Christodora House

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143 Avenue B, New York City, NY

Christodora House
ChristodoraHouse-NYC.jpg

Christodora House
Building Information
Developer Mr and Mrs Arthur Curtiss James
Architect Henry C. Pelton
Management Company Andrews Building Corp.
Number of Units 85
Number of Floors 17
Year Built 1928
Construction Method Concrete
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143 Avenue B, New York City, NY
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning R-7A
Title of Land Condominium


Contents

Background

In 1897, Christina Isobel MacColl and Sarah Libby Carson moved to the low-income, immigrant neighborhood in East Village, New York City. They planned to open a settlement house, which would serve the residents of the neighborhood.
ChristadoraHouse-NYC-ExtLogo.jpg
They launched their settlement house with little money and no outside help in the basement of the building at 163 Avenue B. The called their new undertaking the Young Women's Settlement. The settlement house quickly outgrew the basement and soon moved to 147 Avenue B. Shortly after the move, the newly formed Council voted unanimously to change the name from Young Women's Settlement to Christodora House. By the mid-1920s, the Christodora House had once again outgrown its premises and in 1928 a railroad tycoon and his wife, Mr and Mrs Arthur Curtiss James, offered to construct a new building for the work.
Christodora House - 1929
The new building was the largest ever dedicated to settlement work. It was 17 stories and included a concert hall, library, pool, classrooms, theater, and gymnasium. The upper floors were used as a residential hotel to help subsidize the settlement work. The top floor included a solarium, roof garden, and dining room.

Christodora House continued to grow throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. By the mid to late 1940s, however, the small industry that had once supported the area began to move out and the area declined. Soon the residential hotel on the top stories of the Christodora House building could not support the upkeep. Finally, in 1947 the building was sold to the city and used by the Department of Social Services.


Social Services never fully utilized the building and the lower floors were taken over by community groups such as the Black Panthers and the Young Lords. This led to police action in 1969. During the pitched battle, the water mains on the fifteenth floor were opened, which destroyed the electrical systems. The building's doors were soldered shut and it was forgotten. In 1975, the city sold the building for $62,500, but nothing was done to the property by the new owner.


By the 1980s, however, the building was beginning to spark some interest with investors hoping to renovate old buildings and turn them into much needed residential space. In the late 1970s, artists and musicians had been moving into East Village to find cheap rentals and investors followed along within a few years.


The Christodora building was currently owned by George Jaffee who started to receive numerous offers. In February 1983, a partnership headed by Harry Skydell purchased the property for 1.3 million dollars. Skydell planned to renovate the building, but when Robert Weiss offered him three million for the building, he decided to take the deal. [1]


Robert Weiss immediately passed the deed on to Samuel Glasser. Glasser, interestingly enough, turned to Skydell as a partner and together they renovated the building and began selling the resulting eighty-five condominiums in 1986. The condominiums sold out quickly and have been sought after ever since.


1988 Tompkins Square Park Riots
The conversion of the building to condominiums and the resulting gentrification that it started sparked the anger of many of the other residents of East Village. On August 7, 1988, the Tompkins Square Park Riot moved out of the nearby park and the rioters targeted the Christodora House. Rioters chanted "Die Yuppie Scum" as the front doors were smashed and rioters occupied the lobby. The police responded aggressively and quelled the protesters. Over the next few weeks, over 100 complaints of excessive brutality were lodged with the police. Residents were undecided when asked whether the police had responded too aggressively.


At some point, the part of the building that originally housed the pool, gymnasium, and offices were zoned for community access. Throughout the late 1990s and into the 2000s, different groups considered using the building, but eventually bailed. In 2004, the owners tried to overturn the zoning so that the space could be turned into more condominiums, but so far this has failed and currently only a small part of this space is being used as a bike room for the residents.[2]

Location

Through the 1960s, East Village, where Christodora House is located, was discovered by the artists and musicians. It became known as a center for counterculture. It birthed punk rock as well as several other artistic movements. In recent years, the area has gentrified, which has caused protests from the former residents. East Village is still known as a diverse, vibrant, and artistic neighborhood.


Christodora House is right in the center of East Village in the Alphabet City area next to Tompkins Square Park. The park is a 10 1/2 acre square park that is a popular recreational destination for residents of the area. The building is also only a short walk to East River Parkway, where there is tennis, track, baseball, soccer and picnic areas. East Village is also known for its many historic buildings such as the Christodora House itself, as well as Stuyvesant Polyclinic, Webster Hall, the Yiddish Art Theater, and others.


