LESPI Newsletter Summer 2016
Jane Jacobs at 100
order prednisone for dogs Jane Jacobs would have turned 100 this year. What’s the best way to celebrate? Perhaps by revisiting her theories on urbanism, best expressed in her 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”
Goodyear Revolutionary at the time, the book advocated for the messy vitality of organically developed cities over staid and generic centralized planning; communities made up of diverse and closely knit groups of people and businesses over segregated uses and groups; and
pedestrian-centric streets over automobile supremacy. She hated the often sterile and isolating vision of city planners who sought the replacement of traditional neighborhoods with tower-in-the-park schemes. She emphatically supported preserving the city’s historic neighborhoods and buildings, including in her Greenwich Village home turf. Her book was and remains wildly influential both in the U.S. and abroad.
She fought what was perhaps her most dramatic battle against what would have been a knife wound across the Lower East Side, Soho, and Tribeca: Robert Moses’s plan to build a 10 lane elevated superhighway called the Lower Manhattan Expressway or LOMEX, to connect the Holland Tunnel with the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. This colossus, slashing through Canal Street from Walker to Broome and over to Delancey Street, called for the displacement of over 2,000 families; the loss of 800 businesses (including the pasticerrias of Little Italy and Jewish Delis on Delancey); and the destruction of historic landmarks such as the beautiful cast iron Haughwout Building on Broadway and Broome Street, the Gothic style San Salvatore on Broome Street (along with 7 other churches), and the baroque former New York City Police Headquarters building on Centre and Grand Streets.
In 1962 Jacobs responded to this looming threat by forming the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway. She and her group began loudly protesting LOMEX, using tombstones and gas masks as props for maximum theatrical effect. This effort culminated in a public hearing at the Seward Park High School, where Jacobs gave a fiery speech to a packed audience, reportedly ripped up the hearing transcripts, and was ultimately arrested. The resultant news publicity went a long way toward cooling official enthusiasm for the project. Over the next decade support for the proposal continued to wane, and with New Yorkers’ increasing desire to preserve their architectural and urban heritage and limit automobile pollution, in 1972 the LOMEX proposal finally died.
Jacobs moved to Toronto in the late 1960s and passed away there in 2006. She will always be remembered for the prominent role she played in saving New York and, through her writing, so many other great, historic cities around the world.
Save the date – August 10 Walking Tour!
The Historic Districts Council and LESPI are sponsoring a walking tour of the historic Lower East Side on August 10 – stay tuned to our Facebook page and email blasts for details. We hope to see you there!
With summer here we’re all wearing short sleeves: LESPI t-shirts look great and show your support for East Village / Lower East Side preservation! Proceeds benefit LESPI’s work. Only $20 + S&H.; You can purchase t-shirts HERE
Join LESPI for 2016
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.
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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.
Available at Strand.
NY City Council’s Intro 775 vs. the NYC LPC
On June 8 the NY City Council passed Intro 775, which establishes strict time limits for the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate landmarks – essentially one year for proposed Individual Landmarks and two years for proposed historic districts, with the clock starting once the properties are calendared for public hearing. This law puts a heavy burden on LPC, but does not provide funding to help expedite the agency’s intensive research and outreach work that are necessary parts of each landmark designation. We at LESPI believe LPC should have been allowed to devise their own internal regulations to address time limits on designations, crafted to enhance rather than hinder their mission.
LESPI and many other preservation and community organizations testified against this bill, which LPC also opposed. We thank our local City Council Members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez for voting against it.
The real estate development industry and their allies continue to work to weaken and undermine the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s ability to fulfill their mandate: ensuring the preservation of our city’s architectural and cultural heritage for us and for future generations.
We must remain vigilant – please support LESPI’s work by volunteering, becoming a LESPI member, and/or donating whatever you can afford. Thank you.
What has LESPI been up to lately? A lot!
May was the annual Lower East Side History Month celebration, and on May 18 we celebrated with a wonderful lecture event, Mom-and-Pop Storefronts and the Art of Vernacular Design: NYC’s Lower East Side and Chinatown, held at the Neighborhood Preservation Center on East 11th Street. Our featured speakers were Thomas Rinaldi, author of New York Neon, and James and Karla Murray, authors of Store Front II: A History Preserved, New York Nights, and Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York. Their beautifully illustrated lectures explored storefront and signage
history and aesthetics in these most historically significant neighborhoods, now in danger of demolition and overdevelopment. Following the lectures, attendees gathered for wine, cheese, and delicious Veniero’s Italian pastries.
A day earlier, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation sponsored a book event for LESPI’s East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side, held at the Sixth Street Community Center. Author Marilyn Appleberg, a professional writer and longtime resident of the Stuyvesant Square Historic District, explained to the
audience how what she originally thought would be a brief introduction to LESPI’s photo essay turned into a full fledged, rollicking history of the East Village. Photographers Ciaran Tully, Onno de Jong (who also did the graphic design for the book), George Hirose, and Marlis Momber recounted the stories behind the book’s beautiful images. LESPI’s East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side is currently available online at Strand Bookstore and at LESPI events.
LESPI was in activist mode for the May 22 Kehila Kedosha Janina Greek Jewish Festival. Along with enjoying the festival’s Greek Jewish music and food, we held a lot of lively conversations with passersby, obtained over 100 signatures in support of preserving the historic Lower East Side, and sold a small boutique’s worth of LESPI t-shirts and publications.
To commemorate the 110th anniversary of the dedication of Tompkins Square Park’s General Slocum Memorial Fountain, LESPI joined Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, East Village Community Coalition, Friends of the Upper East Side, Borough Historian Michael Miscione, and a crowd of about 100 for Remembering the General Slocum Tragedy. We gathered at the memorial to recall the more than 1,000 local residents who lost their lives in 1904, when the General Slocum steamship caught fire and sank. These lives could have been saved if the ship had had adequate life preservers and functioning lifeboats. The memorial event included a series of
remarks recalling the disaster, a brief trumpet concert, and a walking tour of the East Village’s Kleindeutschland neighborhood, led by Edward T. O’Donnell, author of Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum. We wrapped up the evening with German sausage and beer at Zum Schneider restaurant on Avenue C.
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.