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Richard Moses Celebrates 5 Years and, Hopefully, 300+ Historic Buildings

richard moses Richard Moses (right) at LESPI’s birthday bash.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission may well create a new East Village/Lower East Side Historic District encompassing over 300 buildings. But the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative isn’t waiting till then to celebrate: the group marked its fifth anniversary last night with bubbly and birthday cake at Smart Clothes Gallery on Stanton Street. Since preservation architects Richard Moses and Britton Baine – inspired by a screening of “Slumming It: Myth and Culture on the Bowery” – started the organization in 2007, they’ve gone on to become instrumental in the creation of a 10th Street Historic District and have led countless tours and discussions about neighborhood history and architecture. The Local chatted with Mr. Moses as he prepared for last night’s birthday bash.


You’ve garnered opposition from religious groups in the community in regards to landmarking. Have others opposed your projects and how do you handle the situation?


There were a few property owners who were opposed. They came out and expressed their opposition, but there wasn’t a huge number of them by any means; I would say a few.

It’s a tricky situation because emotions tend to run high on both sides. Certainly we’re sympathetic to concerns of religious institutions on the idea that they want their congregation to be thriving and we certainly want them to be thriving – we don’t want them to burdened. We feel sometimes that there’s a misunderstanding of some of the requirements of the Landmarks Commission and that there’s a different focus on short-term versus long-term goals. Read more…

Nine-Story Dorm Bound for 35 Cooper, But Whose Is It?

35 Cooper Square From Feb. 2011 to May 2011Claire Glass and Stephen Rex Brown The demolition of 35 Cooper last year.

So, what university is behind the dormitory planned for 35 Cooper Square?

EV Grieve first spotted the plans, filed with the Department of Buildings yesterday, which call for over 30,000 square feet of student housing.

But which students will stay there?

“Not N.Y.U.’s,” wrote university spokesman John Beckman of the dorm.

“We already have a dorm on Third Avenue,” said Jolene Travis, spokeswoman for Cooper Union.

“We’re already building a dorm on Fifth Avenue,” said Sam Biederman, a spokesman for The New School. Read more…

Activity at 35 Cooper Square

UntitledStephen Rex Brown A worker at the site.

Construction workers at 35 Cooper Square were preparing to pour concrete for a new sidewalk this afternoon, but knew nothing about any plans for the closely watched lot. Last year preservationists fought a losing battle to save the Federal-style building built around 1825 that once stood there.

An Early Look at Karl Fischer’s Design for Building Replacing Third Street Row House

The eight-story, 33-unit building replacing an antebellum row house at 316 East Third Street has been revealed.

The building, designed by the oft-criticized Karl Fischer, features large windows and a linear aesthetic similar to the architect’s design for 427 East 12th Street.

According to the website of the developer, Brody/Amirian, all apartments in the building will be for rent. Read more…

DocuDrama: Preservationists Try to Save Row House From Becoming Another 35 Cooper

316 E. Third StreetStephen Rex Brown The rowhouse at 316 East Third Street.

Last week, preservationists doubled down on their last-minute effort to protect a 177-year-old row house that the owner hopes to demolish and replace with a seven-story, 33-unit apartment building.

A quartet of local preservation groups began pressing the city Landmarks Preservation Commission early this month. In a letter you can read below, the coalition cited the building’s historic qualities, which are reminiscent of 35 Cooper Square, another Federal-style row house that was demolished in May amid much controversy.

“The significance of this and the handful of other surviving pre-Civil War rowhouses to Alphabet City cannot be underestimated,” the preservationists wrote in a letter to the commission on August 2, referring to 316 East Third Street. “Built for merchants associated with the East River’s thriving shipbuilding industry, they recall the neighborhood’s formative years and are all that remain from its heyday as the dry dock neighborhood.”

The letter also noted that the commission had singled out the property as being “eligible for historic designation” in a 2008 study assessing the impact of rezoning in the area. Read more…

Looking Back | 35 Cooper Square

A day after preservationists held a vigil for the demolished 35 Cooper Square, The Local takes a look back at the historic building with archival photographs provided by David Mulkins of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, one of the leaders of the campaign to maintain the building.

