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Landmark Former LES Bank Building, Petition Says

By Lisha Arino | November 2, 2015 6:00pm
 An effort is underway to landmark the Provident Loan Society building at 223-225 East Houston St.
An effort is underway to landmark the Provident Loan Society building at 223-225 East Houston St.
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DNAinfo/Lisha Arino

LOWER EAST SIDE — A real estate broker and preservationist activist has launched a campaign to landmark a former bank building in hopes of preventing its destruction in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Christian Emanuel, a licensed salesperson with Sotheby’s International Realty, started an online petition last week in support of landmarking the old Provident Loan Society building on the corner of Essex and Houston streets, as first reported by Bowery Boogie.

“Now, as it sits vacant, partial or total demolition may be around the corner,” warned the petition’s website, which has collected more than 130 signatures.

“By signing your name, you are helping us send a clear message: this building should continue to define the identity of the Lower East Side.”

Emanuel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The petition was started around the same time the blog published renderings of a proposed 41,000-square-foot, 12-story addition on top of the existing building.

The extension would have created 40 residential units as well as retail space, according to architectural firm bluarch, which created the renderings and posted them on its website.

However, the renderings published online do not necessarily reflect the changes that may be coming to the building because bluarch is no longer working with the property’s owners, said Antonio Di Oronzo, who owns the architectural firm.

“We haven’t been on the project since last December,” he said, declining to elaborate.

No building or demolition permit applications have been filed with the Department of Buildings, according to the agency's website.

The neoclassical structure was built as a branch of the Provident Loan Society, which served the area’s poorer residents in the earlier half of the twentieth century.

The society sold the building in 1966, according to city records, and the artist Jasper Johns reportedly made the building his home and studio before it was sold to Houston Essex Realty Corp. in 1988.

The building now sits vacant but most recently housed a nightclub called Element, which closed in 2010, according to reports.

Houston Essex Realty Corp. did not immediately return a request for comment. A representative for the building’s owners declined to comment.

Still, the landmarking process has already begun. Emanuel submitted a request for evaluation form to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which will first determine if the building is eligible to receive the designation, according to Bowery Boogie and the LPC.

Community Board 3’s Landmarks Committee is also scheduled to hear a proposal to landmark the old Provident Loan Society Building on Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the JASA/Green Residence at 200 East Fifth St., according to its website.