For Immediate Release
Media Contact:
Nick Benson
Director of Media & Public Relations
City to Recover Museum Artifacts and Tenant Belongings from 70 Mulberry Street as Deconstruction Begins
First Phase of Deconstruction Will Help City Access Areas that are Currently Inaccessible
NEW YORK NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Commissioner Lisette Camilo today announced plans to recover additional tenant belongings at 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown and to begin the first phase of deconstruction of the building. This work includes recovery of the collections of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and items belonging to United East Athletics Association and Chen Dance Center. The city-owned building, which was home to several community and cultural organizations, was devastated by a fire on January 23rd. The first phase of deconstruction will begin today and will target some of the most badly damaged parts of the building. The city determined that the first phase of deconstruction is necessary due to extensive, irreparable damage to the building. During deconstruction, the city will be able to access parts of the building that have remained inaccessible to date due to unsafe conditions in the building. The phased approach will allow the city to recover the remaining archives of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) next week.

“Today marks the beginning of a rebuilding process for this cherished part of the Chinatown community,” said Lisette Camilo, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services . “We are pleased that we will now be able to access the priceless museum artifacts and tenant belongings that have previously been inaccessible due to unsafe conditions inside the building.”

“Following the loss of the vital community hub at 70 Mulberry, today’s announcement gives us great hope,” said Kathleen Hughes, Acting Commissioner of Cultural Affairs . “The recovery of the history and the cultural treasures that remained in the building while safety issues were addressed is welcome news. Our fellow agencies have been unflagging in their commitment to working with the affected cultural organizations, which has helped HT Chen & Dancers continue to offer programming, and has previously rescued hundreds of boxes from MOCA’s archival space. We join all the tenants and agencies in hoping for the best possible outcomes as demolition starts, and as we begin to look toward the future revival of this site as a cultural center for Chinatown.”

Affected building tenants include Chinatown Manpower Project, Chinese-American Planning Council’s Chinatown Senior Center, Chen Dance Center, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), and United East Athletic Association. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the City of New York assisted each organization with finding temporary workspace and with the recovery of hundreds of boxes of museum artifacts belonging to MOCA.

Following investigations by appropriate authorities, the city began preparations for a potential deconstruction in order to accelerate the timeline for accessing items trapped in the building. A contractor has been on-site for weeks preparing for a safe and orderly deconstruction. The full, first phase of deconstruction is expected to take four months.

"Since the day after the tragic fire broke, my team was on the scene with DCAS to provide support and address the immediate needs of the Museum of Chinese in America and displaced nonprofits,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin . “I thank Commissioner Camilo and the entire DCAS team for their continued commitment to retrieving the contents of 70 Mulberry safely and swiftly. With the fate of remaining artifacts and archives hanging in the balance, we must continue to emphasize expeditious removal to facilitate a successful restoration process -- our spirits remain hopeful. With deconstruction set to begin, we must now shift our focus to nearby residents and small businesses who need the City's full partnership to secure environmental protections and safeguard their health and safety. I look forward to working with DCAS and sister City agencies to make sure these New Yorkers' concerns are addressed."

“We appreciate DCAS’ ongoing efforts to recover invaluable artifacts and to work with all affected organizations as they seek to recover from this devastating fire,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer . “Our office stands ready to assist in any way with this effort.”

“CMP is glad to learn that the City will begin its deconstruction process of the building,” said Hong Shing Lee, Executive Director of Chinatown Manpower Project . “It is a necessary first step toward rebuilding this community asset. We are further encouraged that the process will allow tenants the opportunity to retrieve their property including the priceless artifacts from the MoCA archive. We urge the City to conduct the deconstruction work with minimum impact to the businesses and residents in the surrounding area, and provide assistance to them as need rises.”

“The Chinese-American Planning Council would like to thank the City for communicating regularly with us since the devastating fire on January 23 rd ,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council . “During the deconstruction process of 70 Mulberry Street, we are hopeful that we will be able to retrieve our property, including the Chinese musical instruments that are highly valued by the senior members of our Chinatown Senior Center. We look forward to continuing to work with the City to address the needs of Chinatown residents and small businesses throughout this process.”

“Chen Dance Center prays for the well-being of the community and all the workers as 70 Mulberry Street under goes demolition and restoration,” said H.T. Chen and Dian Dong of the Chen Dance Center . “We hope the process will be efficient and productive with minimal impact to the neighborhood families and businesses so that the heartbeat of Chinatown can once again sound proudly.”

“When the 5-alarm fire broke out at 70 Mulberry, MOCA anticipated the loss of its 85,000-item collections and archives collected over 40 years and our neighbors’ precious belongings,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, President, Museum of Chinese in America . “With the city’s prioritization, the community’s perseverance, and the public’s acknowledgment of our stories, our heritage, and our history, MOCA will always be indebted to the efforts made at this time by all. The road to recovery, repair, and rebuild is long but we now have visibility on that road and we are committed to walking it together.”

“United East Athletics Association (UEAA) is grateful that DCAS has helped us recover a portion of our property a couple of weeks ago,” said June Jee, Vice Chairperson, United East Athletics Association . “We are thrilled to learn today that the deconstruction process has begun, giving us and other tenants hope to retrieve the rest of our property. While we are still looking for a temporary home, we are hopeful that DCAS and DOE will assist us so we can continue our summer program which annually serves over 300 children and trains over 100 youth for leadership and community services. We look forward to working with the City as we recover and rebuild 70 Mulberry Street with minimal impact to the residents and business in our community.”

Other Updates:

  • Since the fire, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has conducted air monitoring for the presence of asbestos fibers and all samples have tested negative. The air monitoring will continue during the work to demolish the building. 

  • Traffic on Mulberry Street has been confined to one lane and that is expected to continue.

  • Bayard Street was closed to traffic following the fire and is expected to remain closed.

  • The city has provided weekly communications to all building tenants and will maintain an open dialogue with all parties impacted by the blaze.

  • The city expects that the building will be rebuilt and continue its role as a vital asset for the Chinatown community.
About DCAS
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) provides effective shared services to support the operations of New York City government. Its commitment to equity, effectiveness, and sustainability guides its work with City agencies on recruiting, hiring, and training employees; providing facilities management for 55 public buildings; acquiring, selling, and leasing City property; purchasing more than $1 billion in supplies and equipment each year; and implementing conservation and safety programs throughout the City's facilities and vehicle fleet.