Wednesday, October 14, 2009

USA: NYC Landmarks Commission Considers Lower East Side Buildings

USA: NYC Landmarks Commission Considers Lower East Side Buildings
by Samuel D. Gruber

The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission has been taking a closer look at several individual Lower East Side buildings to determine if they meet standards for designation as New York landmarks, giving them substantial protection from demolition, and even significant exterior alteration.

According the Lower East Side Tenement Museum blogger Kate Stober, properties under review include:

- 143 Allen Street House, at Rivington Street in Manhattan, a two-story intact Federal style residence constructed c. 1831,

- The Hebrew Actors’ Union, at 31 East 7th Street between Second and Third avenues, constructed in the late 19th century (public hearing was held last June),

- The former Germania Fire Insurance Company building, at 357 Bowery, south of Cooper Square, a Second Empire style, 3 ½ story building completed in 1870,

- 97 Bowery building, near Hester Street, a five-story Italianate commercial structure with a cast-iron façade constructed c. 1869,

- Ridley & Sons Department Store, 319-321 Grand Street between Orchard and Allen streets, one of a pair of five-story, cast-iron buildings constructed c. 1886.,

- Jarmulowsky Bank, 54 Canal St. at Orchard Street, a 12-story limestone and brick Beaux Arts style building built 1911-1912

For the Jewish history of the neighborhood, the Hebrew Actors' Union building and the Jarmulowsky Bank are the most significant. The Actors Union was a most center of Yiddish film and stage life in the early 20th century,

Jarmulowsky's Bank played a famous and infamous role in the financial lives and strife of Lower East Side immigrants. Together with the Forward Building, these two LES Jewish skyscrapers represented to diverse and sometimes contradictory aspirations of Jewish immigrants.

In July 2008 I wrote about the National Trust for Historic Preservation raising the alarm about destruction in the Lower East Side…all in the name of progress (read: lucrative real estate development).

I wrote at the time that: “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.”

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