Diverse voices in preservation
Lei Yang came to the US from China in 2012 to advance her education in architecture and preservation. She graduated from Cornell University with a Masters in Preservation and Planning, and since then she has worked for a number of architecture and historic preservation organizations in New York City.
Lei’s work in preservation showed her the great extent to which her own culture has thrived in this city. Chinatown has dozens of buildings that are more than a century old.
Lei’s favorite historic building in Chinatown was built by a famous Chinese American architect. His name was Po Gum Lee, and the building is called On Leon Tong, which in Chinese means Merchants’ Association Building.
The building is located in the intersection of Mott and Canal Streets, and it was built in 1950. It features Chinese architectural features combined with modernism, including pagoda roof, balconies, and colorful columns.
Because of Chinatown’s long and rich history , Lei believes that Chinatown should have a historic district. However, the list of individual landmarks in Chinatown is reduced to a couple of buildings. According to her, one reason for this is because residents are not engaged in preserving the architectural heritage of the neighborhood.
However, there is a small group of Chinese Americans that were born and raised in Chinatown, and their personal bond to the neighborhood has prompted them to advocate for the preservation of historic buildings in the neighborhood.