Supporters rally for Museum of Chinese in America and other nonprofits gutted by Mulberry Street fire

Supporters rally for Museum of Chinese in America and other nonprofits gutted by Mulberry Street fire

In the aftermath of a devastating fire at 70 Mulberry Street last Friday, online supporters have turned out in droves to donate to the varied arts spaces and nonprofits that call the historic building home.

Recovery efforts started Monday at the former public school, which is the permanent location for the Museum of Chinese in America‘s archives, Chinatown Manpower Project, Chen Dance Center, Chinatown Senior Center and United East Athletics Association.

In just three days, a verified GoFundMe campaign netted more than $80,000 from hundreds of contributors for the Museum of Chinese in America’s recovery effort. While the blaze didn’t damage the main museum space at 215 Centre Street, the archives on Mulberry contained more than 85,000 pieces of historical artifacts, including photographs and documents about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Although some of the material was already digitized, the museum, known by the acronym MOCA, said the potential loss amounted to “the most challenging” time in its 40-year history.

“The history of Chinese immigration to the United States is an American narrative,” MOCA’s president Nancy Yao Maasbach said in a statement, thanking supporters. “The Museum of Chinese in America has preserved that history for 40 years. The fire at 70 Mulberry jeopardizes a vital collection of American history, and MOCA is strengthened and determined to recover, repair and rebuild.”

The enormity of the damage has yet to be fully assessed, and artifacts remaining in the building are still at risk for further water and soot damage, according to officials. While recovery crews continue to survey the wreckage, the city announced Monday that it was finding alternate spaces for the nonprofits to continue their work.

“70 Mulberry Street is a pillar of Chinatown, and I stand with the entire community as recovery efforts continue,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We will do everything in our power to help these incredible organizations rebuild and bring this historic building back to life.”

Still, several of the organizations have had to scale back their offerings in the last several days. The Chen Dance Center, which also dates back 40 years, has put its programming on hold and is also attempting to raise funds for fire relief via a GoFundMe page.

In a statement, the city’s acting cultural affairs commissioner, Kathleen Hughes, said the dance space acts as a “vital, indispensable and beloved” cultural institution.

Also displaced by the fire, the United East Athletics Association pledged to continue its services through temporary locations. In a statement, the organization encouraged donations and said it anticipated a “long road to recovery.” It is now operating out of 1 Centre Street.

“Even though UEAA is recovering from this tragedy, we still are moving forward with our activities with the help of friends, family and supporters,” the organization said.

Meanwhile, the Chinatown Manpower Project, which assists low-income immigrants with career development, said it was continuing its services. The organization has temporarily set up shop at the Chung Park Senior Housing community room at 96 Baxter Street.

“Many of you offered help, mobilized others to help and are eager to do something,” said Hong Shing Lee, the executive director of the Chinatown Manpower Project, in a letter. “It may come to a point that we will reach out and ask for help, after we have a chance to conduct a more thorough assessment of our needs.”

The letter continued: “At this moment, our first and foremost priority is to continue our role as a community service organization, minimize service interruption and resume our program activities as soon as possible.”

For more information

MoCA GoFundMe

Chen Dance Center donation page

Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc.

United East Athletics Association donation page

Chinatown Manpower Project 

Top Image: Photo courtesy of FDNY