Join Us for Park(ing) Day September 18th!

Join the East Village Community Coalition, in collaboration with New York Restoration Project and Sustainable NYC, for Park(ing) Day 2009! The annual event adds public parks to the streets of New York in an effort to open dialogue about the value of our public space and how we use it.

Sustainable Seeds Park is a passive recreation space located at E 11th Street and Avenue B. It is designed by the EVCC and boasts a garden theme where local school children may plant seeds in small planters and take them home to watch them grow! The park will extend the Children’s Learning Garden. For more information, or to become involved, click here.  We hope to see you on the 18th!

Oh – What A Night! EVCC Fundraiser a Success!

PIGEON Michael Rosen presents Judy Rhodes with the Pigeon of the Year Award for her service to the community.
PIGEON Michael Rosen presents Judy Rhodes with the Pigeon of the Year Award for her service to the community.
The Trudy Silver Group played to a packed house July 28, overlooking Tompkins Square Park and the Manhattan skyline. The cocktail party was hosted by the East Village Community Coalition in honor of long-time East Village champion Judy Rhodes. Judy is a jazz producer, photographer, benefactor and devotee extraordinaire, and resides in the Charlie Parker House at 151 Avenue B. For her lifelong achievements and service, Ms. Rhodes was awarded the highly-coveted Pigeon Award by Michael Rosen.

More than 100 guests, including City Council Member Rosie Mendez, State Senator Daniel Squadron and State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, celebrated, toasted and danced the evening away to the cool beats of Trudy Silver’s jazz quartet. In addition to the music there was a winner-take-all raffle drawing that included some of the best shops and restaurants in the neighborhood. Proceeds from the evening will help the EVCC produce the 3rd Edition of the Get Local! Shopping Guide, strive toward Formula Retail Zoning to protect small business and initiate historic district protection for sections of our community.

In other EVCC news, be on the lookout for the 3rd Edition of the Get Local! Guide in the coming months.  More information soon to come!

Bikes on Film

Want to relive last fall’s neighborhood parade? Here’s how…

If you didn’t make it to last October’s Lower East Side Kids’ Art Bike Parade — or if you just want to experience that warm day again during this snowy January — filmmaker Nicholas Whitaker has chronicled the event in a lively documentary on Vimeo. To see the wildly decorated bikes and your young and not-so-young neighbors having a blast, click here.

Village Victories!

Never underestimate the power of a neighborhood — despite hard times, the East Village ended 2008 with some uplifting triumphs

It may be a new year, it’s never too late to celebrate two major advances at the end of 2008:

ZONING CHANGE, East Village / Lower East Side:

In a victory enabled by your support, the City Council unanimously approved a sweeping 111 block rezoning of the East Village and the Lower East Side at the end of November, bringing crucial changes to our neighborhood.  The height of buildings was substantially limited. Plus, the Community Facility bonus was eliminated; this means that residential and community facility buildings are now governed by the same bulk and height guidelines as all other buildings. For instance, the 27 story (and subsequent 19 story) “dormitory” once planned for the former El Bohio / CHARAS site (the old PS 64), would never be allowed, regardless of landmark designation.

For three years LESCAZ, a wide alliance of community groups of which the EVCC is a founding member, advocated for this zoning plan, fighting also for more affordable units and stronger anti-harassment provisions.  We congratulate David McWater, former Chair of Community Board 3, for his work advancing this plan to Margarita Lopez, our former City Councilmember, and Rosie Mendez, our current Councilmember, all of whom were crucial in the approval of the plan.

The EVCC is proud to have pioneered this effort beginning four years ago, sitting with the Chair and other members of the Department of City Planning in November, 2004 to discuss an appropriate zoning  for the East Village.  The EVCC met a number of times with Department members and in June, 2005 presented “Rezoning the East Village: A Discussion Paper” to Community Board 3, a zoning study prepared on our behalf by BFJ Planning.  This study became the  foundation upon which our Community Board began work with City Planning.  We are deeply proud of our contribution to this effort, and we’re proud of the community for achieving this change.

LANDMARK DESIGNATION UPHELD:

Also in November, State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich dismissed an attempt from the current owner of old PS 64, the former El Bohio / CHARAS to overturn the Landmark Commission’s 2006 decision to grant landmark status to the building.  Justice Kornreich dismissed the  developer’s argument that the building was ineligible for landmark designation since the facade had been stripped of much of its decorative ornament. Judge Kornreich said the deliberate removal of these architectural details failed to undermine the former elementary school’s architectural significance or its historic and cultural associations, which served as the basis for the  Commission’s decision to landmark the building.

