Mayor Announces Plan to Restore 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown After 2020 Fire

70 Mulberry Street, prior to the January 2020 fire. Image Credit: Google Maps

The fire displaced five non-profits and shut down a community hub. On October 5, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to reconstruct 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown. The City-owned building, which is a historic cultural and community hub for Chinatown, suffered severe damage from a fire in January 2020.

70 Mulberry Street was built in 1892 by C.B.J. Snyder and first served as Public School 23. P.S. 23 included a basement auditorium, and was the first in a movement to provide community centers and meeting halls within the City’s public school buildings. Public School 23 shut down in the mid-1970s, but the building was converted to a community center. Since then, the building had been home to several non-profits and the archives for the Museum of Chinese in America up until the January 2020 fire. The fire severely damaged the building and a portion of the building was later demolished. 

Following the fire, the de Blasio administration committed to rebuilding 70 Mulberry. The 70 Mulberry Advisory Committee was formed and consisted of building tenants, representatives from Manhattan Community Board 3, and local elected officials. The advisory committee commissioned a preservation assessment to determine the condition of the facade and to get recommendations for repairs.  The repair plan followed a year-long community visioning process that included public forums and a community survey. 

The new plan for repairs includes a $170 million commitment to preserve the facade and add an additional two floors of space. The repairs to the building will include over 50,000 square feet of space for returning tenants including the United East Athletics Association, the Chinatown Senior Center, the Museum of Chinese America, the Chen Dance Center, and the Chinatown Manpower Project; over 6,500 square feet of additional community and office spaces; accessibility improvements including an elevator, which the previous building lacked; and a new multi-purpose room that can be used as a gym or auditorium for recreation space for the community. 

The project is expected to be substantially completed by 2027. To read more about the reconstruction, click here.

Mayor de Blasio stated, “70 Mulberry Street has been a beloved gathering place for the Chinatown community for generations. After the devastating fire in January 2020 destroyed much of the building, we promised to rebuild. This historic $170 million commitment will preserve the historic façade and add two floors of additional space, ensuring the community and nonprofit tenants have an incredible building to return to. These investments will ensure 70 Mulberry can continue to be a critical community space for generations to come.”

Council Member Margaret Chin stated, “A $170 million commitment from the Mayor to rebuild 70 Mulberry represents a bright future for Chinatown’s residents.  For the first time, Chinatown will have a fully accessible auditorium/gymnasium and a community space for artists, and the 5 non-profits who were forced to relocate after the fire will finally be able to return.  By preserving the building’s facade and constructing a state-of-the-art facility, the city is making a historic investment in a community that has uniquely suffered over the last few years. I am grateful to the Mayor for the significant increase in funding, and I thank DCAS for their commitment to the community engagement process.  I look forward to seeing my former elementary school become a vibrant community center for generations to come.” 

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


One thought on “Mayor Announces Plan to Restore 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown After 2020 Fire

  1. Am I missing something? The City is rehabbing/enlarging a building for approx. $3,000 per square foot? That’s outrageous.

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