On the Ground with the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative

Posted on: June 12th, 2015 at 5:14 am by
L.E.S.P.I. Tabling Event

L.E.S.P.I. Tabling Event

I think we can all agree that it is horrible seeing all of these amazing pieces of New York history demolished or pushed out by rent hikes. The neighborhood isn’t benefitting by it, and certainly many long-term residents who have been living here for years aren’t happy. It’s been said a lot in the past year, but I’ll say it again – the New York we all once came here for is disappearing at such a rapid rate that I just can’t keep up. In fact, the National Trust for Historic Preservation had listed the Lower East Side in its 2008 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places.

Seems like this still holds true, don’t ya think?

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. There are many local groups that are trying extremely hard to preserve what they can. I have had the privilege of meeting with one of these groups – the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (L.E.S.P.I.), an organization with a great mission and that has made some incredible progress in protecting our city’s beautiful assets.

L.E.S.P.I. is a not-for-profit volunteer organization founded in 2007 and is made up a group of extremely dynamic individuals, consisting of residents and preservationists who are passionate about New York. They have been instrumental in creating two New York City historic districts through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which has protected many buildings in the Lower East Side from being destroyed. Why does this need to happen? L.E.S.P.I.’s website describes this perfectly:

“It needs to happen because the Lower East Side’s historic streetscapes and buildings serve as markers that tell us of an architectural and cultural history that has been central in the development of the city as well as the country, a history that includes generations of immigrants, artists, writers, political activists, and others who helped define who we were and are as a people. Every day now more of the area’s historic tenement, institutional, and community buildings are being destroyed in waves of development that seem out of control. This destruction destroys an important tie we have to those who came before us.”

What has L.E.S.P.I. been doing to help? Another excerpt from their website explains:

To spread the word about the importance of landmarking the intact historic architecture and streetscapes of the East Village / Lower East Side, LESPI on an ongoing basis meets with the LPC staff and local elected officials, works with other neighborhood and preservation groups, and gives testimony at Community Board 3 and LPC public hearings in support. We’ve also been tabling on Avenue A in front of Tompkins Square Park and Houston Street near the Bowery to discuss the issue with residents, workers and visitors, and ask them to sign our petition for support: so far we’ve gathered in total over 1,500 petition signatures.

In 2014 LESPI completed Phase 1 of our block by block survey and mapping of the East Village and Lower East Side below Houston Street. The purpose was to identify streets – in addition to the LPC’s two new East Village historic districts – that retain a coherent sense of their historic architecture. Typically these are tenement blocks where most of the buildings have remained intact. We’ve used our survey information to pinpoint where to propose the next historic districts, and are now in the process of reviewing our proposals for new district designations with elected officials and the LPC.

Lens on the LES Exhibit Opening May 2015

Lens on the LES Exhibit Opening May 2015

I highly encourage you to go to L.E.S.P.I’s website and check out this awesome group of people making a difference. The grassroots organization need your support to continue the extremely valuable progress they’ve achieved in our neighborhood. Not only that, they have some really cool upcoming events (I have attended some in the past, and not only are they interesting, but some of them have free food!).

Recent Stories

leftfield-ludlow-closing
Rumor: ‘Mini Rex’ Dry Karaoke Concept Banking on CB3 for Re-vote at Tonight’s Meeting

For Mini Rex, the struggle to establish a “dry karaoke” bar on Ludlow Street continues. Despite defeat. You’ll recall that the concept, co-founded by Edouard Gave and Karin Elgai, includes conjoined venues that would include separate entrances for sober and drinking patrons. Different wrist stamps for each side, but booze could be consumed in all the […]

Inside 102 Norfolk during Samy Mahfar's luxury conversion, July 2014
Report: Big Real Estate Against City Council Tenant Advocate Bill that would Curb Construction as Harassment

Last week, the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings considered more than a dozen tenant-friendly bills that would provide protection from landlord harassment. Yet, one in particular, code-named Intro. 1523, drew the most attention, as it would carve out a new position within the Department of Buildings with the purpose of weighing tenants’ welfare […]

feltmans-logo-2
Wiener Classic: Feltman’s Hot Dogs Return to Coney Island After 63 Years

The prodigal hot dog is returning to Coney Island. After two years of developing a buzz for the dearly departed dog, which included a pop up stint at the Parkside Lounge, opening the East Village outpost Feltman’s Kitchen, and getting the wiener on the Mikey’s Burger menu, proprietor Michael Quinn is ready to bring Feltman’s of Coney Island […]

50clinton-reveal-1_wm
7-Story Condoplex at 50 Clinton Street Reveals its Brick Facade

Three years after Icon Realty sold its parcels at 50-62 Clinton Street to DHA Capital – it was a record $28.95 million transaction – the development it spawned now boasts some visible definition. Yesterday afternoon, the netting on the south side of the building was deposed to reveal the new masonry. Once complete, the luxury […]

peace-pentagon-nike-1_wm
Nike-KITH Sneaker Emporium Rumored for Rehabbed Peace Pentagon on Lafayette Street

Contrary to rumors that circulated the neighborhood last year, the former Peace Pentagon will not become luxury living. Nor will you recognize it once that five-story box is removed. The narrative here is a pivot from activism to consumerism. Specifically, sneakers. Permits issued by the Department of Buildings in late-December indicate that 337-339 Lafayette is […]