Icon Realty Picks up Elizabeth Street Tenement that Martin Scorsese and Debbie Harry Backed for Landmarking

Posted on: August 25th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Controversial landlord Icon Realty just picked up a tenement building on Elizabeth Street in Little Italy. A property that tenants have been trying to landmark for the last several months, and with support of Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese. So, definitely bad news on both fronts: for tenants and the preservation.

The transaction is not yet in public record, but residents have shared the welcome package. It’s not pretty. The rider indicates that renovations will happen and that “building safety manager” Felipe Olmeta will be “visiting the building regularly to make certain all applicable protocols are observed in connection with renovation … once work begins.”

This news of Icon Realty at the helm, coupled with tepid response from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, paints a dreary picture for this nascent grassroots effort.

Nevertheless, one longtime resident of 239 Elizabeth Street remains fully committed to convincing the city to landmark not just the building, but potentially the block (i.e. historic district). Beth Joy Knutsen-Papaleo even elicited public comments from both Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese in support of the measure. Her “Request for Evaluation” was submitted at the beginning of July.

“We, the 239 Elizabeth Street’s Tenants Association, believe the time is now to landmark our building’s incredible history,” Knutsen wrote at the time. “It is not only our building, but the block of Elizabeth Street between Prince and East Houston that must be preserved for the sake of what made our little street so incredibly important.”

LPC did respond to the Request, though, but fell short of commitment. Despite the “get in line” tone of the letter, we’re told this is considered to be one of the more positive responses you can get from the agency. So maybe there is the slightest glimmer of hope. Until then, purgatory.

Thank you for your recent submission. The agency has recently reviewed the information you submitted concerning 239 Elizabeth Street and proposed Elizabeth Street Historic District and found that this is an important area that merits further study. A survey of the area by the Commission is needed and will be conducted in consideration with the Commission’s overall priorities for the five boroughs.

We thank you for your commitment to historic preservation and appreciate your interest in the work of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“I am dead sick of tasteless developers who never wanted to live in NYC deciding what’s right for a neighborhood. The neighborhoods are like small towns and have their own histories and identities which are vitally important to maintain and remember. Let’s keep the many flavors and colors that make New York City such a special place, not just another bland expression of greedy commercialism and bad architecture.” –Debbie Harry

“For over 25 years, I have advocated for the preservation of our cultural heritage through film preservation because it is so important to understand and appreciate our past. Elizabeth Street between East Houston and Prince is a crucial piece of Little Italy’s history and an important landmark of New York’s unique immigrant heritage.” –Martin Scorsese

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