LESPI's Letter re NYC Rezoning Proposal

May 26, 2015

Carl Weisbrod, Director
NYC Department of City Planning
22 Reade Street
New York, NY 10007

re: Proposed “Zoning for Quality and Affordability”

Dear Mr. Weisbrod:

Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is writing to protest the NYC Department of City Planning’s “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” text amendments. Our concerns focus on the city’s historic neighborhoods, some but not all of which are NYC historic districts.

Our primary objection to this proposal is that, despite recent modifications to the plan, the rezoning treats the city with too broad a brush. Certain areas of the city may be suitable for this kind of upzoning. But many areas are not, including those where:

* Their special character is defined by low rise buildings, where light and open space predominate. This includes many historic neighborhoods both landmarked and not landmarked.

* The area has been built to a density where light and air have become limited, and severe wind tunnel effects have become more commonplace. Much of Manhattan as well as certain neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens fall within this group.

* Increased development pressure will result in further loss of the area’s existing low and moderate income residents and small businesses, which contribute significantly to neighborhood character and are often its “heart and soul.” A lot of new development results in the loss of these groups.

Although we appreciate the idea of involving community boards in the rezoning process, we are not confident that the voice of the Boards and local residents will be heard in the city’s rush to accommodate deep-pocketed real estate development interests.

We respectfully request that DCP withdraw this broad brush proposal and instead review potential rezonings on a community-by-community basis.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Moses
President

cc: Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYC Council
Hon. Rosie Mendez, NYC Council
Hon. Margaret Chin, NYC Council

 

LESPI's Letter re De-calendaring - followup

April 30, 2015

Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Dear Chair Srinivasan:

Regarding the Landmarks Preservation Commission's upcoming plan to act on properties that have been calendared for public hearing for five years or more, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative supports the action plan formulated by the Historic Districts Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to give each of the historic sites a fair hearing in an expeditious manner.

The Commission's original plan to remove all these varied buildings from consideration at once, with no public input and with no consideration for their individual merits, simply to clear an administrative backlog, would be an inappropriate sidestepping of the Commission's duty to evaluate the potential landmarks of New York City. Instead, the Commission should respect the time and effort that countless citizens spent in bringing these buildings forward for consideration, expecting, in good faith, that these buildings be given the same due process that other proposed landmarks have received. These buildings should be evaluated on their merits in public hearings as potential New York City landmarks with the same opportunity for open comment as buildings which were calendared more recently.

Because of the large number of buildings on this list, LESPI supports the plan suggested by HDC and the Manhattan Borough President for the buildings to be heard in geographically clustered groups. This will allow local advocates and stakeholders to speak about all the calendared buildings in their neighborhoods or Community Board districts while reasonably conserving the time it will take for all the buildings to be individually heard.

LESPI also respectfully urges the Commission to take reasonable steps to ensure that calendared buildings, from now on, are given their public hearings within a reasonable time to help prevent a backlog of calendared buildings from accumulating again.

We thank the Commission for its consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Britton Baine
Treasurer

cc: Richard D. Moses, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative

 

LESPI's Letter re De-calendaring

December 3, 2014

Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Dear Chair Srinivasan:

I’m writing on behalf of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI) to express our strong objection to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s proposed administrative action to remove properties calendared for more than five years from consideration for landmarking. This action has several strongly negative effects, it:

- results in probable loss of a significant number of buildings already deemed historic by LPC, including many broadly known sites as well as two building's in the historic Lower East Side.

- wipes away a list of properties that represents countless hours of individual and community effort to have them calendared in the first place, which in effect disenfranchises communities that have been seeking landmark protection for their historic sites and neighborhoods.

- subverts the time-tested procedure for landmarking buildings and districts: calendared properties, which have already been deemed to have historic merit by the LPC, should be entitled to their "day in court.” Undermining this process sets a bad precedent, that will discourage communities from bringing forward buildings if they believe the process cannot be consistently relied upon to ensure a full review of each building or district based on merit.

- is of a magnitude that warrants an LPC public hearing with proper public notification to allow affected communities and others to weigh in; otherwise this action will encourage public disengagement and a degradation of democratic involvement in our civic processes.

We respectfully but strongly urge the LPC to cancel the vote this Tuesday, and instead hold a public hearing to review this action and consider the buildings individually on the merits.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Moses
President

cc:
The Honorable Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
The Honorable Margaret Chin, NYC Council Member
The Honorable Rosie Mendez, NYC Council Member

 

LESPI's Letter re landmarking Eastern Dispensary building

February 3, 2014 rev.

Honorable Robert Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Re: Landmark Designation: Eastern Dispensary Building, 75 Essex Street, Manhattan

Dear Chair Tierney:

I am writing to support Individual Landmark designation for the Eastern Dispensary Building at 75 Essex Street in Manhattan.

