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Against a Historic District: Don’t Landmark Religious Buildings

synagogue, East VillageMichelle Rick

Today on The Local, we’re hosting a dialogue about the neighborhood’s proposed historic districts. First, Britton Baine and Richard Moses, who serve on the steering committee of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, spoke out in favor of them. Now architect Ido Nissani argues that one of the districts would burden and disrespect the synagogue he attends. Add your own thoughts via the comments.

As an active member of the Meseritz Synagogue on East Sixth Street and a graduate of Cooper Union, the East Village has come to be part of my heart.

Recently, our house of worship has been included in a proposed historic district in the neighborhood. This has caused great concern among the congregation of the synagogue about the expenses associated with being a landmarked building, as well as the implication of ceding dominion of our building to a city agency.

For those who ask: “What guarantees do we have that the historic synagogue will still stand many years from now if it is not landmarked?” I respond: “What guarantees do we have to see these very buildings standing if they are landmarked?” Read more…

In Favor of a Historic District: It Preserves Local Character

East 10th StreetMichael Natale East 10th Street

Today on The Local, we’re hosting a dialogue about the neighborhood’s proposed historic districts. First, below, Britton Baine and Richard Moses, who serve on the steering committee of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, speak out in favor of them. Later, architect Ido Nissani argues that one of the districts would burden and disrespect the synagogue he attends. Add your own thoughts via the comments.

This has been an exciting time for the East Village and its historic architecture. In June, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission calendared for public hearing two new historic districts: the proposed East Village-Lower East Side and East 10th Street districts. In July, after three contentious public hearings, Community Board 3 voted with a strong majority to support landmarking these districts.

The question now is, when will the LPC schedule the hearing date for their designation? For preservationists, sooner is much better than later, because until the LPC votes to landmark the districts, the buildings will not be completely safe from defacement or demolition.

Two questions preservationists have been hearing are, why landmark, and how will landmarking benefit the East Village? There are many reasons. Read more…

First Person | Chasing N.Y.U.’s Shadow

Kim Davis PortraitKim Davis.

It’s understandable, to me anyway, that East Village residents are concerned about NYU’s ambitious expansion plans and how they will affect the architecture and ambience of a treasured neighborhood. After all, it was the East Village which was landed with the enormous Founder’s Hall dormitory on East 12th Street, and although NYU might consider University Hall on East 14th Street part of the Union Square neighborhood, it supplies a steady stream of student revelers to the avenues running downtown from that location and into the heart of the East Village.

Even so, I read Rob Hollander’s post today on Save the Lower East Side with some puzzlement. “East Villagers ought to be alarmed by NYU’s decision not to build on its own campus,” he writes.

That’s something which might well give rise to concern, but as The Local recently reported – and even the The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation agrees – that’s not the decision which has been made at all. As the preservation group put it, “NYU is insisting that they will move ahead with seeking permission to build on the adjacent non-landmarked supermarket site instead.” In other words, the university is at this time pressing ahead with its original core plan.

Nobody can deny that the East Village may have plenty to worry about further down the road if the core plan does fail, but that hasn’t yet happened. So far, we are still chasing shadows. One irony which Rob Hollander’s post does highlight is that success in opposing the university’s plans for the Washington Square campus is indeed likely to have repercussions for other neighborhoods.

Kim Davis is the community editor of The Local East Village.

Sin Sin Lounge Was Source of Solace

Chaz KangasChaz Kangas.

Last week, The Local confirmed reports that the Sin Sin lounge would be closing at the end of the month and revising its format. Sin Sin, the scene of a fatal shooting in August, has been a source of complaints about noise and violence in the neighborhood. Chaz Kangas, a frequent patron of Sin Sin, offers his perspective on the club and its closing.

The absolute safest, most welcome and happiest I’ve ever felt in my adult life was at a bar in the East Village called Sin Sin. It’s a spot I’ve been loyally attending for almost five years. It’s where I’ve brought close friends, classmates, dates, co-workers and visitors, and they’ve all been given a lasting memory that will stay with them the rest of their lives. The end of October will see its doors close permanently, and in a climate where New York’s landscape is changing more than ever, I feel like I’m losing another connection to what first made me fall in love with the city. This is what Sin Sin means to me.

I began attending the club during my sophomore year of college in November 2005. I had always heard about their “Freestyle Mondays” Hip-Hop open mic since even before I had moved to the city a year prior. Word-of-mouth around the NYU campus was that it was next-to-impossible to get into. It wasn’t until the evening’s host iLLspokinN extended an invitation to me after he heard me rap at an NYU event that – after promising not order from the bar until I turned 21 – I made my Sin Sin debut. Stepping into that dim red room with a live band reinterpreting classic rap instrumentals next to a lineup of MCs eager to perform awakened a feeling inside me that was as exciting as it was validating. Here was a room full of people, whether performers or listeners, who felt the exact same passion that I did, and they’d been meeting there for the past four years for the same reason – the love of rap music.

The vibe of Freestyle Mondays at Sin Sin would remain the same from its 11:30 start-time until the lights came on at 3:30. I began attending every Monday and, after I moved to the East Village, would often stop by there to cap off other nights for its pleasant feeling of familiarity. Over the years, its accessibility and safe, comfortable atmosphere has allowed me to take countless friends, acquaintances and associates to Sin Sin for their first rap show. As a child I was always taught the importance of including others in things I loved and my time at Sin Sin was the adult realization of that virtue. More importantly, my experiences under those red lights really shaped me as a person. Most of the close friends I’ve ever had in the city, some who’ve moved away and even some no longer with us, have stepped through those doors. While Freestyle Mondays will continue and thrive at another location, the East Village will have lost a historic and important venue for young artists.

Chaz Kangas is a resident of East Harlem. He blogs at

Surprise at the Report on Area Schools

Kim Davis PortraitKim Davis.

I moved to the East Village – in fact to Alphabet City, as it was then called – when my daughter was a year old. All her schooling has been here (she’s in middle school now) and as a parent I’ve been happy with every bit of it. I share the surprise expressed by some residents in The Local’s report Monday. I just don’t recognize my daughter’s school in the Department of Education’s findings.

East Village education began for her at the Emmanuel Day Care center on Sixth Street, with its smart, friendly and in some cases very long-serving staff. I was staggered by the Center’s ambition, watching them introduce pre-schoolers not only to reading and writing, but sophisticated math and science topics.

I had always assumed she would progress from there to P.S. 364, a nearby public school. Her mother had ideas about a private Catholic education. Thankfully we never had to debate it. One day, browsing among the stalls at the Loisaida street fair, we came across flyers for an all-girl charter school, not yet open. At the time I had no idea what a charter school was, although I did notice that it was free. I think we all know about charter schools now, and the debates about sharing space with city schools, about non-unionized teaching staff, and the lottery admission system – but that’s another story.

Anyway, that’s where my daughter went – Girls Prep on East Houston – and she’s been happy and successful there ever since. I read the report card with amazement. A and B for environment and student performance, a C score overall, but F for student progress. As a parent, I shrug my shoulders. (Full disclosure: her mother is employed by the school as a teaching assistant; she’s usually more critical of it than I am.)

The report card doesn’t really explain how this was measured. My daughter and her sharp, alert, articulate friends are making plenty of progress as far as I can see. It just makes me nervous for the school and the staff. Monitoring school performance is a great idea. Clarity and transparency in the reporting could be improved.

For what it’s worth, P.S. 364 got an overall D.

Kim Davis is the community editor of The Local East Village.

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