35 CooperSq with snow -DMulkins

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Preservationists Lament 35 Cooper

35 Cooper Square VigilStephen Rex Brown Preservationists gather at the site of the now-demolished 35 Cooper Square.

About three dozen locals dressed in black held what they called a vigil at the ruins of 35 Cooper Square on Wednesday, lamenting the loss of the 19th century building that was built by a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant and once hosted the likes of Diane di Prima, William Burroughs and Cecil Taylor.

“This is truly a day of sadness, said Victor Papa, the president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. “It was as precious as the White House, and it’s gone forever.”

Mr. Papa and at least a dozen others spoke in front of the plot of land that only two weeks ago featured the two and-a-half story home noted for its Federal-style architecture.

Now it was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
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Workers Dismantling 35 Cooper

Ian Duncan Men at work on the roof of 35 Cooper Square. Below: Views from inside the building show holes in the roof above a stairwell (top), and daylight pouring into the ground floor.
The stairwell of 35 Cooper Square open to the sky
Daylight pours into the first story of 35 Cooper Square

Update | 3:30 p.m. A team of three men was at work apparently tearing down the roof of 35 Cooper Square by hand this afternoon.

Behind its unlocked front door, the building had been completely stripped and holes knocked through the floors of the second and third stories. Workers threw bits of other wood and other debris down to the first floor. No power tools were heard to be in use, but a buzz saw lay idle on the roof. From across the street, workers appeared to be using hand saws on the building’s masonry.

The building’s stairs are intact, illuminated by a string of bulbs on a yellow wire, which snaked its way up to the roof.

At the unenclosed entrance to the roof, a worker in a flourescent yellow safety vest told The Local the site was off-limits.

Full Demolition of 35 Cooper Set

The Department of Buildings has issued a new permit that would allow the full demolition of 35 Cooper Square. The permit, which was issued May 6, clears the way for the destruction of the historic site; a second permit was also issued for fencing for the site, where scaffolding now obstructs the view of the three-story house. Despite preservationists’ attempts to keep the building standing, the developer has said he will not maintain it. —Suzanne Rozdeba

Developer Will Not Preserve 35 Cooper

35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk The developer of 35 Cooper Square has told preservationists that he will not maintain the historic site and will move forward with an undetermined development plan.

Update | 6:30 p.m. In a blow to preservationists, the developer of 35 Cooper Square has announced that he will not preserve the historic site and will move forward with an undetermined development plan.

“Unfortunately, it was concluded that it would not be feasible to develop the site with the building or any significant portion of it remaining, and that any potential relief” — in the form of a variance — “would not remedy the site conditions which make preservation infeasible,” Stephen Lefkowitz, an attorney for the developer Arun Bhatia, wrote in a letter dated April 28 to City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez.

Workers were also seen on site today erecting scaffolding around the historic building.
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Work Set to Resume at 35 Cooper

Work at 35 Cooper Square is set to resume now that the site’s developer, Arun Bhatia, has been issued a new permit to install scaffolding at the site. “The owner can do work under permits issued,” said a Department of Buildings spokeswoman. As for the status of a violation issued against Mr. Bhatia regarding the site’s roof, a hearing is scheduled for June 2.—Suzanne Rozdeba

Protect the Roof of 35 Cooper

35 CS RoofIan Duncan The author, one of the preservationists trying to forestall the demolition of 35 Cooper Square, issues a call to the developer of the site to cover the roof to prevent further damage. Below: A detail of the roof shortly after work began in February.
35 Cooper SQ.: Destroyed Roof Detail

The recent article, “Developer Cited for 35 Cooper’s Roof” had some readers curious re what’s so important about the roof. The history of this building has been well-told, but the roof and dormers as essential structural elements and character-defining features, are currently compromised by partial demolition and exposure to the elements. Any effort to save this building, at this point, needs to start with the basics: putting a tarp back on the roof.

