Lower East Side Tenement Museum's Effort to
Protect 97 Orchard Street from Irreparable Damage
read my answers to the charges.
Damage Wrought by Faulty and Illegal Construction Practices at 99 Orchard Street
The Lower East Side Tenement
Museum is very much relieved by the decision of the Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC) to initiate condemnation proceedings against 99 Orchard
Street. Situated adjacent to the Museum's landmark tenement at 97 Orchard
Street, the gut renovation of 99 Orchard Street caused a great deal of damage to
the fabric of our landmark tenement building, the first homestead of urban,
working class and poor immigrant people to be preserved in the United States.
Not once have construction / damage problems ever been mentioned in
the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) report on the EMINENT DOMAIN seizure of 99
Since September 2000, when
contractors for 99 Orchard Street illegally undermined our rear wall, our pleas
to the building's owners to protect our building had been in vain. The
construction that took place in 99 Orchard Street was wholly inconsistent with
laws governing construction next to (the two buildings share a party wall) a
historic site. As a result, the Museum's landmark tenement building sustained
the following damage
· undermining caused the
building's entire rear wall to shift and drop
· cracks run throughout the north side of the building, not only the rear
facade, but also throughout the interiors of the historically restored
Reply: 6/20/1983 See The Pre Museum condition of our party
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
· windows and doors are racked and no longer shut properly
· the tile floor in the hallway has shifted, creating a hazard for visitors and
staff walking through, and historic tiles have popped out of place
· sections of the rear wall now bulge
Not only did the owners of 99
Orchard fail to adhere to any of the regulations regarding building next to an
historic site, but they also filed false work plans and were issued numerous
violations. Between November 2000 and May 2001, the Department Of Buildings
issued at least three stop work orders, which 99 Orchard ignored repeatedly. In
addition, the plans filed with the DOB declared 99 Orchard Street's intention to
build office and residential space. However, 99's real plan, as is now clear,
was to extend a restaurant into the commercial space (which requires stricter
safety regulations than the offices they originally claimed to be building).
real plan, as is now clear was to do what ever we
wanted to in our building. Which is what we do in America. It is in
our constitution. Ruth, we are free to Amend Building Plans---you
have nothing to do with us. She is disgusting-So many sleepless nights due to this creature..
of article below)
Just this past November, DOB
issued a fourth stop work order after finding that 99 Orchard was doing work
that the DOB had not yet reviewed or approved as required by law. The Museum was
shocked: If our neighbor's patent disregard of the security of 97 Orchard Street
for the education and enjoyment of the public and for the law could result in
such damage to this landmark within one year, we were petrified at what would
come in the years to come.
In the years to come??? We are done building as of July, 2001.Why would anyone
believe that we would just keep building and building. The property is only 25ft
by 100 ft. We are done.
A picture tells a thousand words
They should be ashamed saying my construction ruined their rear
wall. Lets go down my "Historic" memory lane:
Review the picture of our buildings in
1983, years before the museum. Look at the condition of the lower rear wall and the joining wall of the two buildings ,
look at the drainpipe and the incredible sagging. Don't let Ruth Abram pass her
dilapidated building with its inherent Pre-Museum Condition off on me. I
renovated mine and I am proud of it.
6/20/1983 See The Pre Museum condition of our
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
6/20/1983 Pre Museum condition of building
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
Tenement Stairwell 1/20/02
CLICK HERE TO VIEW
Wow, the windows and doors don't shut. Hmmmm... Imagine that you're about
10-11 years old, its 1960 and your Grandpa takes you through his junk emporium
on the upper floors of his building at 99 Orchard St. Imagine incredible water
damage to the upper floors on Allen St. where the roof drain is, from decades of
neglect. The windows are slammed shut with thin rolled steel. It's dark, dank,
dusty and the smell of pigeon excrement is overwhelming. Now I can tell you that
the sagging of our water-damaged, shared wall on Allen St. was a real mess.
Those window frames sagged so much it was pathetic. A typical tenement such as
ours had a major design flaw , the stairway ran up the middle of the building.
