Margaret Chin Outlines Lower East Side Landmarking Efforts

Posted on: March 8th, 2012 at 10:21 am by

One staunch Lower East Side preservationist is actively fighting on behalf of the Federal-style row house at 206 Bowery, and now informs us of the latest. Two years after being mainstreamed, the plight of this historic structure has seemingly slipped off the agenda of city pols; never a good sign. Said neighborhood activist recently bombarded City Council Member Margaret Chin with letters in support of landmarking 206, and received the following response (note, the letter was sent to all constituents who write to the office).

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As you’ll see, it details upcoming properties being considered for protection, as well as an explanation regarding the 135 Bowery debacle. With regard to the latter, the new building will incorporate elements of the old structure into the design:

Dear [Redacted],

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the importance of preserving the history of the Lower East Side community. I want to take this opportunity to tell you about several new projects I am working on with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LDC).

The 1st Council District is home to more individual landmarks and historic districts than any other Council District. It is my sincerest hope that the number of landmarks will rise during my time in office. To that end, I have met with Chairman Tierney to discuss the landmark designation of eight buildings in District-1, including several on the Bowery and three Federal-style buildings.

On the Bowery specifically, LDC and I will work together to designate the Bowery Bank, a Beaux-arts style building located at 124 Bowery, at the corner of Grand Street, and built between 1900-1902; and the Bowery Mission, a 19th century neo-Grec style building located at 227 Bowery and built in 1876.

I will also seek the designation of several buildings on the Lower East Side: The Grand, a neo-Grec/Queen Anne style, cast-iron building located at 345 Grand Street and built in 1887; the 339 Grand Street Building (aka 57 Ludlow Street), a Federal-style building built between 1831-1832; and The James R. Whiting House, a Federal-style building located at 22 East Broadway and built in 1832.

In addition, several buildings in lower Manhattan will be considered for landmark designation: the 177 West Broadway House, a Federal-style house located in Tribeca and built between 1803-1805; The New York Curb Stock Exchange, (later, the American Stock Exchange), an Art Deco, neo-Renaissance style building located at 78-86 Trinity Place and 113-23 Greenwich Street, and built in 1930-31/1920-21; and finally; 88 Pine Street, and I.M. Pei & Partners building completed in 1973.

I ask for your support as I work with the Landmarks Commission and the owners of these eight properties towards designation.

I also want to take a moment to address an issue that many of you have written to me about: 135 Bowery. My vote to de-landmark 135 Bowery was not taken lightly. 135 Bowery was a very difficult decision for me, and I want to explain why I took the position I did.

Initially, I was supportive of the proposal to landmark 135 Bowery. However, at that time, I was not aware of the structural instability of the property, nor how much of the building had already been dismantled. After a visit to the site by my senior staff, it became clear that the property owner already had a development plan in place and had begun to execute much of the work necessary to make that project a reality. In essence, there was very little left of 135 Bowery to save.

In the end, I did change my position. However, I could not let 135 Bowery go without receiving some benefit for the Lower East Side community. I met with the property owner to encourage an alternative proposal, which, I believe, will greatly benefit the Lower East Side community.

This is an incredibly tough economic environment for New Yorkers, and especially small business owners and start-ups in lower Manhattan. 135 Bowery will be developed in a way that pays homage to the history of Bowery, while providing space for local businesses to grow in the future.

The development of 135 Bowery will be contextual with the surrounding neighborhood, and will provide affordable commercial office space for small businesses. Furthermore, this development will take place under the guidance of a responsible owner who seeks to preserve much of the historic character of the building in its new form.

The project that will be built will incorporate much of the original 135 Bowery structure, including the Flemish bond brick, as well as interior structural pieces. These were the most historically significant portions of the building and they will be maintained in a way that pays tribute to Bowery’s contributions to our City’s history.

I will continue advocate for landmark properties, while balancing the wider needs of the community, in the best way that I know how. I ask for your trust, support, and understanding on issues of preservation as we move forward.

The best way for our community to grow and prosper is to listen and respect one another, both on issues where we agree and disagree. Thank you again for writing to me. Your voice helps me to advocate for what is important to residents in our community.

Sincerely,

Margaret S. Chin
New York City Council Member
District-1, Manhattan

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