Over the winter, roofing material was removed by workers hired by the new owner under a permit for asbestos abatement, a prerequisite for obtaining a demolition permit. The dormers were similarly stripped of their protective roofing, and non-historic skylights were removed, exposing not only the roof structure but the upper floors of the building to the elements. The old wooden shingles, part of the historic fabric of the building, are now visible, but so too are the gaping holes in the roof. The rain and snow of the past few months are surely accelerating any decay and rot in the 185-year-old structure smacks of demolition by willful neglect.
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Violations Cleared on 35 Cooper

The developer of 35 Cooper Square has resolved three outstanding code violations concerning work at the site, according to a spokeswoman with the Department of Buildings. The developer, Arun Bhatia, paid about $16,000 in fines related to the violations, according to department records; the status of a fourth violation was unclear. Mr. Bhatia has not said how he intends to develop the site, which preservationists have asked him to maintain. —Suzanne Rozdeba

Developer Cited for 35 Cooper’s Roof

35 Cooper SQ.: Destroyed Roof DetailTim Milk The developer of 35 Cooper Square has been cited by the Department of Buildings for the condition of the historic structure’s roof, which is pictured above in a February photo.

City officials have ordered the developer of 35 Cooper Square to take immediate steps to repair the roof of the historic structure, which has been the subject of a campaign by preservationists to keep it from being razed.

On Wednesday, officials with the Department of Buildings issued a citation to the developer of the site, Arun Bhatia, ordering him to make the repairs.

Since February, city officials have issued four citations concerning work at 35 Cooper Square, all of which are still open. In addition to this week’s notice regarding the roof repairs, Mr. Bhatia has been cited for failure to safeguard property, performing work without a permit, and failure to post a permit.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said that the citation regarding the roof repairs “means that we had previously issued a violation for the condition of the roof and the property owner has not corrected that condition. What the property owner should do now is obtain permits to perform the necessary roof work. In this case it would be to close off the roof.” A hearing on the roof violation is set for June.

Asked about the gaping hole in the roof and whether the developer would be required to cover it, she said, “We issued a violation for the roof. To bring the site into compliance, the owner should obtain a permit for the necessary work.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bhatia, who met with preservationists on Tuesday to discuss the building’s future, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Developer Meets on Fate of 35 Cooper

35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk The developer of 35 Cooper Square met with preservationists this afternoon and listened to arguments for maintaining the historic site.

In a room filled with about 20 people at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, Arun Bhatia, the developer of 35 Cooper Square, mostly quietly sat and listened today to requests made by preservationists to keep the building standing.

At the meeting, which began at 4:30 p.m. and lasted an hour, Mr. Bhatia arrived with a team of four people, including his spokeswoman, Jane Crotty, his lawyer and historic preservation architect Richard Southwick. Also at the meeting were Andrew Berman of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, David Mulkins of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society of New York and a former Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman, Carolyn Ratcliffe of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, and representatives for City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and State Senator Tom Duane.

“We appreciate they met with us and that we started a dialogue about exploring possibilities. We hope the conversation is going to continue,” said Mr. Berman. Asked what Mr. Bhatia said regarding demolition, Mr. Berman replied: “They didn’t give much detail in terms of exactly what their plans are at this point, which hopefully is a good thing that there are some possibilities. He was there to hear what we had to say. He heard it, and we’re going to wait and see what their response is.”
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Conversation | Fanning the Flames

Flaming ComputerHadas Goshen Adding fuel to the fire: the author ponders the place of civility on the Internet.

I forced myself further into the flames, my face flushed and finger burning above my touchpad— I read them all, every single scalding comment. All 20-something of them, following the new fires as they reached 30, then climbed to 40. And all I could think was, “I’m so glad it’s not me.”

Internet flaming is nothing new. Glowering into the glare of computer screens and cracking fists above keyboards, web users — safe in their basements or bedrooms — have been ranting in chat rooms and online forums for years. Miles and maybe countries away from her recipient, a flamer feels empowered to not only to speak her mind, but scream it — USING ALL CAPS!! Or employing smoldering, DESPICABLE, disgusted and APPALLING language or even $%@^&*#! to communicate the incommunicable!!!!

