Groups Seek to Save the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Building on Second Avenue

Posted on: May 11th, 2022 at 5:06 am by

Photo: Village Preservation

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, situated in the same East Village building for over a century, is poised to relocate. In its wake is uncertainly about the fate of this hulking six-story corner property.

With real estate speculation potentially queued, a collection of preservation-minded groups are pitching the city to save the building. Led by Village Preservation, the lobby sent a Request for Evaluation letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission on April 28, detailing the historical significance of 216-222 Second Avenue and why it requires protection.

“The historic Eye and Ear Infirmary at 13th Street and Second Avenue is in danger of being lost forever,” a statement from the group reads. “It is being emptied of doctors and services as a move several blocks to the north is being contemplated.”

The institution is currently affiliated with the Mount Sinai hospital network.


The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary was founded in 1820 by Dr. Edward Delafield and Dr. John Kearny Rodgers. History paints it as the earliest specialized hospital in the Western Hemisphere. Within seven months of opening – situated near the Five Points slum of yore – the physicians performed some of the first cataract needling procedures in the Americas, and became known in the medical profession as the “Fathers of American Ophthalmology.”

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary spent the next three decades at various locations, and finally settled in the four-story Italianate brownstone at Second Avenue and East 13th Street in 1856, which was designed by Mettam and Burke. The building as we now see it was constructed in multiple stages.

In 1904, Photo: Museum of the City of NY

The hospital expanded in 1893 with a three-story addition, paving the way for the Du Bois Pavilion (1894), Platt Pavilion (1901), and Schermerhorn Pavilion (1903), all designed in a Richardsonian Romanesque style by architect Robert Williams Gibson. (Gibson’s other landmarked credits include the New York Botanical Garden Museum Building in the Bronx; St. Michael’s Episcopal Church at Amsterdam Avenue and 99th Street; and the Morton Plant House, later remodeled into the Cartier store, at 651 Fifth Avenue.)

Other alterations to the structure followed in the early 1900s.

Claims to fame include the Hellen Keller dedication speech for Schermerhorn Pavilion in 1903, and its appearance in The Godfather (Vito Corleone hospital scene).

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary merged with Mount Sinai in 2013.

Recent Stories

This Mott Street ATM Gouges with 17% Fee

Storefront ATMs are nothing new. In fact, their ubiquity was so pronounced that the city banned freestanding ones from sidewalks about a decade ago. Visitors to Chinatown or the Lower East Side unfamiliar with bank ATM locations when in need of cash might not realize the exorbitant fees some ATM operators are charging. For instance, […]

Bongos Taps into Orchard Street with ‘Gala Dinners’

The principals behind five-year-old Kind Regards on Ludlow Street – Michael Bray and Noble Harris – are together joining the party south of the Delancey Divide with a new hangout called Bongos. Bongos opened at 85 Orchard Street earlier this month – on the museum block – reactivating the storefront left vacant by An Choi two […]

Blockchain Company Anchors Sunshine Cinema Replacement Tower

The glassy office building that replaced the beloved Sunshine Cinema has its first tenant. And an anchor, at that. The arrival of San Francisco-based Solana Labs comes mere weeks after the sidewalk bridge outside 141 East Houston came down (thereby freeing Yonah Schimmel from bondage). Solana Labs, a blockchain company, reportedly signed a lease for […]

Man Shot and Killed on Q Train at Canal Street in Unprovoked Attack

A straphanger was shot and killed Sunday morning on a Q train just off the Manhattan Bridge in what investigators are calling an unprovoked attack. The 48-year-old victim, whose name is not released, was shot in the chest around 11:40am yesterday while riding a northbound Q train that was pulling into the Canal Street station, […]

Demolition Begins at Fire-Stricken Dim Sum Palace Building in Chinatown

Demolition started this week at 6 Chatham Square, which, until this month, housed neighborhood favorite Dim Sum Palace. Early morning May 1, a fire in the kitchen spread throughout the building, triggering a five-alarm response from the fire department. All told, five firefighters were injured battling the inferno over several hours. And according to Red […]