Vol 7 No 2 July 2016

Jane Jacobs at 100

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.”

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

World Telegram & Sun photo by Phil Stanziola/Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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.

LOMEX would have displaced of over 2,000 families and destroyed 800 businesses.

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!

LESPI T-shirts!

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!

Support LESPI!

Donate!

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.

Volunteer!

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 This 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!

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.

LESPI's "East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side"

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

Veniero's proprietor, Robert Zerilli (left) with photographers Karla and James Murray

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.

Tom Rinaldi, author of New York Neon

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

Photographer Ciaran Tully. Photo by Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

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.

LESPI's Kate Waterman and Jean Standish collect signatures at KKJ Festival

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

The General Slocum steamship

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.

For future events stay tuned at our Facebook page and on our email list - contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to sign up.

About LESPI

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.

Contact us by email at This 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.

 
Vol 7 No 1 March 2016

Preservation and Affordable Housing

New York City, home to ever-increasing housing costs, is becoming largely unaffordable to all but the very rich. Most people agree that an ample supply of affordable housing is important, because it allows New Yorkers to stay in their homes and helps ensure the diversity that is our city’s hallmark.  The alternative is increasing gentrification and homogeneity.

The mayor has stated that the creation of new and maintenance of existing affordable housing is one of his administration’s top goals.  His answer to the affordable housing crisis is a massive up-zoning of the city, under his ZQA rezoning proposal to be voted on by City Council this month.  

The Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) has used this campaign as an excuse to not only call for upzoning the city under the ZQA Act, but for halting the landmark designation of our historic neighborhoods.  Landmark designation is the only viable tool to protect our historic buildings and streetscapes from demolition or unsympathetic alteration.  REBNY claims that landmark designation causes gentrification and displaces long-time residents.

U.S. Census data reveals that blaming historic districts for gentrification is not based on fact, but on misinformation.  As compiled by the Historic Districts Council (HDC), the census data show that from 1970-2010:

- Rental prices did not increase significantly more in historic districts than non-designated neighborhoods.
- In Manhattan, historic districts showed a similar increase in average median household income as non-designated neighborhoods.
- The percentage of households considered rent-burdened (paying more than 35% of their income on rent) did not change at a significantly different rate within historic districts than outside of them. 

Additionally:

- Historic district designation has not prevented subsidized housing from being built: subsidized housing was created at a higher rate within Manhattan historic districts than outside of them.
- The percentage of existing subsidized housing in Manhattan was maintained at virtually the same rate within and outside of historic districts.

Meanwhile, REBNY continues to rail against landmarking and push for ZQA, in the interest of those real estate developers who seek only bigger, more luxurious buildings and more gigantic profits, unrestrained by community input or need.  Should we  give over our historic neighborhoods to developers, many of whom have no ties to or consideration of our communities?

West 57th Street (photo: newyorkyimby.com)

Please contact your local Council member HERE and let them know that you are opposed to ZQA, and that any upzoning should be done on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.  For a sample letter see HERE and scroll down to LESPI’s June 9 letter.

HDC’s March 5 conference on preservation and affordable housing, Preservation and the Progressive Agenda was attended by LESPI Board members, who took in a wealth of information on the subject.  On the same day they also partook in HDC’s Preservation Fair, where they exchanged preservation strategies and notes with other NYC local preservation groups.

LESPI Board member Marie Beirne at HDC Preservation Fair

LESPI T-shirts!

With spring just around the corner (some claim it’s already here), short sleeves are in order: 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!

Support LESPI!

Donate!

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.

Volunteer!

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 This 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!

PRESERVATION UPDATE:

2 Oliver Street and 138 Second Avenue

For those of you following the travails of 2 Oliver Street (1822) and 138 Second Avenue (1832), recently heard at Public Hearing during NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) review of backlogged potential landmarks (see LESPI’s October 28 letters to LPC HERE), we have disappointing news to report. In late February the Commission decided not to landmark these two properties, which had been calendared for Individual Landmark designation by the LPC many years ago, despite their long history and intact condition.

Second Avenue looking north from East 1st Street (photo: NYPL)

We are following up with LPC and our sister preservation organizations to determine next steps in seeking to save these buildings, and will keep you posted.

LESPI’S “New Design in our Historic Neighborhoods"

Scholastic Building, 557 Broadway by Aldo Rossi, 2001 (photo: thecityreview.com)

Most of us have experienced - probably many times - the “Look at that monster!” reaction to the latest massive, out-of-context building sprouting up on New York’s historic streets. Although we at LESPI are very supportive of new, sensitively designed buildings, including those built in an unabashedly modern style, we’re opposed to architecturally undistinguished, out-of-scale new buildings that seem to turn their backs on their surrounding neighborhoods. So how exactly are we to judge new buildings? What differentiates “monsters” from future landmarks?