As years went on, an incredible sagging from the all sides toward the center of
the building would occur. I remember I could put a stickball on the floor and it
would roll to the center of the building. 97 Orchard Street was not immune from
these environmental and design factors, so door frames fall out of alignment and
doors do not close.
story does not comport with the facts. She sent her reps to the Dept. Of
Buildings repeatedly, one might conclude obsessively, to check on our
To this day
the cracks and damage she alleges are merely her conjecture with no basis in
fact. A reasonable person might wonder why this alleged damage has not been
repaired . Could it be that Ruth did not want us to finish. Ruth indicates that
the state should take our building, because we are damaging hers. She fails to
mention that her own excavating crews ripped the fence down on our parking lot
and used it as a staging area , preventing my studio clients from entering the
building. When Museum personnel were looking for Tenement Artifacts in the
backyard, No one asked permission , they just ripped my chain link fence open
and trespassed on my property, and then dug up the yard "DEEP TO THE WALL.
AND TO THE SIDEWALK" I was truly concerned for my parking lots retaining
wall and the foundation next to mine!! Luckily I was able to save the remains of
my cat who had been buried there. I did not call the building dept. when the
trespass occurred. In hindsight, perhaps I should have. They don't mention how
they had brick work done on the lower width of their building on Allen St. and
put a concrete run right up to the wall with no drainage. They dont mention
they had a questionable repointing job done on the total rear of the building.
They don't mention the monstrosity of a steel stairwell that had beams in front
of my building interrupting my client flow and creating a high-volume cacophony
of sounds. Again, I did not call the building Dept.
reconstruction work in late June of 2001. It is over. Ruth refuses to fix the
alleged severe damage. Next, the issue of our not making an office and our plan
to make a restaurant.
If I want to
change my mind about how to allocate space in my building, that is my business
NOT RUTH ABRAM's. What nerve claiming that my business partner and I were filing
false building plans. My partner and I changed our mind, which we have every
right to do. That is what is known as amending building plans, a very common
practice. I find it appalling that Ruth arrogantly thinks she has a right to
dictate what we do. Apparently she thinks my building and all the buildings on
the block are part of her domain. It seems Ms. Abram had an ongoing agenda of
filing complaints against us. As a consequence, each time, the D.O.B. sent an
inspector. Often, the English speaking foreman was not at the site at that exact
moment, so the D.
O. B. issued a stop order, leaving a summons.
Then, I'd get a frantic call from the office and have to leave a recording
session and go to the building. Since the inspector had already left I'd have to
go to the Building Dept. Then, typically, we'd wait 2 days for the inspector to
return to the site and review things. EACH TIME the return visit CLEARED US of
ANY WRONG DOING -everything was fine. This cycle went on and on to the point
that it became an annoyance to the inspectors. There are several variations on
this scenario I could relate, but suffice to say it was an awful year-and-a-half
for me. Wasting my $$$$, wasting your tax $$$$$.
crew never worked after hours.
Construction works from 8:30AM-5:30 Pm and everyone goes home.
Why 97 Orchard Street is Significant to the Neighborhood, the City and the
Chartered by the Board of
Regents in l988, the heart of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is its
landmark tenement building, which was home to 7, 000 immigrants from 20
different nations between 1863 and 1935. This humble abode, that housed nearly
five generations of immigrant families, is the only remaining example of the
type of housing millions knew as their first place of settlement in America and
New York City. The stories of the struggles of working immigrants have
tremendous meaning today. Our area, which we proudly interpret through a variety
of programs, was home to an even greater diversity. In addition to Eastern and
Western Europe, immigrants to the Lower East Side have come from Africa, from
Asia, and from Latin America. Today, approximately 35 % of the Museum's
neighbors are foreign born.
Over 90, 000 visitors,
representing all 50 states and 33 countries, came to the Museum last year. For
many of the 30, 000 schoolchildren who visited last year, a large number of whom
are immigrants or the children of immigrants, these stories legitimize and honor
their own struggles and offer the comfort, which comes from knowing others have
gone through this before. Many of the Museum's staff live in or have roots in
the neighbor and many are migrants or immigrants who have come here from the
Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland
Through its Theatre program with the Immigrant Theatre Project, the Museum has
brought business to playwrights and actors from Mexico, Jamaica, Columbia, Iran,
Japan, Israel, Russia, Romania, Syria, India, Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia,
Egypt, Armenia, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Australia, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, and
Time and time again,
organizations working to make this community a better place have turned to the
Museum to help orient, inspire, and educate the diverse publics they serve. In
learning that area residents were waiting up to three years for free English for
Other Speakers classes, the Museum partnered with University Settlement House to
offer a free ESOL class that taught through the diaries and letters of
immigrants past. Concerned that many neighborhood children were living in
conditions that rivaled its own tenement building, the Tenement Museum partnered
with the New York City Department of Housing and Preservation Development to
develop Inspect This!, a program that teaches children the history of housing
laws and how to report violations in their own homes. The Museum developed the
Lower East Side Community Preservation Program with numerous community
organizations such as St. Augustine's Church, the Chinese American Planning
Council, and Eldridge Street Synagogue to build bridges between diverse elements
of its local community through the common effort to preserve important historic
sites in the neighborhood. Finally, realizing that the garment industry had been
a source of both employment and despair for neighborhood residents for hundreds
of years, the Museum has worked with Chinatown Manpower Association, Good Ole
Lower East Side, and numerous other organizations to open an exhibit that will
explore the industry, past and present.
