LESPI Newsletter Winter 2012

Winter 2012-13

NY City Council Says Yes to East Village / Lower East Side Historic District!

NY City Council’s Landmarks Subcommittee’s Public Hearing January 29 on the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District, landmarked just last October, was critical: by law the Council has the right to uphold, reject, or decrease the size of an historic district designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Public turnout for the Hearing was impressive, with approximately 20 people speaking in support of the district, and 3 against.

Here are some excerpts (in support, of course!):

“The scale, materials and ornament of [the district’s] historic buildings provide us today with a profoundly rich urban environment….Historic district designation is the only way to effectively ensure that what we cherish about our neighborhoods will survive in the years to come.”
– LESPI testimony given by Richard Moses, President

Councilmember Rosie Mendez proclaims her support for the historic district

“What makes the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District so significant is the rich tapestried story that the buildings tell, longitudinally, from an immigrant-centric, labor and social activism perspective. …. The architecture, institutions and cultural realms that remain and will be preserved under this plan reflect the shared histories, substantial contributions and religious faiths of successive waves of German, Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, Chinese and Latino residents.”
– NY City Councilmember Rosie Mendez

Carolyn Ratcliffe, Marie Beirne, and Jean Standish of LESPI provide testimony

“…tens of millions [come] to our city annually to absorb our cultural, social and architectural history, as well as some making the pilgrimage to visit their roots where their ancestors landed in NYC….they and their children’s children will return again and again to experience the joy of having walked in the steps of their ancestors.”
– Marie Beirne, LESPI Board of Directors

“I believe the landmark designation plan as proposed will be an important step toward ensuring that the neighborhood I love can withstand the forces that would alter it so radically that it would no longer be a place I (and so many others) could call home.”
– Jim Eigo, East Village Resident

Thankfully, and due to the strong support of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, LESPI and other local community and preservation groups, residents, and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Subcommittee voted 5-0 in support of the district with its boundaries intact.

Then, on February 6, the full City Council ratified the Subcommittee’s approval.

The East Village / Lower East Side Historic District designation is now finalized: a great reason for us all to celebrate!

LPC Hears Bialystoker!

The campaign to landmark the historic Bialystoker Home took a big step forward Tuesday morning, February 12, when the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a Public Hearing attended by more than 40 supporters of landmark designation. Close to 20 people spoke in favor. Significantly, Gary Ambrose, a member of the Bialystoker Board, stated that the Board was not opposed to designation. He was followed by Council Member Margaret Chin, other elected officials, experts on Jewish art and

Bialystoker Home on East Broadway. Photo: Edenpictures.

architecture, and local architects who all spoke in favor of landmarking. LESPI provided written testimony in support. Linda Jones, Joyce Mendelsohn (both members of LESPI’s Board of Advisors), and Mitchell Grubler, founding members of Friends of the Bialystoker Home, Carolyn Ratcliffe of Community Board 3 and LESPI, other neighborhood and preservation groups, and numerous local residents expressed their support.

The next step is for the Commission to schedule a vote on designation. We believe the prognosis is good – check our Facebook page for updates on this very important Lower East Side

Newsletter images by Richard Moses unless otherwise noted

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 “Una Nuova Vita: Italian-American Immigration and Culture in NYC’s Lower East Side” Evening a Hit

They came mostly from southern Italy: the regions of Sicily, Campania, Abruzzo, and Calabria. They travelled in cramped steamships across a wide ocean to make a new life: una nuova vita. They arrived at Ellis Island and, if deemed healthy, continued to Manhattan and the mainland beyond to make their new homes. For centuries Italians have been moving to this country, but from the 1880s to the 1920s some 4 million Italian immigrants, the largest influx, arrived in New York by this arduous route.

The new immigrants typically moved into Manhattan’s Lower East Side, into a large community located around what later came to be called Little Italy. The area extended south to Canal Street, north into what is now called the East Village, and west into southern Greenwich Village. This broad swath, the largest Little Italy in the U.S., was actually several neighborhoods,

Mulberry Street ca. 1900. Photo: earlypics.com.

each with distinct customs, culture, and dialect based on the residents’ home region. Although the immigrants shared a pride in their native culture, they generally came from great economic and social hardship, and sought with much hard work to assimilate to their new country. Within a few generations, the immigrant families had mostly left Little Italy for East Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and then the suburbs. They found success in American society. The few blocks of Little Italy we see today are a small reminder of this thriving community of generations ago.

On Tuesday, February 5 LESPI sponsored: “Una Nuova Vita: Italian-American Immigration and Culture in New York City’s Lower East Side,” at the Italian American Museum – a beautifully preserved historic Italian-American banking hall on Mulberry Street.

Dr. Joseph Scelsca speaking at Una Nuova Vita Event.

Museum President Dr. Joseph Scelsca gave a spirited and well-illustrated lecture on the history of Italian immigration. Afterward, audience members – almost 40 people attended – offered their own families’ stories, enjoyed delicious Italian cookies courtesy of Veniero’s Pasticceria on East 11th Street and, of course, sipped

Enjoying the century-old Italian American banking hall, museum exhibits, and dolci Italiani (sweets) from Veniero’s

vino. Stay tuned for future LESPI Lower East Side cultural events as our series progresses – contact us at info@LESPI-nyc.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you’d like to be added to our email list. Molto buono (very good)!

LESPI Chosen for Historic District Council’s Six to Celebrate 2013!

LESPI / the historic East Village / Lower East Side was recently chosen as one of the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrate neighborhoods for 2013. We’ve now started working with HDC to expand our outreach, refine our message, and improve our operations. HDC kicked off the this year’s program January 29 with a Six to Celebrate Launch Party

From left: HDC’s Simeon Bankoff, LESPI’s Richard Moses, NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and LESPI’s Philip Van Aver, Joyce Mendelsohn, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Jean Standish, and Marcia Ikonomopoulos. Photo courtesy HDC.

University Settlement on Eldridge Street, attended by representatives of this year’s Six, last year’s Six, HDC Board members, preservationists, and community members. We’re looking forward to a productive year working with this august and very in-the-know city-wide historic preservation organization!

Six to Celebrate 2013 Launch Party. Photo courtesy HDC.


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.