Aerial Photos Call into Question City’s Decision to Fully Demolish 70 Mulberry Street

Posted on: June 1st, 2020 at 5:08 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

On the evening of January 23, as Chinatown residents prepared for the Lunar New Year, a devastating five-alarm fire decimated the former PS23 at 70 Mulberry Street. Nearly five months later, many in the neighborhood continue to question the city’s choice to fully demolish the facility.

Especially after the emergence of aerial photos showing the charred interior.

True to form, elected officials held press events in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, including an onsite cameo by Mayor de Blasio, who “vowed” to restore. It took five weeks before the nonprofit tenants – Museum of Chinese in America, Chinatown Manpower Project, HT Chen & Dance, United East Athletics – could return and conduct salvage operations.

However, transparency about the fire or plans for the city-owned building were seemingly nonexistent until a Community Board 3 Land Use meeting last month. Department of Citywide Administrative Services deputy commissioner Quintin Haynes presented pictures of the burned building and said full demolition was well underway due to the severity of infrastructural damage to supporting wooden joists and beams.

Photo: Karlin Chan

All along, residents had been told that removal of the roof and top three floors was necessary to prevent imminent collapse. Not a removal of the whole structure.

The CB3 full board adopted a resolution last week calling for continued demolition of top floors down to the historic stonework. Yet recommended that an independent structural engineer assess the feasibility of saving the remainder of the historic facade. (One was hired the next day.)

However, amateur aerial footage of the site doesn’t appear to comport with the DCAS assessment. For instance, steel girders and support beams are clearly visible; and major damage can be seen on the Bayard Street side, from the third floor upward. But most of the roof was intact and you could even see a worker standing on it.

Coincidentally, it appears demolition crews have accelerated the pace of work. Is the city pulling a fast one on the community? A reputable source had disclosed that DCAS allegedly pressured some of the nonprofits to endorse a joint letter calling for full demolition lest it be years longer before occupancy.

Is there more here than meets the eye?

Recent Stories

Stringer Punts on East Side Coastal Resilience Contract

For advocates of East River Park, a brief reprieve. City Comptroller, and former mayoral candidate Scott Stringer did not sign the $1.2 billion construction contract with IPC Resiliency Partners that would kickstart city funding for the East Side Coastal Resilience project. It apparently boils down to missing info and the review period having elapsed. “As […]

Restless Soul: Christopher Paul Stelling at Rockwood Music Hall

Christopher Paul Stelling lived in New York City for a few years. He inhabits a restless soul, however. Originally from Daytona Beach, Florida, the artist has lived in Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, and currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina. He spends a lot of time on the road, too, except that last year he had no […]

Wegmans Market to Open at Former Astor Place Kmart

Something rather unexpected. Not two weeks after Kmart terminated its presence in Astor Place, its replacement is announced. From left field – Wegmans is to open its first Manhattan grocery at this location. The well-regarded, Rochester-based chain already maintains a store in Brooklyn. Curb your enthusiasm, though, as the new Wegmans won’t open at 770 […]

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot Wraps its Summer Season

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is wrapping up its latest affair with a lesser known production from the Bard’s canon. Continuing the Lower East Side tradition, the Drilling Company is back at the Clemente for three final performances this week – to perform Two Noble Kinsmen. For this iteration, director Hamilton Clancy has taken the […]

A Grave Marker for a Homeless Man Bludgeoned to Death on the Bowery

It’s been nearly two years since the city was rocked by the fatal bludgeoning of homeless men on the Bowery while they slept. Of the five beaten by 24-year-old attacker Randy Santos, four ultimately died – Chuen Kwok, Anthony Manson, Florencio Moran, and Nazario Vasquez-Villegas. Chuen Kwok was a vulnerable senior who, after the passing […]