Following community rallies and preservationist calls to save 70 Mulberry Street, Mayor de Blasio announced today that there is $80 million in the capital budget to restore what he termed “the beating heart of Chinatown.”
“It’s vital that 70 Mulberry continue to be part of Chinatown’s history,” the Mayor said, adding he wants to “preserve every piece of history we can.” The Mayor thanked Council Member Margaret Chin, who went to school at 70 Mulberry, for championing the former P.S. 23.
Built in 1892, 70 Mulberry is a contributing building to the Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District on the State/National Register of Historic Places.
Our thanks to the Mayor and to Council Member Chin, and to the other elected officials who sponsored a Town Hall meeting last week. We also thank all of you who responded to our call on Tuesday for a preservation assessment of this important building and emailed Council Member Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
A preservation assessment is still needed. While the City hired outside architects and engineers to do a report on the damage caused by a January fire, they did not ask for details on how it could be restored. Let’s find that out quickly. The Conservancy stands ready to help.
In recent decades, the building housed Chinese American non-profits and research and collections of MOCA, the Museum of Chinese in America. This was the first building designed by noted school architect C.B.J. Snyder. It’s a wonderful example of how distinctive historic buildings anchor communities and serve generational needs.
We’ll continue to follow 70 Mulberry as the City conducts a “community envisioning” process. But let’s celebrate today’s announcement.
Help Save Chinatown History
June 30, 2020
When a January fire damaged 70 Mulberry Street, Mayor de Blasio vowed to restore the 1891 building, known as the “heart of Chinatown.” Instead, the City has been demolishing the upper floors of this 5-story former school.
P.S. 23 was the first school designed by celebrated school architect C.B.J. Snyder. By the early 1900s it was known as the “school of 29 nationalities” and one of the most successful in the City. In recent decades it has housed Chinese American non-profits, and research and collections of MOCA, the Museum of Chinese in America. It’s a contributing building to the Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District on the State/National Register of Historic Places.
Last Thursday, bowing to “lots of passion in this community,” City officials spoke at a Town Hall meeting sponsored by elected officials. They promised a 90-day “community envisioning” process. But architects and engineers the City engaged to independently assess the damage were not asked to consider preservation. Residents rallied this past Saturday to save the exterior.
There can’t be a fair review without an independent preservation assessment. The elected officials who sponsored the Town Hall must demand that the City allow one.
The Conservancy is a big fan of Snyder. As Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education from 1891-1923, Snyder revolutionized school construction. He gave children light, air, and beauty. His buildings told students that education is important–and so were they. Many of his 400 buildings are still in use as schools. Others have been transformed into community centers and housing.
70 Mulberry has an important history. It’s a wonderful example of how distinctive older buildings can anchor a community, foster pride, hold memories, and serve generational needs. The community deserves a fair and complete assessment of whether the existing 70 Mulberry can still serve them.
You can help: email the elected officials below, who sponsored the Town Hall meeting and tell them to insist on a preservation assessment.