Friday, July 11, 2008

USA: National Trust for Historic Preservation Names New York's Lower East Side to 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Names New York's Lower East Side to 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

[n.b. This report was first posted by email on June 13, 2008]

(ISJM) The National Trust for Historic Preservation, America's foremost historic preservation organization, announced on May 20th its list of eleven most endangered sites in the United States. As in many recent years, the Trust has chosen not to emphasize specific buildings, but has sounded the alarm about the real or potential destruction of entire historic neighborhoods, cityscapes and landscapes. On this year's list is New York City's Lower East Side, the historic home to multiple waves of immigrant populations, including hundreds of thousands of East European Jews who settled in the area (mixing or displacing earlier immigrant groups) especially between the 1880s until the First World War. The area has remained, or has been re-invented, in the popular American Jewish imagination as the historic heartland of American (read: East European) Jews. After the destruction of so much of the Jewish culture of Europe in the Holocaust, the Lower East Side (or East Side as it was earlier known) took on greater significance for American Jews – many of whom were now embracing suburban life - as a potent reminder of "from where they came." The area is usually recalled with mixture of fact and myth (see Hasia Diner's excellent book "Lower East Side Memories").

Even today, however, there remains a substantial Jewish population in the area, and numerous synagogues. But the Lower East Side is also the home to increasingly trendy commercial establishments and high-rent apartments. Conversion and renovation are transforming social and often physical aspects of the neighborhood. There is increasing demolition of old buildings in order to build bigger newer ones, and this more than any single factor puts the area at risk. The Lower East Side has always been an area of transition. Preservationists cannot stop change, and most do not want to. But they hope to slow down development and to force greater review and consideration of new projects in the area, and more closely watch the impact of single building projects on the neighborhood as a whole. New York is not alone with this problem. Many European cities including Budapest, Paris and Rome all face increased development pressure on the former Jewish centers of their cities. New development and higher rents, as well as demolition and new construction, are changing the character of those formerly quiet places. See for example "Paris Jewish quarter fights tourism, commerce in battle for soul"

To read more from the National Trust see:

To read Lower East Side Preservation Coalition Executive Director Katy
Daly's remarks see:

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