Notes from CB3: Back to the Drawing Board for 75 Essex Landmarking

Posted on: February 26th, 2014 at 5:06 am by
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After a three-hour meeting, and despite massive support for the landmarking of 75 Essex Street, the full board voted last night that the owner, Shalom Eisner, was not properly notified of the CB3 meeting. Therefore, the proposal must head back to the committee to be revisited in the future. This measure overturned the previous approval by the landmarks subcommittee.

That’s odd since he was there with his lawyer. Here is his testimony:

Following the advice of his lawyer, Eisner claimed that he was “probably” misquoted in a 2010 interview with our own Resident Historian, Allison B. Siegel, who at the time was working for the Tenement Museum.

Six Lower East Side preservation champions testified in support of the landmarking, citing that Eisner was not in fact misquoted, but had a change of heart now that Essex Crossing is looming on the horizon. The only other speaker against landmarking noted that the entire block around Eisner’s “house” will be razed and he would lose substantial sums of money if he landmarks. An audience member, against CB3 policy, stood and stated that the Pink Building on Orchard (Ridley’s) went for $25 million and the outside IS landmarked.

Eisner is still asking for $15 million (less than the $21M listing) for his freestanding property. Money talks. He does not want to alter the building; he allegedly wants it sold off and demolished.

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Other proponents for landmarking discussed the immigrant connection of the Lower East Side to the Eastern Dispensary, and brought newspaper articles citing the significance of the institution. Basically, an allusion to the number of lives saved by having a milk laboratory preventing thousands of child deaths during the swill (contaminated) milk epidemic in the 19th century.

Joyce Mendelsohn and Mitchell Grubler from the Friends of the Lower East Side testified, as did a member of LESPI, the Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha, Elisa Sampson, an urban geographer, and Allison B. Siegel of Bowery Boogie.

Mendelsohn:

…since the 1850s the LES has been the first home in America for masses of immigrants fleeing tyranny and poverty seeking new opportunity for themselves and their children. It is our responsibility to respect and honor their lives by preserving buildings that reflect the core immigrant character of the neighborhood while at the same time reaching for a reasonable balance between continuity and change. Plans for the new Essex Crossing present a vision of the future. The former dispensary at 75 Essex provides a reflection of the past. I urge the support of CB3 to protect this irreplaceable building.

Siegel:

Their testimonies were met with multiple rounds of applause. At one point an argument broke out across the auditorium. It was an extremely tense environment.

Now it’s back to the drawing board. This entire process with CB3 must begin again. Hopefully, with a better outcome.

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