Christodora House is within easy walking distance of all amenities such as bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and numerous boutiques. There are also excellent bike lanes and great access to public transportation.[3]

Construction

Facade details

Christodora House was built in 1928 by architect Henry C. Pelton. The building was designed to be a settlement house, offering educational, health, and recreational services to the poor residents in the area.


The concrete building has sixteen floors above ground and one below ground. The exterior facade is made of granite and brick. It is built in the American Perpendicular style. The base of the building is made of granite, while the rest of the building is faced with a dark colored brick. There is some terracotta detailing including some circular relief work directly over the doors. Large windows are evenly spaced across the facade, giving the building a simple, unified design.


The building was renovated in 1986 and turned into condominiums. The 17 story building currently houses 85 units.

Layout and Features

Unit features in Christodora House vary depending when each unit was last renovated. However, all apartments reflect the unique history of the building and feature large windows and high ceilings. Some of the more unique units are built in what once housed the music room or chapel of the Christodora Settlement House.[4]

Units include a combination of the following amenities:

  • Eleven foot ceilings
  • Large windows
  • Top-end appliances (SubZero, Wolf, Miele, etc.)
  • Modern bathroom fixtures (White marble counters, brushed nickel fittings, etc.)
  • Wide plank flooring
  • Wood-burning fireplace
  • Pre-wired sound/media system
  • Built-in storage space
  • Custom cabinetry

Floor Plans

The Christodora House has many floor plans available from 400 square feet studios to combined units with three bedrooms and over 1900 square feet. Several floor plan samples can be seen here:

Amenities

Building amenities include:

  • Prewar details
  • Bike room
  • Elevator
  • Live-in superintendent
  • Doorman
  • Laundry in building

Bylaws

Christodora House Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No


This building is pet-friendly.

Christodora House allows rentals.

There is no age restriction.

Sustainability

Christodora House has many units with energy efficient appliances and windows installed. Residents can continue this trend by choosing sustainable options when completing further renovations.

The building also has a bike room, allowing residents to lower their carbon footprint by taking advantage of the excellent bike lanes in the area. The neighborhood offers many nearby amenities, such as grocery stores, parks, coffee shops, and restaurants which makes walking or biking a viable option.[5]


Trivia

The building was originally used as a Settlement House
  • Christodora House was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1986. In 2013, it received a cultural medallion which reads: "Harry Hopkins, one of the most influential non-elected officials in American history, became a Settlement House worker in 1912 at Christodora, where his exposure to the struggles of new immigrants helped shape his thinking about social reform."
    • Christodora, launched in 1897, was then housed in 143/145/147 Avenue B, and to this day continues its mission to help alleviate inequities among the under-served.
    • In 1933, President Roosevelt asked Hopkins to implement the Social Security Act of 1935, and to direct the Works Progress Administration, which hired more than 3 million unemployed to rebuild highways, bridges, public buildings, and parks.
    • During WWII, he was Secretary of Commerce and FDR's personal representative to London and Moscow. In 1945, Hopkins helped arrange the Potsdam Conference for President Truman, who honored him with the Distinguished Service Medal.[6]
  • Christodora House originally referred to a settlement house organization which was dedicated to offering education, health, and other services to the poor in New York City. This organization still exists today. Today, Christodora is focused on offering environmental education and leadership training to motivated New York City public school students. Christodora’s mission is to encourage the positive educational and developmental growth of New York City’s youth through stimulating educational and challenging outdoor programs.[7]
  • During the Tompkin Square Riots in 1988, rioters hauled one potted plant out of the Christodora lobby and threw it in the street as onlookers cheered and chanted. Then, however, someone began to yell "Save the tree" and the plant was rescued and replanted in Tompkins Square Park.[8]
  • Famous past or present residents include Walter Tandy Murch, Iggy Pop, Sigrid Rothe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Freedy Johnston, Marisa Monte, George Pendle, Andres Levin, Douglas Rushkoff, and Michael Rosen.[9]
  • One of the first condominium owners was rocker Iggy Pop. He wrote his record “Avenue B” while he lived in Christodora House.[10]
  • George Gershwin gave his first public concert on the third floor in 1914.[11]

References

  1. The New York Magazine: The Lower East Side, 1984
  2. The Villager
  3. Walk Score
  4. Street Easy
  5. Walk Score
  6. EV Grieve
  7. Christodora
  8. Tompkins Square Riots
  9. Christodora House
  10. The Villager
  11. Christodora


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