The City’s SPURA Plan Allows For “Big Box” Stores; Apartments Would Not Be “Permanently Affordable”
A little more than a year after Community Board 3 approved its planning guidelines for the Seward Park redevelopment site (SPURA), the city last night finally detailed how much of the proposal it is willing to embrace. At a meeting of CB3’s land use committee, officials with the NYC Economic Development Corp., and other agencies, outlined the land use (ULURP) application they intend to move through the public approval process in the next several months.
In short, the draft plan adopts CB3’s general framework for a mixed use/mixed income development, but the city has omitted several priorities spelled out in the community board guidelines. We’ll have an in-depth report on Monday, but here are the basics:
- The Seward Park Project, on nine parcels adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge, will be a mixed-use development consisting of 1.65 million square feet. It will be 60% residential, 40% commercial. There will be 900 apartments — 50% market rate, 50% affordable. The apartments will remain in the city’s affordable housing program for 60 years. CB3 wanted them to be permanently affordable. Last night, Borough President Scott Stringer spoke at the hearing, imploring the city to commit to permanent affordability.
- In the commercial spaces, there could be a hotel, a movie theater and (in opposition to CB3’s guidelines) big box retail. David Quart, EDC senior vice president, acknowledged that the community board wanted to limit retail businesses to a maximum of 30,000 square feet. But he said it is not “sustainable” to create a project in which all of the retail consists of small stores. A project of this size, he argued, must have an “anchor tenant.” Quart said the idea is to attract a good mix of retail businesses – some small, some large – offering a diversity of products at various price points.
- The city signaled a strong desire to move the Essex Street Market to the south side of Delancey Street, demolishing the current market building and constructing a mixed use complex in its place. The ULURP application will leave open the possibility of keeping the market in its current location. But EDC Executive Vice President Alyssa Konon made it clear the city wants a new market facility. In a new complex, the city would retain ownership of the Essex Street Market, rather than transferring oversight of the public market to a private developer/operator. The city has not committed to paying relocation expenses for current vendors (something the community board has urged the EDC to do).
- There will be a 10,000 square foot park on site 5, along Broome Street.
- The Seward Park complex will include 500 underground parking spaces (replacing all of the existing parking now available to the community on the development parcels and adding around 100 new spaces).
- The city is rejecting the portion of CB3’s guidelines calling for a new public school in the Seward Park project. EDC officials indicated that the Department of Education does not see the need for another school in the neighborhood, in spite of persistent concerns from parents about overcrowding.
Following the meeting, we asked CB3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta how he felt about the city’s proposal. He called it a “mixed bag.” Praising city agencies for adhering to many of the community board’s principles, Piscotta added that he has concerns about several issues, including: permanent affordability of the residential units, allowances for big box stores, the siting of a public school and relocation support for Essex Street Market merchants.
What’s next? CB3 Committee Chair David McWater said there will be a town hall meeting at April 18th, in which members of the public will be able to speak out about the Seward Park plan. By that time, the application will be “certified into ULURP,” and the public review process will have formally begun. The Community Board expects to vote on the application by the end of May. The city hopes to issue RFP’s (requests for proposals) early next year.
Again, we’ll have a more detailed report Monday. In the meantime, check out our previous SPURA coverage here.