Under Presure from Chinatown, Mayor Pledges $80M to Restore 70 Mulberry Street

Posted on: July 3rd, 2020 at 5:02 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

The fire-scorched school building at 70 Mulberry Street will see life anew, thanks to massive city funding.

Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday in his morning press briefing that the new budget contains a line item for $80 million dedicated to restoration of the historic building. Hizzoner spent a solid four minutes discussing how Chinatown was affected by the stigma of coronavirus weeks before it really took hold, then launched into the surprise funding announcement.

The restoration comes amidst persistent pressure from Chinatown, and will reportedly go through a three-month “community process” to gauge needs. A far cry from actions to date; namely a lack of local engagement.

May 2020, Photo: Karlin Chan

“[It is] vital that 70 Mulberry continue to be part of the life of Chinatown,” de Blasio said at the press conference. “[We will] find the right way to bring it back, and listen to the people in the community as we do that.”

Local preservationists have been fighting for months to save what little remains of the 1893 facility. And the city hasn’t really been transparent about its overarching plans. There is still confusion whether the building will be completely razed or simply gutted and redeveloped with a tower topper. At this point, however, many are content with simply saving the iconic stone base, and Community Board 3 agreed with a recent resolution.

The building at 70 Mulberry Street was originally constructed in 1893 as Public School 23 to serve as a model for future “safe” public schools by then-DOE superintendent, BJ Snyder, who went on to design hundreds of city schools. One of its innovative design elements was the basement auditorium, an initial step in a movement to provide community centers and neighborhood meeting halls within schools.

PS23 eventually became a Chinatown anchor, and served generations of immigrant and American-born Chinese students through a series of nonprofit organizations.

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