To help crystallize our thinking on this subject, we invited Alex Herrera, Director of the NY Landmarks Conservancy’s Technical Services Center and previously Director of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) Preservation Department, to speak to LESPI members and supporters about new design in historic neighborhoods, including such topics as the challenges architects face in contextual design, and what the LPC looks for in reviewing proposed new buildings.

Alex’s beautifully illustrated presentation demonstrated how new buildings should be judged aesthetically in the context of an historic streetscape: such characteristics as scale, massing, facade “texture”, materials and details can create a dialogue between old and new buildings. He noted that that the LPC, which regulates the design of new buildings and additions to existing buildings in historic districts, allows a wide range of approaches to contextual design: anything from replicating existing design and details to creating an original aesthetic that speaks to our present culture. However one thing that LPC insists on is a well thought-out design that they consider to be an architectural asset, rather than detriment, to the historic district.

Following Alex’s talk, attendees chatted over wine and cheese, comparing notes on their “loves and hates” of the many new buildings around town.

SAVE THE DATE - May 18!

Save the Date: on May 18 Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is sponsoring “Mom-and-Pop Storefronts and the Art of Vernacular Design: NYC’s Lower East Side and Chinatown”.

The event will feature speakers 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 illustrated lectures will explore the history and aesthetics of mom-and-pop signage and storefronts in these most iconic neighborhoods.

Invites will be sent out shortly to our LESPI mailing list: if you’re not on our mailing list and you’re interested in receiving an email invite, let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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.

LESPI's "East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side"

Available at Strand, and The Source.

About LESPI

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.

Contact us by email at This 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.

 
Fall 2015

October’s “Before and Behind the Curtain”

New Yorkers have enjoyed theater from as early as around the end of the 17th century, however it wasn’t until the late 18th century that its first substantial house, the Park Theatre on Park Row near Ann Street, was launched. By the early 19th century grand structures such as The National, The Bowery Theatre, Chatham Garden, and The Thalia were being built, from around Nassau Street north along the Bowery and Broadway to about Houston Street, trying to lure audiences with the most majestic facades, lavish interiors, and opulent productions.

Bowery Theatre, 1867

During this period, theaters tended to burn down almost as quickly as new theaters were being constructed, because the candles and oil lamps used to light the productions could easily light surrounding props or building construction. This in effect expedited the construction of yet newer and grander theaters.

By the late 19th century mainstream theater productions began moving north to Union Square, then Longacre (now Times) Square, as the Lower East Side increasing became home for new immigrants. Many of the older theaters, such as The Thalia, as well as new theaters began housing productions in the immigrants’ native languages, which became very popular: by the turn of the 20th century the “Yiddish Rialto” theaters along Second Avenue north of Houston Street were selling more tickets than the new theater district uptown.

Ralph Lewis

In late October Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and Art Loisaida sponsored a beautifully illustrated lecture by Ralph Lewis of Peculiar Works Theater on “Before and Behind the Curtain: A History of 19th Century Theaters in the Lower East Side”. The audience was spellbound by Ralph’s extremely informative and lively presentation. After the lecture, local theater buffs and preservationists chatted enthusiastically at the wine and cheese reception.

If you missed this event, be sure to check our Facebook page or email us at info at LESPI-nyc.org to get on our mailing list for notifications of future events.

Bowery Theatre of 1828

Who We Are

LESPI Board Profile:
Marie Beirne

Too often, the public thinks of volunteer preservation organizations as mysterious entities with lives of their own. But they’re actually conglomerations of individuals. For this reason, we want to introduce you to our Board of Directors. Each LESPI quarterly newsletter highlights one of our Board members. For our Fall 2015 newsletter, we are highlighting Marie Beirne, a member of our Board of Directors since 2010.

Marie’s parents were both Irish, her father an immigrant and her mother born in Manhattan, the offspring of an Irish immigrant family. Her immigrant family background and her personal experience as a New York City tenant are what influenced her to become a preservation activist. Marie met Richard Moses, President of LESPI when, as a Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village (ST/PCV) tenant, she was asked by Community Board 6 to participate in the committee involved in the effort to list Stuyvesant Town on the National Register of Historic Places (it has been determined to be eligible for listing) and as a NYC Landmark. Marie’s experience as a tenant leader and a veteran in landmark procedure made her a natural, leading to her joining LESPI and becoming a member of our Board of Directors.

Retired from a career as a Project Manager/Business Analyst in systems development for financial services corporate icons such as NASDAQ, MetLife, BNP Paribas, Marie was educated in Yorkville for grammar school, graduated from high school in Greenwich Village, and received a B.A. from the University of Hawaii.

