The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

31 March 2015

Tragedy in the East Village


Dear Friend, 

Last Thursday an explosion and fire led to the destruction of three buildings at 119, 121, and 123 Second Avenue in the East Village. Tragically, two lives were lost, more than a dozen people were injured, and many people lost their homes, businesses, and livelihoods.
Like many of you, we here at GVSHP were shaken, literally and figuratively, by this terrible event just blocks from our offices – our windows rattled and our offices shook that afternoon from the explosion and building collapse.
Our thoughts go out to everyone who was touched by this disaster.  It will be a long time before life returns to normal in this corner of the East Village, and certainly none of us will ever forget the terrible destruction of that afternoon.

For those wishing to help the victims, contributions can be made through the New York City Mayor’s Fund. Checks should be made out to the NYC Mayor's Fund with a note that they are earmarked for the East Village Collapse. 

Our office has also received many queries about what may eventually happen to this site and what might replace the buildings which were lost. There are two very important layers of regulation which govern what can be built on these sites, which should help ensure that any new construction is harmonious with the context of the East Village neighborhood around it: 

  1. The contextual rezoning we and many others helped secure for the East Village in 2008 limits any new construction on this site to 65 feet in height at the streetwall, with a maximum total height of 80 feet after a setback.  However, if the city’s planned contextual zoning changes are adopted as currently proposed, the maximum allowable height for new development here would go up to 105 feet.
  2. These sites are also in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District we helped get designated in 2012, and so nothing can be built here without approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and a determination that the size, scale, and design of a proposed replacement is “appropriate” for the site, its surroundings, and the historic district.  This public review and approval process would require public hearings at the local Community Board and the LPC. GVSHP publicizes all such public hearings, and lets the public know how they can be involved.

Given the extent of the devastation at this site, proposals for construction on the site seem a long way off.  To read more about the history of the buildings which were destroyed, you can view the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District designation report entries for these buildings here

In addition to considering a donation to help the victims of the fire and building collapse, please consider patronizing one of the many wonderful local businesses near the site who remain open, for whom this may be an especially challenging time. 


Andrew Berman
Executive Director

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