New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will restore a historic building in Chinatown that went up in flames just days before the 2020 Lunar New Year.
The mayor announced his $170 million plan to reconstruct 70 Mulberry St. on Tuesday. The project includes the preservation and restoration of the building’s historic façade and the addition of two additional floors which will result in over 68,000 square feet of space, the city said.
The building had been home to a senior center and other nonprofits for decades and the city looks to keep it that way by building a new multi-purpose room new for an auditorium or gymnasium and adding additional community spaces, as well as making the building accessible by building an elevator.
Nearly a dozen people were hurt, most of them firefighters with minor injuries, after raging flames broke out on Jan. 23, 2020. FDNY firefighters spent over 15 hours hosing down the building, part of which collapsed.
The bottom floor of the building is home to the Chinatown Senior Center and the second floor is a dance studio. Its top floors, where the fire started, are where a few nonprofit organizations are located and where historic documents are stored, according to Manhattan Community Board 3 member Karlin Chan.
"We have the Museum of Chinese in America archives (MOCA) there. So all the historical documents from this area, all the exhibits are actually stored in there, so hopefully the water damage doesn't destroy it," Chan told NBC New York.
MOCA relocated from Mulberry Street to 215 Centre St. in 2009, but it retained the previous gallery space "as an archival centre and serves as a research library open to anyone with a desire to learn or research Chinese American history," according to the museum's website.
The building has been around for decades and NYC Council Member Margaret Chin says she attended school there in 1963.
"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," Chin said.
The reconstruction is expected to be completed in 2027.