Rehab Begins for Fire-Ravaged School Building in Chinatown

Posted on: February 14th, 2020 at 5:07 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

In the wake of the devastating fire at the old Public School 23 building in Chinatown, the cleanup and rehab is full throttle.

City contractors starting assembling scaffolding at the scorched 70 Mulberry Street earlier this week. The web of bars is making its way up the whole structure ahead of imminent debris removal.

Meanwhile, this past Tuesday, displaced nonprofit Chinatown Manpower Project hosted a roundtable for businesses along Mulberry and Bayard with two mayoral aides to address concerns over loss of business (and parking) from the area street closures. These owners sought permission to place posters on the barrier that blocks the roadway to show customers they are open.

The city hasn’t been too forthcoming with information on next steps. However, the representatives at the round table did state Mulberry Street will eventually be sealed to traffic once debris removal and rebuilding begins.

Photo: Karlin Chan

The fire destroyed the roof and upper floors of the historic building, erected as Public School 23 in 1892. It burned hot, and required the efforts of more than two hundred firefighters to extinguish. Nine were injured in the blaze, as well as one civilian evacuated via tower ladder; all with non-life threatening injuries. Several nonprofits were displaced, and the archive of the Museum of Chinese in America was nearly lost.

While standing there yesterday, I did witness city workers entering the second and third floors via exterior fire stairs, and wondered why the remaining MOCA archives couldn’t be rescued in this manner, as well.

So, for the foreseeable future there are more disruptions ahead for Chinatown.

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