Elizabeth Street Tenement Denied Landmark Status, Despite Endorsement of Martin Scorsese and Debbie Harry

Posted on: November 18th, 2016 at 5:02 am by
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The drive to landmark one Little Italy tenement came to a screeching halt a few weeks ago, despite some high-profile endorsements including Martin Scorsese and Debbie Harry.

For the last two years, tenant Beth Joy Knutsen-Papaleo has worked toward a goal of preserving not just 239 Elizabeth Street, but the block between Prince and East Houston Streets. Her research and hustle netted public comments of support from both Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese. One of the largest stakeholders in the area, the St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, also supported the grassroots landmarking measure.

Kuntsen-Papaleo sent her “Request for Evaluation” to the Landmarks Preservation Commission four months ago. “We, the 239 Elizabeth Street’s Tenants Association, believe the time is now to landmark our building’s incredible history,” she 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.”

There was some initial hope off the bat, bolstered by said celebrity backing. Plus, the endorsement of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, given its status in the neighborhood, was thought to be a boon for the cause.

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It was not enough, though. The proposal fell on deaf ears. A letter from the LPC relayed the news. It reads, in part:

I am writing to provide further clarification on your Request for Evaluation for 239 Elizabeth Street and a potential historic district between Prince and Houston. The agency had evaluated 239 Elizabeth Street and found that it does not rise to the level of architectural and cultural significance necessary for designation and does not merit further consideration as a potential individual New York City landmark.

Elizabeth Street and the adjacent area may warrant further study to determine whether they could merit designation as a historic district.

This decision to deny may have been related to the ongoing ownership situation here. You’ll recall that ICON Realty purchased 239 Elizabeth Street in August. From what we hear, the same old move-em-out tactics are at play. And landmark status could hinder the conversion plans.

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