In the vast expanse of the World Wide Web, it used to be that the chances of an actual encounter between the anonymous flamer and flamee was slim to none. But on a hyper-local news blog in the East Village, a slender area spanning about 10 by 15 streets, the cyber-world reduces into a neighborhood, and things get more personal. Is it still O.K. to bash (on a community forum by and for local residents) the storeowner down the block on Avenue A, or that obnoxious woman you always avoid at Tompkins Square dog run?
Read more…

Advocates Hopeful About 35 Cooper

35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk Talks are set for next month between developers and preservationists on the future of 35 Cooper Square.

Preservationists are holding out hope that there is still a future for 35 Cooper Square, now that the site’s developer, Arun Bhatia, has agreed to meet with neighborhood groups next month.

The meeting, arranged through Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, is set for April 12, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told The Local this morning. The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Historic Districts Council, East Village Community Coalition, and Lower East Side Preservation Initiative are among groups invited to the meeting, which will not be open to the public. The meeting’s tentative location is the Neighborhood Preservation Center on East 11th Street.

“It’s something we’ve been seeking for weeks or months,” said Mr. Berman. “It’s been in the works for a long time. We won’t know until we have the meeting exactly what will come out of it, but obviously we’re happy that it’s happening.”

Asked what persuaded Mr. Bhatia to arrange the meeting, Mr. Berman said, “My sense is that it was always a possibility, and now it is confirmed. We’re looking forward to it.”

Mr. Berman and other preservationists hope they can convince the developer to keep 35 Cooper standing. “Certainly the goal going into the meeting is to explore the possibilities for preserving the building, or preserving it as much as possible,” Mr. Berman said. “We go into this knowing that that is not the developer’s plan. We want to engage in what we hope will be a productive conversation, and we’ll see what comes of it. At this point, it seems as if the building’s only hope is the developer.”

Jane Crotty, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bhatia told The Local, “We agreed to meet since the elected officials asked for the meeting. We will hear what the community has to say.”

Local Legends | 35 Cooper Square

35COOPER-00_Banner-Slide01Clockwise from top left: (1.) Bowery Elevated Train, circa 1896; (2.) Bowery near Bleecker, circa 1915; (3.) 35 Cooper Square in February this year; (4.) Boys on the Bowery selling chewing gum, 1910; (5.) A Union enlistee of the New York 86th Regiment and his betrothed, circa 1861. All images courtesy Library of Congress, except (3.) lower right, photo illustration by Tim Milk

Local historian Tim Milk recalls dark episodes which never quite extinguished the charm of 35 Cooper Square.

They could hardly believe the fellow, wanting to go back to his regiment. Especially considering what he had seen: the rout of the Union at the bloody battle of Bull Run. There, the heroic Lieutenant John S. Whyte, who had refused to leave his wounded commander, fell into Confederate hands. But in a recent prisoner of war exchange, he was returned home to his kith and kin in New York.

But he did not wish to retire with honors. Indeed, he was keen to “return to the fight,” he said.

And so his pals shook their heads and dragged him down to the Marshall House, a tavern at 391 Bowery, an address we know today as 35 Cooper Square. There they presented him with a sword and a sash in an affair both touching and festive. After a grand hurrah, the champagne flowed like a river long into that night of March the 21st, 1862.

This I found in the archives of the New York Times, in a curious walk down that ancient lane, the Bowery. From out of each door came someone with a tale to tell which, except for these old papers, and poor relics like 35 Cooper Square, would otherwise have vanished, lost in time.

“Time,” Stephen Hawking once said, “…whatever that is.” Even he doesn’t pretend to know. As the so-called future, it is but a mere concept. As the past, it holds everything that has ever happened, and leads all the way back to eternity. There it washes up on distant shores for no apparent reason, except perhaps for our return. Read more…

The Significance of 35 Cooper Square

35COOPER-07.03.08-IMG_2762a-det2Tim Milk

Since 2002, architectural historian Kerri Culhane has worked with Two Bridges Neighborhood Council to document the history of the neighborhoods of the Lower East Side. In December 2010 she and Two Bridges received the New York State Preservation Award for Outstanding National Register nomination for the Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District. She is currently writing the forthcoming Bowery Historic District nomination, sponsored by Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Bowery Alliance of Neighbors.