Due to the incredible
significance of 97 Orchard Street to all of the aforementioned groups and
people, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the public must safeguard this
building, the only one of its kind in this country, for generations to come.
Illegal Tenancy and Mystery
of Ownership of 99 Orchard Street
While a New York Post article
recently listed an individual, Lou Holtzman, as part owner of 99 Orchard Street,
the current title for the building lists 98 Allen Realty Corporation as the
owner; the deed for the building changed hands from Lou Holtzman to 98 Allen
Realty in March of 2000. Further, records that were filed with the Department of
Buildings have listed an employee of Sun Sun Corporation, a conglomerate that
owns at least 10 businesses in New York, as the owner of 99 Orchard Street. Lou
Holtzman's partnership with this corporation is not clear. Similarly, while Lou
Holtzman claims that he and or his family lived in the building for a number of
years, DOB records demonstrate that the building had been declared unoccupied of
residential tenants since 1952. This means that if he did live there he did so
illegally and he evaded housing construction and safety regulation in wiring,
plumbing or construction of his home. According to DOB complaint records, Mr.
Holtzman created a sound studio in the building without filing for a permit in
It seems Ruth
Abram is not a rocket scientist. I always owned 50% of my family building. I
opened a corporation named after the alternate Allen St. address of my building
after I found a partner who was good for me and the neighborhood. I converted my
ownership to equal shares in my corporation. People do that in the year 2002.
When my aunt and I owned it together it was a family building that had 2 equal
owners. We had no need for a corporation in those days.
Remember- EastSide Sound went in business in 1972.
Complaint was from Jeff Bittner, younger brother of my studio partner from 1980- Richard
Bittner. In 1993,Jeff was jealous of his brother and made all these complaints
from the IRS to the building Dept. He committed suicide shortly after getting
out of prison...... RUTH, Jeff had issues and he could not handle them. What is
your problem?? 1993-illegal construction?? where were you for the last 21 years prior-your research is a sham.
vacant, a 3*5 inch index card with a hand written "Vacant" from 1952-
She is desperate-Oh, and I am living illegally in my building back in the day.
First of all I can live in MY BUILDING, second, no one came looking in my drug
infested neighborhood. All building-fire-sanitation-police dept. knew Louie
Holtzman, they knew I lived there, they knew I was armed and protecting mine and
your future unkempt building. Protecting my infant son and wife...Ruth - You make my
speculation. Ruth does not mention that she ran a museum flaunting every fire
code in NYC. Her museum was overlooked because of powerful family , legal and
political allies. I know this as a fact since I was there for opening day. A
mere mortal would have been in deep trouble for bringing people into the fire
trap known at the Tenement Museum before the sprinklers came. Ask her when she
opened and when the sprinklers came.
It was 1970
and I was cleaning out my deceased Grandpa's junk emporium on the upper
floors-what filth I would clean-dumpster after dumpster-I loved it. I was
putting life into my homestead. One day the fire dept. shows up unannounced. The
troops are climbing through my life looking at my pitiful situation. When it was
at its end the Captain comes up to me and screams square in my face-I want this
place clean in 24 hours... He then bursts out laughing and smacks me on the back
and says good luck, everyone leaves...Can a Ruth Abram even understand what I
just said here? The museum is a fairy tale, now it is a fairy tale that insults
me-my family-my efforts in life--the Lower Eastside Spirit.