This was the second time in 2008 that a court ruled in favor of the Landmark Commission (and earlier also for the Department of Buildings), and against the current owner of old PS 64. The EVCC led a Friend of the Court Brief in this case, which was decided unanimously against the current owner in the NY State Court of Appeals.

If our neighborhood could accomplish all that in the final months of 2008, you can be sure there’s plenty of great progress to come in 2009. You’ll be hearing from us…

Save This Synagogue

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The EVCC joins a coalition of groups that want to preserve the 98-year-old Mezeritz Synagogue

On August 14, the East Village Community Coalition was the lead organizer of a press conference about the future of a historic synagogue at 415 East 6 Street:  The Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezeritz Synagogue.

For a variety of reasons, it looked as if the 1910 synagogue might be sold and demolished — which would have been a great loss to the community from a cultural, historical, and architectural perspective.

Joining with members of the congregation and local preservations groups (including the United Jewish Council of the East Side, Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and The Historic Districts Council), the EVCC helped spread the word about what was at stake.

A letter was drafted to the Landmark Preservation Commission, requesting an evaluation for landmark designation.  The EVCC also joined others in presenting a request to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, asking for the synagogue to be added to the list.  Though that designation would not prohibit demolition, it would officially confirm the value of the building.

As Dr. Gerald Wolfe, an expert on Lower East Side synagogues, says, this synagogue is “a jewel… an irreplaceable asset to its congregation, New York, and the world.  Its demolition would be an irretrievable, unforgivable loss.”

Since the press conference, the development company that was involved with the plan to eliminate the synagogue announced that it is not currently involved with the project. The EVCC will continue to collaborate with other neighborhood groups in working to preserve the beautiful structure.

The Letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission: download it (pdf)

The Letter Requesting Inclusion in the State and National Registers of Historic Places:download it (pdf)

Zoning for Local Businesses

By supporting Formula Retail Zoning, the EVCC tries to keep our neighborhood free from chains

Earlier this summer, on June 12, the Graduate Cener for Planning and the Environment  at Pratt Institute had some good news for the Lower East Side.  In a presentation at St. Mark’s Church for the Neighborhood Presentation Center, the Pratt Group discussed the first draft of a study that provides a comprehensive plan to encourage small local businesses on the Lower East Side and discourage large chains.

The primary recommendation of the study, lead by Professors Vicki Weiner and Jonathan Martin, is for the East veilfalls_cropVillage to seek designation as a “special district.”  This would allow the area to enforce Formula Retail Zoning — which is an imposing name for a system that sets some limits on the types of businesses in an area in order to preserve the local retail environment. The study, which was commissioned by the EVCC, is one of the most comprehensive investigations into Formula Retail Zoning in New York City’s history.

The EVCC’s goal is to present the study, when it is completed later this year, to locally elected politicians, city planning commissioners, and the Mayors office and help them understand why the “special district” designation is so important for the future of the neighborhood.

As part of that process, videographer Nicholas Whitaker (who did such a great job with his video chronicle of the first Lower East Side Kids’ Art Bike Parade in 2007) has been asked by the EVCC to make a film that demonstrates the way local merchants improve street life.  For instance, he will contrast vibrant streets full of local merchants — like East 9th Street — with “dead zones” where chains have invaded, like the stretch of Houston where Whole Foods has generated a wall of glass that discourages community-style street life.  The film, which will be shot this fall, will be ready for presentation to authorities by the end of this year.

As the EVCC gets closer to making an official presentation of a plan, community support will be needed.  If you have thoughts about the value of Formula Retail Zoning, please log-in or register in the left hand column of this page, and post your thoughts below.

Get Ready For The 2008 Kids’ Art Bike Parade!

Put Saturday October 4 on your calendar

candybike
The neighborhood’s kids are psyched, waiting to unveil bikes they’ve transformed at the bike decorating workshops in September. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra and the Bari Koral Family Band are ready to play. Local chefs are cooking up treats for after the parade. And 47 bike-less kids now have donated bicycles that have been tuned up, decorated, and ready to take home after the parade.

The East Village Community Coalition presents…The Second Annual Lower East Side Kids’ Art Bike Parade!

When:  Saturday, October 4, 11 AM- 2 PM

Where:  Tompkins Square Park, northeast corner at Avenue A and 10th Street

Who:  You,  joined by Lower East Side neighbors, friends, and kids of all ages — from toddlers to senior citizens

What:  Decorate your bike either at our advance workshops or at our on-the-spot bike-decorating event starting at 10 AM before the parade — then hop on and join the crowd as we parade our human-powered wheels around the neighborhood

Why:  The East Village is always ahead of the game.  This time, it’s the youngest people in our neighborhood showing adults, the city, and the entire world how fun and healthy it is to enjoy non-polluting transportation powered by our own legs and (in this case) by our own imaginations.  By encouraging a new generation of bike riders, we cut back on the pollution that causes global warming and we establish a happy future for our neighborhood.