Marie Beirne

Marie brings so much to our Board. She is a seasoned preservation advocate, and has co-produced the City & Suburban Homes oral history publication and a Stuyvesant Town film documentary production, both of which have been used as campaign tools to help landmark NYC historic sites. Marie is presently working on an oral history film documentary project for LESPI.

It is Marie’s passion for preservation that shines through in everything she does. In her own words, “the Manhattan tenant experience is like no other in America. Honoring our immigrant ancestors’ contribution to Manhattan, is an ongoing preservation effort to highlight our social, cultural, historic and architectural history.” Marie has made this her life work and we are so lucky to have her on LESPI's Board.

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!

Support LESPI!

Donate!

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.

Volunteer!

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 This 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!

Landmarking and Legislation Updates

Landmarks Commission Designation Public Hearings:

Responding to the concerns of LESPI and many other preservation and community organizations around the city, this fall the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) began holding public hearings for historic buildings that it had been previously considered for landmarking, but where it had never taken action. Jean Standish, a member of LESPI’s Board of Directors, presented LESPI's testimony supporting Individual Landmark designation for two early 19th century Federal style buildings in the historic Lower East Side. Some testimony highlights:

38 Second Avenue:

“In 1832, when this grand residential building was constructed, 138 Second Avenue was one of many such homes that once lined this part of Second Avenue. The building retains most of its Federal characteristics. The simple yet elegant design - including Flemish bond brickwork, and most notably its Gibbsian entrance surround - clearly shows the building’s origins in this early period of the East Village’s development.”

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

2 Oliver Street:

“The building - occupied by, amongst others, James O’Donnell (born 1774), an Irish immigrant who became an accomplished New York architect; and Dr. Antonio Pisani (ca. 1873-1954), whose work greatly benefited New York’s Italian American community - reflects the importance of immigration to the city from its earliest days to the present… Although the Lower East Side is most commonly associated with the more ornate tenement construction that occurred during the late 19th and early 20th century, the early 19th century Federal houses show the more architecturally restrained beginnings of our common history as New Yorkers.”

2 Oliver Street, north of Henry Street.

LESPI’s testimony can be read in its entirety HERE. We applaud LPC's effort addressing this "backlog" of designation hearings, which dates to the mid 1960s, and we anticipate that the Commission will vote on how to move forward with these proposed Individual Landmarks in early 2016.

ZQA City Rezoning Proposition:

The NYC Dept. of City Planning’s proposal introduced last spring to upzone the entire city in one swoop is still going through the public review process. LESPI strongly opposes this legislation, which will result in increased congestion, diminished light and air, and increased development pressure in historic neighborhoods such as the East Village / Lower East Side.

Significantly, the vast majority of community boards in all boroughs, including Community Board 3 of the East Village / Lower East Side, has opposed this plan. LESPI, along with many other preservation and community groups, has presented testimony to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 3 and the NYC Dept. of City Planning, stating that,

“Although [LESPI is] very supportive of income diversity and affordable housing for New Yorkers, we believe that this proposal’s broad brush approach to zoning disempowers communities, and relies on one-size-fits-all solutions which will necessarily show poor results.”

LESPI President Richard Moses testifying at Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's ZQA public hearing.

This proposal is currently scheduled to be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council. At this writing the mayor has indicated that he intends to bypass community board opposition and move forward with the plan regardless.

To oppose this plan, contact your City Council Member and cc us at info at LESPI-nyc.org. For a model letter from which you can copy, see HERE (scroll down to June 9 letter).

East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side

Wondering what to get friends and family for the holidays? Here are two great gift ideas that also help support LESPI’s work preserving the historic East Village / 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 rollicking, beautifully written history by author Marilyn Appleberg..

LESPI's "East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side"

Available at Strand, St. Mark’s Bookstore and The Source

About LESPI

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 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 This 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.

Park Theatre interior on Park Row
 
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 This 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!

Donate!

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.

Volunteer!

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 This 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.

About LESPI

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 This 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.

 
Spring 2015

What’s Up With a Lower East Side Historic District?

LESPI has been hard at work gathering support for a Lower East Side historic district. We’ve teamed up with Friends of the Lower East Side (FOTLES) to get the backing of 19 community and preservation organizations and have been gathering petition signatures - now at around 500 and counting - to demonstrate the high level of grass roots commitment.

This neighborhood is not only defined by wonderful streets of historic tenement, commercial, religious and institutional buildings enlivened by florid ornamental cornices, door and window surrounds and spandrel panels, but it is of unsurpassed importance in our city's and nation's immigration and cultural history: its long and continuing tradition of diversity has helped form our identity as a land of many peoples, cultures and beliefs.

Please contact us a This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you'd like to actively assist the effort, including signing a petition, writing a letter, or any other support. Check our Facebook page for when and where we'll be petitioning next. Thank you!