A special note:My Mom passed away 9/7/01 and we all miss her. She lived her life in this building until she was 20 years old. My favorite moment was when she called Ruth and gave her a verbal whipping over the phone. My mother told her she was like a wild dog after a piece of meat and to leave her son alone.I did not witness this call and I must say for "HISTORIC" value that a true urban pioneer and tenement dweller did not think much of Ruth the invader.
(Continuation of article below)
The State Gets Involved for
the Public Good
For the Public Good ? Now, we know it is for Ruth's good...
In fighting for the security of it's building, the Lower East Side Tenement
Museum appealed to its contacts at the city, state and federal level. After
fourteen months, and after four stop work orders were levied on 99 Orchard
Street, ESDC stepped in and decided to proceed with condemnation of 99 Orchard
Street for the benefit of the public good. When the condemnation procedure is
complete, ESDC will purchase 99 Orchard Street from the owners at fair market
value price, as determined by an independent appraiser. The 15 residential
tenants of the building, the first of whom who moved 130 days ago, will be
compensated for their apartment search and move. The Tenement Museum is very
sorry that 15 people must suffer the temporary inconvenience of finding new
quarters. However, as these tenants are paying $1650 a month for 325 square foot
apartments, almost $20, 000 a year, there are certain to be comparable
apartments on the market that they can afford. The addition to the restaurant
that opened in December will have to close. However, the owners Sun Sun
Corporation will still have the original portion of their restaurant next door
at 101 Orchard Street and will be compensated for the sale of the building.
Can you handle such incredible arrogance.. Just imagine this was your home, your
life. All this for the Tenement Museum??
In order to secure the future
safety of the Museum's landmark tenement building, ESDC will then sell 99
Orchard Street to the Museum. The Tenement Museum will use 99 Orchard Street to
expand its programming, especially for children, families, and visitors with
special needs. With the acquisition of 99 Orchard Street, we will be able to
provide fully handicap accessible spaces and exhibits. We will open new
apartments, bringing the story of immigration to our area up to date. We will
have exhibition galleries and public art installations that showcase the work of
contemporary and historic immigrant artists. And we will have meeting and
conference rooms our community partners can use for collaborative programming.
Beneficial to the Economy of
the Lower East Side
While the Museum is a private
non profit, it became an affiliated site of the National Park Service in 1998-
partnered with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty- and with this expansion
it can expect to accommodate a portion of the 5 million annual visitors to both
of those sites. With the acquisition of 99 Orchard Street the Museum will be
able to serve more than 200, 000 visitors who will shop and eat in the small
shops and restaurants of the area that dot the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and
Little Italy - so many of them owned by immigrants. While the Museum currently
has as staff of 100 full-time, part-time employees and interns, many of who are
immigrants or from the neighborhood, the expansion will create at least 100
additional jobs. In a neighborhood where at least 1/3 of the residents are on
some form of public assistance, these larger economic benefits to the
neighborhood are crucial.
Saving a National Treasure
that Benefits Us All
Millions of native-born
Americans and contemporary immigrants trace their beginnings in this country to
homesteads such as the Museum's landmark tenement building, yet is the only site
of its kind to be preserved and interpreted in America. The damage that was
wrought on 97 Orchard Street caused great concern about the future of this very
unique national treasure, as did the unlawful and unscrupulous actions of 99
Orchard Street's owners. We are most grateful to ESDC for initiating this plan
to secure 97 Orchard Street for the benefit of the neighborhood and tens of
thousands of school children and tourists for years to come. The stories and
legacy of 97 Orchard Street has provided a great many people of all walks of
life with a sense of rooted ness, hope, and inspiration. In the aftermath of
September 11th, Americans need such a place of comfort more than ever.
The TenantNetwork(tm) for Residential Tenants
TenantNet(tm): http://tenant. net
email: tenant@tenant. net
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.
RE 99 Orchard St. Tenement Museum
My family has lived and
worked at 99 Orchard St. for 4 generations.
I recently closed my recording studio of 32 years to complete a total renovation
of my property. My building is finished and occupied, it now has 14 tenants plus
my wife and I being the 15th. It has been called a state of the art project. The
restaurant, already deemed one of New York's great Chinese cuisine
establishments has been expanded into a beautiful dining facility. Needless to say my building and the Lower East Side
have been my family's life. This building is a show piece for future development
on the lower East Side. It is a combination of old and new immigrants living and
working together to create jobs and residences for the community.
Now, without a hint until
there appeared a notice in the Daily News, the State wants to acquire my
building for the museum using the laws of Eminent Domain.