Formerly 391 Bowery, 35 Cooper Square was built between 1825-27, as one of four houses developed on the land of Nicholas William Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was a direct descendant of the Dutch West India Company’s last director-general, Petrus Stuyvesant.

The development pattern north of Houston (then called North Street) remained very rural until the early 19th century. In 1811, a plan to establish a street grid north of the haphazard jumble of streets below Houston was mapped by surveyor John Randel. Third Avenue, branching off of the Bowery, was not built until the early 1820s. Stuyvesant’s four buildings were among the first ever built on this new road — the Bowery spur of Third Avenue. The 35 Cooper Square site is, therefore, an artifact of the most significant urbanization effort of New York, which left us with the grid system that now blankets the island.

The modest brick house at 35 Cooper Square would have been typical of its period, two-and-one-half stories, with a generous attic under a “peaked” roof lit by a pair of dormers. The defining architectural characteristics of the urban Federal era rowhouse include the form, most commonly two-and-one-half to three-and-one-half stories; gambrel or side-gable roofs featuring single or paired dormers; Flemish bond brickwork; and simple stone lintels. My recent research has identified at least 26 buildings dating to the Federal period still standing on the Bowery, of which only 12, thanks to minimal alterations, still clearly represent the era. Read more…

Your Voices | More on 35 Cooper

35 Cooper Square 1Claire Glass Scaffolding began to rise around 35 Cooper Square last month.

Comments have continued to stream into The Local about an opinion piece by NYU Journalism’s Greg Howard that questioned the value of preserving 35 Cooper Square.

A sampling of reactions from the weekend.

One reader, “archietexture,” wrote:

“Residents recognize that new development of dorms, luxury hotels and condos does not benefit them. But being made a symbol doesn’t mean that 35 Cooper is not historically significant. Its loss will be a tragedy, and a travesty of the Landmarks process.”

Defending the preservation of the building, “Eastvillagearts” said:

“I’m certainly not arguing for places to be frozen in time – that would be counter to the compelling power of NYC’s continuing relevance. But there are places that have been particularly important to communities that need to be preserved. There are people and organizations and businesses that helped make neighborhoods what they are today who should be helped to stay. And the truth is that continued diversity and eclecticism is part of what continues to attract new residents, visitors and investment. The irony is that the market is attracted to precisely what it tends to destroy – authenticity.”

Elliott Hurwitt considered the legacy of unchecked development:

“But the developers will leave behind an immeasurably impoverished urban environment, one with no cultural resonance whatever, regardless of what you say about the East Village harboring the next di Prima, Hendrix or Madonna. The first of these 3 could never find a haven there now, affordable urban space in NYC is OVER, so there will be no further undergrounds, no beatniks, etc., that ended a long time ago.”

“Carol from East 5th Street” said the restaurant that occupied site in recent years transcended being just a watering hole for students:

“It was much, much more to me, my family, friends and neighbors. For most Sundays since the restaurant reopened as Cooper 35 Asian Pub and for the years before when it was Dolphins, it was where we had Sunday dinner. It was where we had gatherings of family and friends for just about every important event such as birthdays, graduations, milestones in our lives.”

Another reader, J.T., offered support for Mr. Howard:

“I think this is a good editorial piece. You spoke your opinion and caused great hype, mostly negative. But I believe that is just an older generation who is not ready for change. They are mad at Generation Y who are experiencing this vast change in lifestyle from the previous generations, where history in not of great importance. Generation Y likes and has experienced much change, which the older generations just aren’t as apt about. Everyone has an opinion.”

Another reader, “Mose,” recalled the building’s history:

“these buildings are cultural treasures literally, physical manifestations of 350 years of stories set in the most remarkable place humans have ever co-existed. men and women walked through the door of 35 cooper who were on the bowery only a generation earlier and watched as washington rode by. i feel fortunate to live in a place where i get to walk past these time capsules daily, history becomes tactile and experiential. ”