City Will Spend $80M To Restore Historic Chinatown Building Destroyed In Fire

Erica Brosnan
July 02, 2020 - 8:00 pm
Chinatown fire

FDNY

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday announced New York City would commit $80 million to reconstruct an historic Chinatown building destroyed in a fire in January.

On Jan. 23 – one day before Lunar New Year – a fire erupted on the fourth floor of 70 Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. The five-story building quickly was engulfed in flames.

At least nine people were hurt in the fire, which tore through the building that housed the archives of the Museum of Chinese in America. 

As many as 85,000 irreplaceable artifacts that document the history of Asian people in the United States were likely lost in the blaze.

Among the artifacts lost included textiles, letters, traditional wedding dresses and passenger ship tickets curated by the museum. An 1883 document about the Chinese Exclusion Act was also believed destroyed, as were photos of Chinatown in the 20th century.

Museum employees were devastated by the loss and the city vowed to preserve any artifact that was salvageable from the structure

On Thursday, Mayor de Blasio said the city would be committing $80 million to restoring the historic building. 

“In January, Chinatown lost the beating heart of its community: 70 Mulberry Street,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We’re working hand-in-hand with the community to preserve this building’s rich history and bring it back to life again.”

As part of the rebuilding effort, the city will create an advisory committee comprised of building tenants, local elected officials and community board members.

The city will also launch a three-month “visioning process” seeking public input on the project that is expected to start this summer and continue into the fall.

Tenants that were displaced in the fire will be permitted to move back when construction is finished, according to Mayor de Blasio’s office. The city noted the vast majority of tenants’ possessions were saved from the flames.

In a statement on Thursday, Museum of Chinese in America President Nancy Yao Maasbach said de Blasio’s administration “listened deeply to the tenants and community in the tragic aftermath of the fire.”

She noted that funding will “contribute to a stronger New York City overall and will provide dividends for generations.”

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