LESPI Challenges Proposal To Upzone the City

LESPI strongly opposes the city administration's recent proposal to upzone - in one swoop - the entire city. This broad-brush approach neglects community character, ignores the fact that many areas of the city are already too densely built to allow natural light and air, further strains already overtaxed public transportation, and encourages the destruction of historic buildings. All to ostensibly encourage more affordable housing. LESPI supports affordable housing and diverse-income neighborhoods, but we believe that the best way to do this is to preserve the existing housing stock and retain neighborhood residents. Any upzoning needs to be done on a community-by-community basis, in careful consideration of each area’s unique urban environment.

Please write to your City Councilmember and let them know your opposition. You’re welcome to copy text from our letters on this to Community Board 3 and the NY City Planning Commission - see HERE. Please copy us on your letter at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Image courtesy of artist Amy Casey.

LESPI’s “Lower East Side: Yesterday Today Tomorrow” Event

Adam Steinberg of the Tenement Museum and Judith Saltzman of Li/Saltzman Architects presented wonderfully illustrated lectures on Lower East Side and Tenement Museum history for LESPI’s “Lower East Side: Yesterday Today Tomorrow” event May 13. Their

Adam Steinberg of the Tenement Museum

talks covered, respectively, local history and architecture, from the Lower East Side’s beginnings to present day; and the conservation and architectural challenges involved in transforming the Tenement Museum property from abandoned site to the fascinating, amazingly successful, world class museum and educational institution it is today. Great presentations; and overall a great evening!

Judith Saltzman of Li/Saltzman Architects

Share Your East Village / Lower East Side Family Photographs!

LESPI has now started a Flickr site to showcase family photographs from people who lived in the historic Lower East Side - meaning the East Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Bowery, anywhere from E 14th Street to about Fulton Street, east of Broadway - 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!

LESPI Profiled on Bowery Boogie

Recently we got some great coverage from the local news blog Bowery Boogie. Check out this wonderful article with some nice photos! Bowery Boogie is a source we rely upon for local preservation news: you can see our periodic links to the site’s preservation- and history-related articles on LESPI’s Facebook page.

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!

Donate!

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.

Volunteer!

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 This 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!

LPC Moves to Hold Hearings For All Calendared Buildings

Last fall, we at LESPI were alarmed when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed to remove from consideration more than 95 historic properties that LPC had previously calendared for public hearing, but which after several years of waiting in limbo had never been voted on for landmarking.

We’re happy to report that, after Borough President Gale Brewer, the Historic Districts Council, LESPI, and other elected officials and preservation groups protested this "decalendaring" proposal, LPC has now decided to hold public hearings for each of these properties, which in the East Village / Lower East Side include 138 Second Avenue at E 9th Street and 2 Oliver Street. We applaud the LPC for committing the resources - not always easy for a city agency of this size - to hear and vote on these sites individually based on their merits, allowing each to have "their day in court."

138 Second Avenue

LESPI Book Series Launched at Photo Exhibit Opening

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

LESPI's "East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side", available at Strand and The Source

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. No doubt this irreplaceable urban environment is worth saving from developers who often see relentless demolition and generic new construction as a way of cashing in on our community.

“East Village: Lens on the Lower East Side,” is intended to be the first of a series of “Lens on the Lower East Side” books which will showcase contemporary photographs and histories of other historic Lower East Side communities, such as the LES below Houston Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Bowery.

LESPI's book was introduced last May at the opening of an exhibit sponsored by LESPI at Clemente Soto Velez Educational and Cultural Center. The exhibit, with the same name as the book, was part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Landmarks Law and Lower East Side History Month. Co-curators Carolyn Ratcliffe and Paul Bridgewater produced a stunning photographic display.

The approximately 150 people who attended the exhibit opening enjoyed wine and delicious food generously donated by Veselka on 2nd Avenue, Veniero’s Pastry Shop on East 11th Street, Piccolo Cafe Restaurant and Cafe on 3rd Avenue, and Insomnia Cookies on Orchard Street.

LESPI Celebrates with Kehila Kedosha Janina!

LESPI members were at their sociable best while tabling at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue’s first annual Greek Jewish festival on Sunday, May 31.

Richard Moses and Marie Beirne (at left) with Joyce Mendelsohn {center) of both FOTLES and LESPI

Along with chatting with festival attendees about the importance of landmarking and gathering petition signatures in support of a new Lower East Side historic district, we were able to sneak away from our table for some wonderful Greek dancing, music and food.

Thank you to Kehila Kedosha Janina Museum Director and LESPI Board Member Marcia Ikonomopoulos for inviting us to the event, and to KKJ for sponsoring such a spectacular afternoon!

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.

About LESPI

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 This 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.

Photos by Bruce Monroe
 

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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