Lower East Preservation Initiative

Lower East Preservation Initiative (LESPI) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation of the historic Lower East Side of Manhattan, whose boundaries extend from East 14th Street south to Fulton and Franklin Streets and from Broadway and Pearl Streets east to the East River. This area includes the neighborhoods of East Village, Lower East Side, Little Italy, and Chinatown. Created in 2007, LESPI is an all-volunteer grass roots group of preservationists, community activists, and local residents whose mission is to obtain NYC landmark historic district status for the area's historically intact streetscapes, and to spread the word about the importance of the area's history and architecture.[1] In 2008 Manhattan's Lower East Side was listed among America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.[2]

LESPI led the campaign, along with other community and preservation groups and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, to create landmark districts in the East Village that celebrate the area's central role in United States immigration history. As a result, in 2012 the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated both the East 10th Street Historic District at the north side of Tompkins Square, and the East Village / Lower East Side Historic District on blocks extending from St. Mark's Place to 2nd Street from Second Avenue to Avenue A, for a total of about 350 historic buildings preserved.[3] The designation of the East Village / Lower East Side District proved to be contentious with some community religious organizations such as the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection who argued that landmark designation would cause an undue burden, while preservationists and other community members argued that landmark district designation helped ensure that the area's wealth of architecture and history would not be lost due to overdevelopment.[4]

Currently, LESPI is reviewing areas further around the perimeter of Tompkins Square Park and in the Lower East Side south of Houston Street to pinpoint future historic districts.[5]


  1. "Richard Moses Celebrates 5 Years and, Hopefully, 300+ Historic Buildings"
  2. "11 Most Endangered Historic Places The Lower East Side on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website
  3. "East Village Gets First Large-Scale Historic Landmark District"
  4. At Landmarks Hearing, Preservationists and Religious Leaders Clash
  5. "LESPI Looks South": News from LESPI, Fall 2012
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