City will Demolish, Redevelop Historic Chinatown School Building Ravaged by Fire

Posted on: March 2nd, 2020 at 5:06 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

The Chinatown building destroyed by a five-alarm fire in January will be demolished and redeveloped.

The historic Public School 23, erected in 1892 and owned by the city, fell victim to the fire on its top three floors. Damage was severe, and it took firefighters more than a day to extinguish the inferno. Nine firefighters and one civilian, carried to safety from a tower ladder, were injured.

The city confirmed last week in a press release that the top floors have been inaccessible since the fire, and that the structure will be taken down.

“The City determined that the first phase of deconstruction is necessary due to extensive, irreparable damage to the building,” the Department of Citywide Administrative Services said in a statement. “During deconstruction, the city will be able to access parts of the building that have remained inaccessible to date due to unsafe conditions.”

Said first phase will focus on the most damaged elements, and will unfold over the next four months. The community nonprofits that called 70 Mulberry home – Chinatown Manpower, H.T. Chen & Dancers Company, United East Athletics Association, and the Museum of Chinese in America – will then have a chance to salvage any remains of their belongings.

MOCA initially feared the worst, but already salvaged hundreds of boxes of archival material stashed on the second floor. This week, the Museum will retrieve the remaining 80-percent.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, Chinatown activist Karlin Chan started a petition to save the building. It’s so far netted nearly a thousand signatures.

After the big takedown, the plan is to redevelop. But what are the chances the city just sells the property and wipes its hands?

Recent Stories

Nitecap Says Goodnight to Rivington Street After Six Years

Nitecap probably needs one right about now. The basement bar – founded in 2014 by David Kaplan and Alex Day of Death & Co. fame – announced its permanent closure on Instagram last night, citing challenges due to COVID-19 and debts still owed. Nitecap closed down, with the rest of the city, at the outset […]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Celebrate 20 Years by Sharing Footage from First Show at Mercury Lounge

You’re old. But you were young then. Perhaps you caught a fringe group at Mercury Lounge that night twenty years ago. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were just another on a stacked bill September 25, 2000, alongside other relative unknowns, including Candy Darlings, Kid Congo Powers, and The White Stripes (who had released their debut record months […]

‘Friedmans’ Eyes Seward Park for Latest Outpost

Friedmans, the local comfort food chain, has eyes for Seward Park. Specifically, the commercial space formerly occupied by Randall’s Barbecue. Indeed, it appears that 357 Grand Street – vacant since May – could be restaurant number eight for the Friedmans crew. Owner Alan Phillips is listed on the October docket of Community Board 3 to […]

78 People Caught Flouting Social Distancing Rules at Bowery Karaoke Bar

A karaoke bar on the Bowery was busted by the Sheriff’s office Friday night for violating COVID-19 social distancing regulations. According to a report in Gothamist, seventy-eight people were spotted inside K-One Karaoke Bar at 97 Bowery eating and drinking at about 2:30am on Saturday morning. No distancing or masks. Sheriff Joe Fucito, head of […]

Artists Stick Together with ‘We Are All Bowery’

Hard hit by the pandemic and protests, an art initiative is underway to assuage the struggles currently happening on the Bowery. The “We Are All Bowery” project is helmed by Inside Change From Within, an endeavor supported in part by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The goal of this project is a seemingly simple one: […]