Subject: But can you trust the Tenement Museum?
NB- Many issues here. Mitchell Moss continues to be a mouthpiece for Real Estate, but we should
remember that only a few years ago the Tenement Museum tried to evict an entire building of
tenants so it could expand its operations. They tried to use eminent domain.
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Publication: The New York Sun; Date:Mar 15,
2006; Section:Front Page; Page:1
City May Block Renewal of L. East Side
By DAVID LOMBINO
Staff Reporter of the Sun
Two plans are being floated that would put
curbs on development in one of the city�s great
success stories of the last decade, the Lower
East Side, where substandard tenement housing and
high crime rates have been replaced by
residential development and a thriving restaurant and nightlife
Today, representatives from the Tenement
Museum on Orchard Street will meet with officials
from the Department of Planning to discuss their
proposal for a sweeping historic district designation on the Lower East
The preliminary boundaries of that district
would cover roughly the area between Houston
Street on the north and Division Street on the
south; Allen Street on the west and Essex Street
on the east. Most of the area, which comprises
more than 600 acres and contains in excess of 400
buildings, has been recognized on the National
Register of Historic Places since 2000.
With the city�s population expected to
continue to grow, some think a historic
designation would stifle marketdriven growth. A
professor of urban planning at New York
University, Mitchell Moss, called a historic
district designation �hostile to the young people
of New York City by limiting their opportunities to live there.
�This area is gradually blossoming with
young people, new eateries, and the like, and
this will turn it into a tourist trap rather than
a genuine, authentic community,� Mr. Moss said.
�It�s a historically inaccurate proposal. It�s an
effort to return to the 19th century rather than
maintaining what�s currently there.�
The city�s Landmarks Preservation Commission
is reviewing the Tenement Museum�s request for
historic district designation. In the city�s 84
historic districts,all existing buildings are
designated as landmarks and face increased
restrictions on development that require owners
to get special permits from the city before they proceed with any work.
Concurrently, the city�s Department of
Planning is conducting a study on the idea of
protecting the neighborhood�s character by
rezoning parts of the Lower East Side and the
East Village. Planning officials are hoping to
move a plan forward in the next year.
Any finalized plan to limit development in
one of the city�s fastest-growing neighborhoods,
which already has soaring rents and property
values, would face formidable opposition from
property owners who may be interested in
demolishing their tenement buildings and rebuilding.
Last week, Forbes magazine named the Lower
East Side as the fourth best neighborhood in the
nation in which to buy real estate,saying it
showed a price appreciation of nearly 125% between 2003 and 2005.
The executive director of the Lower East
Side Business Improvement District, Joseph Cunin,
said his organization has yet to take an official
position on any plan,but informal conversations
with property owners indicate that a historic
districting proposal is unlikely to generate much enthusiasm.
�We are seeing a lot of new restaurants, new
retail, a lot of condo construction, conversions,
renovations � everything that would go with a
neighborhood that is booming is happening here,�
Mr. Cunin said. �I think the biggest concern
among property owners is that this would limit
their ability to redevelop their properties and
increase the potential cost of renovating their buildings.�
Mr. Cunin said property owners probably
would prefer a rezoning to a historic district
designation because it would place fewer
restrictions on upgrading existing buildings.
He said stark signs of change appear almost
daily in the neighborhood. In January, the roof
of First Roumanian-American Synagogue on
Rivington Street, built as a church in 1857,
partially collapsed, leading to its demolition.
As noted yesterday on the Web log Curbed,
a real estate broker is now listing the site
�as prime for development� at $15.3 million.
Several parties that seek to preserve the
area�s historic character cited two recent
developments that they say are completely out of
place: The Hotel on Rivington, a boutique hotel
that opened last year, and Blue, a luxury
condominium tower featuring pixilated blue
windows now rising on Norfolk Street.
The executive director of the Historic
District Council, Simeon Bankoff, said his
organization favors historic designation. He said
the area is filled with valuable New York history
and contains dozens of examples of late 19th
century tenement-style buildings that retain
unique architectural character, including terra
cotta friezes, cornices, and original ironwork.
�The goal would be to have anyone whose
parents and grandparents passed through the area
to be able to come back and say, �That�s the
building my relatives came through,�� Mr. Bankoff
said. �You don�t want to them to say, �This is
where my relatives came through when they came to
New York, and now it is a 25-story glass tower.��
Tomorrow, officials from the Tenement
Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the
stories of the waves of immigrants that have
moved through the area, will hold an
�informational meeting� with a Community Board 3
committee to discuss the ramifications of a
possible historic district designation.
Two representatives from the Tenement
Museum, Katherine Snider and Margaret Hughes,
said yesterday in a telephone interview that they
are meeting with community groups to discuss
concerns about development and the potential
ramifications of landmarking. In early April,
they will meet with landlords from the area. Ms.
Snider and Ms. Hughes insisted that the plan is
in its �very, very early stages.�
�The Tenement Museum is concerned about
pressure on the neighborhood. Our role is to
serve as the town hall for these issues, to talk
about how we could possibly address these
issues,� Ms. Hughes said.
Should Landmarks decide to move forward with
the proposal,it would first conduct a study of
the area.To become law, any designation also
would require approval by both the Department
of Planning and the City Council.