For the last few years,
Ruth Abram of the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard St. has been on a campaign to
acquire my property. Prior to commencing my project, we entertained good faith
negotiations with the museum, however, their purchase offer did not match the
offer from our neighbor at 101 Orchard St.
Ms. Abram put our
construction under a microscope with needless complaints to the building dept.
stating that my construction was destroying her museum. Each and every alleged
complaint was summarily dismissed. Claims of "undermined rear walls"
were unfounded; "dropped walls" and "cracks" existed since
we noticed them in the 1960's; "rear wall bulge" existed since we
noticed it in the 1960's. In the late 1980's the museum replaced their rear
brick lower level facade without proper drainage; the windows and doors were
warped and out of alignment in both our buildings since I was a little boy; The
NYC Buildings Department was more alarmed by the filing of innocuous complaints
and the fact that the museum used them for their own purposes then for anything
I have been here all my
life and I can tell you that disrepair of both our buildings were apparent well
before Ruth arrived. Dr. Halpern, who owned 97 Orchard, knew the shape of our
old buildings. Ruth and her so called professionals went on a rampage. The
documentation from various agencies I have acquired borders on the absurd.
They successfully closed
my site for accumulated periods of many months based upon false claims which
were all eventually dismissed. I lost precious time and resources. Endless
complaints and delays continued.
The paper trail of their
campaign now leads to a Public hearing on January 9, 2002 - 6-8 pm at the
University Settlement House auditorium - 84 Eldridge Street. Amazingly, we have
little time to put together a defense to all this due to notice given to us
during the peak of the Holiday Season!!
The museum has 2 upper
floors that are not being utilized - the museum has a large lower floor that is
not being properly utilized. I understand they want to expand but they have to
face reality. The museum cannot be allowed to grow by destroying my family's
life and commitment to NYC. They wax over the ghost's of past tenement dwellers
and their struggles, but never mention my family which has lived and run our
family business on Orchard St. since the early 1910's. It is such an insult to
my family. I brought EastSide sound studio to this neighborhood when the lower
East side was drug infested, neglected and undesirable. I helped bring world
class musicians and artists and life to a dying neighborhood. I've had many
close calls to losing my life. The new immigrants of the lower East Side became
partners with one of the old immigrants to bring my building and my neighborhood
back to life.
I wonder if Ruth Abram
is next looking to displace you out of your homes, businesses, and properties!!!
In light of 9/11, it
should not be the focus of our institutions, both public and private, to
relegate their resources towards loss of jobs, families, and tax revenues from a
growing neighborhood which, until only recently, has turned a corner toward
prosperity and security for its residents.
We need your help and are grateful for your support.
Lou Holtzman / Mimi Holtzman
www. louholtzman. com
212-226-7438 Ans. machine
212-226 7438 Fax
Lou & Mimi Holtzman
99 Orchard St. Apt 2C
NYC NY 10002
Re: N. Y. S. eminent
domain takeover of 99 Orchard St.
ADDENDUM TO 1/3/02 HOLTZMAN STATEMENT
POST 1/9/02 PUBLIC HEARING
Community Board Hearing
1/10/02 talking points:
1. With respect to N. Y.
State and N. Y. City overall curtailment of non-discretionary projects since
9/11 and desire to develop housing and businesses in lower Manhattan:
see Pataki State of the
State 1/9/02 address:
N. Y. Times report:
"State's looming financial crises";
an economy and State's finances rocked by recession and
"N. Y. C. has a $4 billion hole expected in next year's budget.
(Bloomberg) looking to Albany for financial aid particularly on economic
development projects". (not historic preservation projects);
2. Building dep't issues temporary Certificate of Occupancy for 99
Orchard St. ( no structural problems to it or 97 Orchard St. )
3. Based upon standard
appraisal practices, value of 99 Orchard Street
expected over $8Million;
4. There are alternatives to displacing homes and businesses at 99 Orchard:
alternate historically relevant sites in the area (see realtor listings for
Orchard/Hester, etc. ;
5. Museum's previous
attempts to acquire Essex St property;
6. Museum's current
contract at 91 Orchard and 262 Broome St. ;
7. Museum can attain their
needs in rear of 97 Orchard and/or
obtain variances to renovate or build a full structure in their own existing
LOUIS HOLTZMAN, president