Volume 79, Number 20 | October 21 - 27, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

2 L.E.S. landmarks
A pair of iconic Lower East Side properties with more than two centuries’ worth of combined history received landmark designation from the city last week.

The Isaac T. Hopper Home of the Women’s Prison Association of New York, located at 110 Second Ave. between Sixth and Seventh Sts., still houses a prison reform organization, considered the oldest halfway house for women in the world.

The three-story, Greek revival-style row house was one of four built in 1838 for the family of wealthy grocery merchant Ralph Mead, when this stretch of Second Ave. marked one of the most elite residential addresses in Manhattan. The Women’s Prison Association, founded by Quaker abolitionists Isaac T. Hopper and his daughter, Abigail Hopper Gibbons, purchased the site in 1874 for use as a temporary shelter for women and girls released from prison.

“The WPA’s mission of assisting former prisoners continues to this day inside of this striking early-19th-century row house,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairperson of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, in a statement. “It’s one of a number of important institutions that opened in the East Village in the late 19th century.”

According to the L.P.C., the building’s most distinctive feature is its brownstone portico with Ionic fluted columns that support an entablature. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The second new landmark, the former S. Jarmulowsky Bank at 54 Canal St. at the corner of Orchard St., remains one of the tallest and most distinctive buildings on the Lower East Side.

The 12-story, neo-Renaissance-style bank building was constructed in 1912 when the neighborhood operated as the center of Jewish life in the United States and contained the largest Jewish community in the world.

The property was established by Sender Jarmulowsky, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who originally founded a bank at the site in 1873, and was designed by the well-regarded architectural firm of Rouse & Goldstone. Jarmulowsky was also instrumental in the construction and establishment of the famed Eldridge Street Synagogue and served as its first president.

“The bank building became an instant landmark when it opened,” Tierney commented, “towering above its surroundings and showcasing its owner’s financial strength, and has stood since then as a symbol of the Jewish immigrant experience in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

According to the L.P.C., the skyscraper features a rusticated ground floor executed in Indiana limestone, an ornate terra-cotta crown and an elaborate corner entrance that led to a two-story banking hall. The highlight of the ground floor is a carved panel over the entrance containing a clock framed by rosettes and a helmeted figure resembling Hermes, the Greek god of commerce.

Now vacant, the Jarmulowsky building was purchased in 2006 with plans for conversion to residential use.

Noise, traffic…it souks!
The East Village nightclub Le Souk is back to being the bane of its neighbors’ existence, said attendees of a recent community board meeting who came to lash out against the Avenue B hotspot.

According to the local blog EV Grieve, the recently reopened club — which had its liquor license reinstated after a suspension last year — has returned to creating a quality-of-life nightmare for nearby tenants.

Opponents of the 7,000-square-foot hookah bar, located near E. Fourth St., said at an Oct. 19 Community Board 3 committee meeting that Le Souk has caused “all sorts of mayhem” since its resurrection, including “crazy fistfights” and “animal behavior,” the blog reported.

Other residents at the meeting stated that “life has been intolerable” since the reopening due to the noise created by loud music and boisterous patrons, and cabs piling up and honking in front of the nightspot — the same issues neighbors have long complained of.

After Le Souk was cited for multiple violations in a January 2007 sweep, the North African-themed watering hole had its liquor license cancelled in March 2008 for an “extensive adverse history.” However, the club’s owners appealed the decision, a challenge that was upheld in court due to an inaccurate estimate of overcrowding at the space in 2007.

At the C.B. 3 meeting, supporters of the club said Le Souk is helping stimulate business in the area despite the current economic situation, and that the operators cannot control the traffic on the street outside.

“By this point the room had become quite hot and a Le Souk proponent had to be directed by the board to stop speaking out of turn, one board member wondering aloud if security needed to be summoned,” EV Grieve explained. “After much discussion of the language of the motion, the board voted to deny the renewal, when it comes up. In response to a direct question from a resident, asking if Le Souk would begin turning down the volume of its music starting this weekend, Le Souk indicated that it would.”

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