The building remains very much intact from its original 1890 construction. Designed by architects Rose and Stone, it has a simple yet strong Italianate style architecture enlivened by ground floor rusticated masonry and arched windows. It has a notably commanding presence on the street, and serves as a vivid reminder of the immediate area’s important immigrant history.

One of a relatively small number of dispensary buildings created during the late 18th and 19th centuries by the city to assist the healthcare of poor residents, the Eastern Dispensary exemplifies the early phase of New York’s then increasing sense of charity and civic responsibility. In our time, when the role in government in helping the poor and providing health care is frequently subject to fierce debate, historical markers such as this provide a critical lesson in the successes and failures of past attitudes, policies and institutions.

The building is within the Lower East Side National Register Historic District, and was listed as a site with architectural / historic significance in the Seward Park Mixed-Use Redevelopment Project’s Environmental Impact Statement. We respectfully request that the Commission act to designate the building an Individual Landmark at the earliest opportunity. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Moses
President

Cc: Councilmember Margaret Chin, New York City Council This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Susan Stetzer, Manhattan Community Board 3 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

LESPI's Letter re landmarking Tifereth Israel synagogue building

October 25, 2013

Honorable Robert Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Re: Landmark Designation: Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue Building, Manhattan

Dear Chair Tierney:

I am writing to strongly support Individual Landmark designation for the Tifereth Israel Town and Village synagogue building at 334 East 14th Street in Manhattan.

The building has a striking and robust architectural design and a very strong presence on the street. Its history reflects the area’s cultural and demographic transitions over the last century and a half, and thereby serves as an important historical marker for the Lower East Side community.

The Tifereth Israel Town and Village synagogue building was originally built in 1866 as the German Baptist Church. Occupying the outskirts of the Lower East Side’s Kleindeutschland neighborhood, the structure would have visually dominated the surrounding streetscape from its first construction. That it continues to have such as strong presence today speaks forcefully to the building’s architectural character and to its continuing prominent role in the life of our community. The building’s transformation over time, from its original use as the German Baptist Church, to its conversion to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 1926, and finally to its present use as Tifereth Israel Town and Village synagogue, can be traced in the subtle changes in the building facades, most notably with the replacement of the steeples with onion domes in the early 20th century and the introduction of the Star of David motif in the windows during the later 20th century.

The building has historically played and continues to play an important role in the life of the Lower East Side, and we believe it is essential that the building survives for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Its importance was recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966 when it calendared the property. We applaud the Commission’s recent scheduling of a public hearing for the building, and respectfully request that the Commission acts to designate the building an Individual Landmark at the earliest opportunity. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Moses
President

 

LESPI's Letter re landmarking Stabile Row

August 21, 2013

Honorable Robert Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Re: Landmark Designation: Banca Stabile Row, Little Italy, Manhattan

Dear Chair Tierney:

Manhattan’s Little Italy is well known throughout this country as our most historically important Italian American neighborhood. Today, there are only reminders of this once sprawling and culturally diverse community, which had greatly influenced our city’s political and cultural life.

The architectural and historic significance of Little Italy, a NYC Special Purpose Zoning District and part of the Chinatown and Little Italy National Register Historic District, is apparent from the area’s rows of historic buildings ranging in date from the early 19th to the early 20th century. Wandering the neighborhood’s streets, one is still able to envision Italian American immigrant life 100 years ago.

The heart of this area is around Mulberry and Grand Streets, where the Banca Stabile row at 181-189 Grand Street is located. This row originally dates from the 1830s. In the 1880s, the corner building at 189 Grand Street was converted to Banca Stabile. Like other local banks of its type, Banca Stabile played a central role in the residents’ lives. The row remains very much intact from its turn of the 20th century appearance. Notably, Banca Stabile’s historic banking hall also remains well preserved.

The Banca Stabile row is now under threat of demolition and redevelopment. The redevelopment will forever carve the heart out of Little Italy, not only destroying buildings that strongly contribute to the area’s history and architectural heritage, but inserting an out-of-scale, non-contextual building into an historic streetscape.

Unfortunately, the area’s Special Purpose Zoning and National Register district designations do not guarantee the preservation of Little Italy’s historic architecture. Therefore, we request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission move without delay to create a historic district to include the Banca Stabile row and the other historic buildings around this important intersection, as well as to review and calendar surrounding streets of intact historic buildings within Little Italy. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Richard Moses
President

 

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The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is dedicated to preserving the historic streetscapes of the Lower East Side, including the East Village, Lower East Side below Houston Street, Bowery, Chinatown and Little Italy