Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Panel Backs Plan to Develop Site on Lower East Side

Awaiting renewal: the view southeast from Essex Street near Delancey last month.


After sitting fallow for 43 years as the Lower East Side exploded in popularity around it, a desolate stretch of parking lots along Delancey Street is closer than ever to being transformed into housing and shops, potentially marking the end of a long and bitter stalemate over the future of the sites.

On Monday night, at a meeting sprinkled with cheers, jeers and catcalls, a Community Board 3 task force voted nearly unanimously in favor of guidelines (pdf) to develop the five parcels, collectively known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

Under the guidelines, which the full board will vote on Tuesday night, about 1,000 housing units would be built at the site, roughly half of which would be allocated to middle- and low-income earners, along with retail shops, green space and, potentially, a school. After the vote, the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, whose district includes the land, voiced his approval of the plan, giving it a crucial boost.

“The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders,” Mr. Silver said in a statement, “and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive.”

The parcels have sat undeveloped since 1967, when the city razed 14 tenement buildings sitting atop them and displaced their 2,000 residents in the name of urban renewal. Various development plans were paralyzed by deep disagreements over what the sites ought to become.

Some residents believed they should be reserved for low-income families to preserve the neighborhood’s flavor and recapture people forced out by Manhattan’s nosebleed rents. Nearby property owners argued that the neighborhood had more than its fair share of low rent apartments.

“For 40 years, it has divided this community,” said David McWater, the chairman of the task force. Few locals like the parking lots; one resident Monday night called them “psychological and physical barriers” that isolated the neighborhood. Community leaders began tackling the development issue anew two and a half years ago, having successfully won a rezoning campaign to put height caps on a 110-block area in the Lower East Side.

At a public hearing that preceded the vote, community members and advocates reiterated their hope that the housing be allocated solely for low- and middle-income families, a concept that others described as economically unfeasible. According to Mr. McWater, the site would house 1,500 low- and middle-income earners and create jobs for up to 700 people. The Essex Street Market sits on one of the sites, and could be moved as the parcels are developed, a prospect greeted with much local dismay.

The full community board is expected to back the subcommittee’s decision before sending the plan to various city agencies for tweaking and approval.

State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, who represents the Lower East Side, said it would probably be a year and a half before the City Council would vote on the plan. “This is one of the permanent battles,” Mr. Squadron said. “And it seems that it’s now gotten over that hump.”


  1. new interior local settled yesterday From: the clock is running out email: Date: 25 Jan 2011 Comments at the nycdc was mccarron, spencer, ballantne, and tommy ray dunford int. rep from the wall and ceiling was weber, doleious new ex dir, doug oconnor from donaldson, and one more contractor. your wages have gone down dramaticlly. the new rules as you probally expected all favor the contractor. with one swipe of the pen, the members have been sold out.

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