Head of Agency Overseeing Seward Park Project Reappointed by de Blasio

A new mayoral administration, of course, means the winds of change are blowing through City Hall.  During his inauguration yesterday, Mayor de Blasio promised to “put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.”   But in at least one city agency with a major Lower East Side project on its plate, the new mayor has decided to stay the course.

CB3 Weighs Protections for Essex Market Vendors

Architectural rendering prepared by Beyer Blinder Belle.

Following Community Board 3’s land use committee meeting last week, we published some fuzzy drawings depicting what a “new” Essex Street Market located on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets might look like. The Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has now posted clearer images on its web site, along with other details from a presentation made to members of the Seward Park redevelopment panel.  As promised, here’s our detailed account of the presentation and the discussion that followed.

EDC Releases “Open Letter” in Advance of Tonight’s Essex Street Market Discussion

As we have been reporting, Community Board 3 will discuss the future of the Essex Street Market this evening. We just received the following letter from David Quart, vice president with the NYC Economic Development Corp., which operates the market and is the lead agency in the Seward Park redevelopment project:

The Essex Street Market has been an important part of the Lower East Side for more than 70 years. In 1995, after years of decline, the New York City Economic Development Corporation took over management of the market in an effort to save it from possible closure. Since then, we have sought to continue with the strong traditions of this vibrant public market, while always striving to make improvements that will better serve the community. Among our efforts we have worked to provide a diversity of vendors that offer a variety of price-points. We are fully committed to the Essex Street Market, but we must also think about ways to ensure the market’s long-term success.

Community Organizer: Stand Up for Essex Street Market Wednesday Night

Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

The following post was written by Cynthia Lamb, founder of the neighborhood organization, Save the Essex Street Market:

The future of the Essex Street Market is finally being brought to the table at the upcoming Community Board 3 meeting (Wednesday, May 25, 6:30pm, 189 Allen Street), in light of the public outcry over its possible demolition. The agenda calls for a discussion, which includes representatives from Project for Public Spaces, an organization that seeks to “transform public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.” The Essex Street Market already is a vital place and a local asset; it can continue to be rejuvenated, and it does serve common needs. How fortunate we are to have such a lively, diverse, historic market in our neighborhood.

200 People Attend SPURA Open House

Last night, city planning officials and Community Board 3 hosted a “SPURA Open House” inside the vacant Essex Street Market building on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets.

It was a chance for residents to have a look at a styrofoam model depicting various urban design options for the redevelopment of the Seward Park site. Neil Kittredge of the architectural firm Beyer Binder Belle, David Quart of the NYC Economic Development Corp., David McWater of CB3 and others were present to answer questions and listen to feedback.

Follow-up: Plans For a “New Essex Street Market”

To close out the week, yet another update on the Seward Park redevelopment process! Earlier this week, we wrote about the RFP (request for proposals) the NYC Economic Development Corp. issued before hiring architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle.

One item on the firm’s “to do” list caught our eye: “Provide more specific site planning and 1-2 simple renderings for the layout of a new Essex Street Market, likely to be located on Essex Street between Delancey Street and Broome Street.”

City Releases SPURA Document; Requests Drawings for New Essex Street Market

In our coverage of the Seward Park redevelopment process last week, we mentioned that some community activists were less than thrilled that the city hired an architectural firm without consulting them.  The firm, Beyer Binder Belle, began working with CB3 this month.  CB3 member Harvey Epstein asked for a copy of the RFP (request for proposals) that led to the hiring of the company.

We’ve now had a look at the five page document, which was made public late last week. There aren’t a lot of big surprises, but the RFP does offer a fairly comprehensive explanation of how the city is approaching the SPURA planning process.

A lot of community activists are sure to seize on a section of the RFP concerning the Essex Street Market. The Economic Development Corp., the lead city agency on the project, wanted the successful applicant to:

Provide more specific site planning and 1-2 simple renderings for the layout of a new Essex Street Market, likely to be located on Essex Street between Delancey Street and Broome Street.

Community Board 3’s guidelines, approved last month, call on the city to leave the market in its current location, north of Delancey Street. The EDC’s planning consultant, John Shapiro, argued that the current market building was inadequate and he recommended building a new, more expansive public market in a “superior location.”

The RFP indicates the firm would be hired for approximately 9 months to work with the city and the community board on preliminary design issues. Responsibilities were to include: evaluating current zoning restrictions, analyzing traffic flow/parking issues and coordinating three public presentations. The city was willing to pay up to $75,000.

You can see the full text of the RFP after the jump.

EDC Management of Essex Street Market and Other Properties Criticized

People alarmed at last week’s news of a 29% rent hike for merchants renewing their leases at the Essex Street Market, will no doubt be interested in this item.  Today, NYC Comptroller John Liu releases a report highly critical of the city’s management of the market and other properties.

On Friday, we were told the NYC Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which runs the market, had no choice but to increase rents — due to the city’s large budget deficit. This morning, the New York Times reports on Liu’s audit:

LES Butcher Faces 29% Rent Increase; Chin Intervenes

Yesterday author Karen Seiger reported on her blog, the Markets of New York, that Essex Street Market butcher Jeffrey Ruhalter was in trouble. According to a press release she received from his publicist, Jeffrey was “running out of options” because his  “landlord (was) requesting an $8000 renewal fee on the first of March along with a rent increase of 29 percent.”

“Although what Jeffrey needs is an investor or someone to buy the store,” the release added,  “what he may really need in the future is a job.” For a couple of years now, he’s been holding out hope that a reality tv show and/or a book offer would come through. In December, the New York Times reported Jeffrey thought about shutting down last year but eventually “got his groove back.”

City Hires Architectural Firm for SPURA Planning

We’ve just learned that the NYC Economic Development Corp. has hired an architectural firm to work with the community on the first phase of the Seward Park redevelopment project.  Beyer Binder Belle, a prestigious New York-based company, will be advising the city and Community Board 3 on preliminary urban design issues for the 10 SPURA parcels.

Last month, CB3 ended a 43-year-old stalemate, agreeing to a set of guidelines for the Seward Park site. This month, they’ll get to work on more specific plans for the mixed-use, mixed-income project at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Beyer Blinder Belle, established in 1968, developed a specialty in historic preservation.

The firm has handled high profile restoration projects, including the Apollo Theater, Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building. But, more relevant to the task at hand, it has a planning division which has been involved in many large-scale redevelopment projects.  Among them: the Coney Island, Governors Island and DUMBO strategic planning efforts. On its web site, Beyer Blinder Belle notes:

Follow-up: Debating the Fate of the Essex Street Market

Our obsessive coverage of the Seward Park redevelopment talks continues today with a closer look at the future of the Essex Street Market. As we reported last month, quite a few Lower East Side residents objected to language in a early draft of Community Board 3’s guidelines, stating: “The Essex Street Market should be relocated to a superior site on a major street to accommodate a larger market with more goods and services.”  In response to community-wide feedback, the guidelines have now been changed to say (proposed additions are in blue):

If the existing Essex Street Market is to be relocated, it should remain public and be moved to a superior site on a major street to accommodate a larger market with more goods and services. The existing Essex Street Market should not be closed or demolished before the new, larger market is open. Every effort should be made to retain the then current tenants of the Essex Street Market during the change in location and facility. Such efforts should include providing special consideration as to rents (e.g., rent increases should be comparable to existing contracts and commensurate with what would be expected in a public market), assisting tenants with moving and relocation costs (e.g., through the creation of a fund or by way of a requirement in the RFP), and assuring that the new market space is move-in ready before tenants are relocated.