The City’s Plan For the Essex Street Market
Leading up to next Wednesday night’s town hall meeting on the Seward park Mixed-Use Development Project, we’ve been taking a look at key aspects of the city’s plan. As you may know, Community Board 3 will be voting next month on the land use application authorizing the project to move forward. This meeting will be one of the last chances to speak out about the sweeping proposal to build hundreds of apartments, stores and community facilities on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge. This afternoon we focus on what the land use application says about the Essex Street Market.
The “Project Description” states that it would:
…Encourage a relocated, expanded Essex Street Market with a variety of vendors, products, price points and stall sizes; provide the opportunity for vendors from the existing market to relocate to an updated, more energy-efficient facility; create new entrepreneurship opportunities for additional vendors; and better integrate the market into the public realm.
The ongoing environmental review of the Seward Park site will study an “alternative” plan — keeping the market in its current location. But in several meetings during the past year city officials have made it clear they believe the market should be moved into a new facility. For a review of the most recent explanations from the NYC Economic Development Corp. (the market’s operator), have a look at our March 16th story.
The environmental review will also look at the impact of demolishing the Essex Street Market buildings from a historical and cultural point of view. The environmental “scope of work” notes that all four market buildings are eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They also fall within the borders of the Lower East Side Historic District. The document indicates the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the state historic preservation office will be consulted about the issue.
Recently, market vendors have been meeting to discuss how the Seward Park project is going to impact their livelihoods. Members of Community Board 3 believe the city originally committed to pay the vendors’ moving expenses. Recent comments from EDC officials have been less definitive. A few of the merchants recently met with City Councilmember Margaret Chin to discuss their concerns.
A large number of people spoke out in favor of saving the 1939 buildings during two public meetings last year. But in later meetings, the city explained to CB3 members that keeping the present market in place might mean sacrificing housing (including affordable housing). Since that time, no one on the community board has spoken out forcefully to preserve the historic buildings. Instead, members have focused on protecting the merchants from debilitating moving costs and future rent increases.
Assuming the Seward Park plan moves forward, the city will eventually select a developer to build a large commercial building on Site 2, at the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey. This building would include a new Essex Street Market on the ground floor. The city would retain ownership of this part of the facility so it could still be operated as a public market.
Next Wednesday’s meeting will take place at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street. It begins at 6:30 p.m. Members of the public will have a chance to speak.