Street, north of Henry Street.

Share Your East Village / Lower East Side Family Photographs!

LESPI’s Flickr site showcases family photographs – hopefully including your family photos – from people who lived in the historic Lower East Side, which includes the East Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Bowery, anywhere from E 14th Street to about Fulton Street, east of Broadway. The period we’re covering is 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!

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!

Support LESPI!


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.


We’re looking for people to help with outreach, people with specialized skills and experience, monetary donations, 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. Contact us at info@lespi-nyc.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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!

LESPI’s “Street Art and The Lower East Side”

In July LESPI hosted a two-evening street art event at the Clemente Soto Velez Center. The event was organized with photographer Yoav Litvin, whose critically acclaimed and beautifully illustrated book Outdoor Gallery – New York City had been recently published.

For the event’s first evening, Yoav and artist Al Diaz, who in the 70s was known as BOMB1 and was artistic partner of Jean Michel Basquiat, spoke of the

Al Diaz (left) with Yoav Litvin

movement’s history, showed amazing slides, and fielded lively audience questions.

For the second evening, a week later, recognized graffiti artist YesOne created a wonderful art installation live on the Clemente’s rear yard wall. In just 2-1/2 hours he was able to essentially complete the piece, as audience members watched the artwork take shape before their eyes.

Graffiti artist YesOne with his installation at The Clemente.

LESPI believes that the momentous history of the Lower East Side, as a center for immigration into this country, and for pioneering work in art – including street art – music, theater and literature, is a living history that continues to this day. This cultural vitality along with our historic buildings and streetscapes define our community and tell our story as a people.

We want to thank The Clemente for generously hosting the event and Blick Art Materials for donating the artist’s supplies: without their help the event would not have been possible. We also want to thank Two Boots Pizza and Insomnia Cookies for donating their delicious food.

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profile:
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos

In our continuing endeavor to tell you about our Board members and how they came to be part of LESPI, we are throwing the spotlight on our Secretary, Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos. Marcia wears many hats, serving as the Museum Director of (KKJ) Kehila Kedosha Janina (fondly called the Greek Synagogue) on the Lower East Side, and as the President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry (AFGJ), an organization that, among many things, acts as a liaison between Greek Jews and Greek Jewry in the Diaspora.

Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos

It is in this last capacity that Marcia found herself working for restoration and preservation, initially frustrated by the impending loss of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Greece. Through contacts with major preservation foundations such as The World Monument Fund, Marcia and AFGJ were able to save the oldest functioning synagogue in Greece, Kahal Shalom on the island of Rhodes.

Carrying this passion over to the Lower East Side when she took over as Museum Director of KKJ in 2004, it was only natural to join with other preservationists in the neighborhood. Marcia was one of the initial members of what was known as LESPC (Lower East Side Preservation Coalition). Enamored with this special neighborhood’s history and working daily with the story of immigrants, Marcia often found herself called upon to speak at Community Board meetings when potential landmark buildings were being proposed or threatened. It was at one of these meetings that Marcia met LESPI President Richard Moses, and was shortly afterward invited to become a member of LESPI’s Board of Directors. It was a perfect fit.

Marcia holds two BAs and two MAs, but, when speaking to visitors to KKJ, especially school groups and young people, she will emphasize two things. The first, to find your passion because that, more than your academic training, will carry you through life. And, the second, to leave deep footprints so that others can follow in your path. Marcia’s passion is preservation and it is her hope that her work in fighting for landmarks on the Lower East Side will ensure that the immigrant story of this neighborhood will survive so that future generations will be able to visit and learn of their ancestors’ struggles and successes.

East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side

LESPI has published our first book, “East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side,” now in its second printing. This wonderful compilation of contemporary photographs by 6 photographers, whose professional roots are in the East Village features a rollicking, beautifully written history by author Marilyn Appleberg.

LESPI’s “East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side”, available at Strand

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 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.

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.