 

bike_parade_poster_webLast year, more than 100 people — including Commissioner Margarita Lopez, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Borough President Scott Stringer, and Assembly Member Bryan Kavanaugh — rode their wildly decorated bikes around our neighborhood.  The event was attended and supported by The Lower East Side Girls Club, The Children’s Museum of the Arts, Recycle a Bicycle, the Clown Brigade from Time’s Up, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, The Department of Transportation, the New York City Housing Authority, and many many other community groups.

 

This year’s ride promises to be an even bigger and better party.

New for 2008:  A special mini-parade for the tiniest toddlers and tots who will zoom their tricked-out scooters, bike seats, and carriages around the basketball courts, where they will also be entertained by carnival games.

Plus:  There will be refreshments, free bike helmets and bike repairs, t-shirts by donation, and much more.

HOW TO JOIN THE FUN:

Reservations for the ride and the workshop are not required.  However, it’s very helpful if you reserve your place in advance.

**To let the EVCC know that you will be riding on October 4,please register here.

**To findout about our super-fun bike-decorating workshops in September, click here.

**Volunteers are also needed to share the fun at the workshops and at the ride.  To sign up as a volunteer, please register here.

**Want a preview?  Check out our nutty photos from the 2007 Kids’ Bike Parade>

Don’t miss this once-a-year neighborhood bash!  Put October 4 on your calendar now! 

Timeline and Schedule for the Day:

What’s happening on October 4:

10:00 am-11:00 am: last-minute bike decorating, bike helmet fitting, Learn to Ride workshops.

11:00 am: speakers including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, and City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez.

11:30 am: parade forms up; music by Rude Mechanical Orchestra

12:00 noon: the parade!

1:00 pm: Celebrate with music by the Bari Koral Family Band, free snacks, games, face painting and more.

1:45: Bike decorating winners announced; raffle prizes (free raffle for all participants)
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P.S. 64: The Movie

Watch our video history of the landmarked building

The EVCC has created a film about the history of P.S. 64, which was shown to the Landmarks Commission during the hearings about landmark status.

The clip includes the details about the building’s architecture and famous students, and explains why it’s so important to preserve the school as an arts center for the community.

Watch it now.

This Landmark Needs Your Help

FOR THE BIRDS See that open window? It's just one of many where pigeons enter 24 hours a day
FOR THE BIRDS See that open window? It’s just one of many where pigeons enter 24 hours a day
In case there was any doubt about the deterioration of old P.S. 64 (fomerly CHARAS/El Bohio), this backside view shows just how bad things have gotten.  Pigeons fly in and out of every floor of the building all day long.  Windows are cracked and half-boarded up; rainstorms soak the interior.  Every day, the deterioriation increases.

The neglect of this landmarked building must stop immediately, and you can help:

Walk by P.S. 64, just east of Avenue B, between 9th and 10th Streets, and take a look at the current state of the building. Then, when you’re back at your computer, write a few sentences about what you observed, your concerns for the state of this landmarked building, and your thoughts about preserving the building for community use.  Be sure to include your name and any affiliation with the community (such as, if you’re a visitor, a neighbor, or a member of a community group). Then send those thoughts in an email to this address: ps64landmarkdecay@gmail.com

Your words will be added to a letter to Landmark Commission Chairman James Tierney. (Email addresses will be kept confidential.)  This could make a major difference, so please take action and write your email today.

 

Sending an email is a crucial way for you to help preserve the building.  But you can also post your comments on this site by clicking to the next page.

Lower East Side Is Endangered

LOST HORIZON A 2005 view of one of the new towers squeezing into the Lower East Side
LOST HORIZON A 2005 view of one of the new towers squeezing into the Lower East Side
Last May, The National Trust For Historic Preservation confirmed what we all know to be true:  The Lower East is one of the 11 most endangered neighborhoods in the country. They concluded that the sudden influx of high rise luxury apartments and hotels can quickly destroy the nature of the neighborhood and its historic past, making the nineteenth century neighborhood into a modern-day imitation of the Upper East Side.

According to the report, “the community, with little recourse for protection, is reeling from the recent destruction of its cultural heritage, including the defacing of several historic structures and the loss of First Roumanian Synagogue. Slapdash and haphazard renovations have led to the destruction of architectural detail, while modern additions to historic buildings sharply contrast with the neighborhood’s scale and character.”

Get more coverage from the New York Times .