SPURA Panel Discusses Building Height, Open Space

SPURA in styrofoam; one of many configurations on display Wednesday night.

Four decades after thousands of homes and small businesses were demolished, most people have a hard time visualizing what a new mixed-use project on the six acre Seward Park development site might look like. This week, however, members of Community Board 3’s land use committee got a first glimpse of a future beyond parking lots.

Beyer Binder Belle (BBB), the architectural firm leading CB3 through the urban design phase of the ongoing redevelopment discussions, prepared the 3D model you see pictured, using styrofoam, hot wire cutters and glue. It was not a plan for the site – far from it.  But the model was meant to give committee members a general feel for the choices they’ll soon be making about building heights, bulk and open space.

On Wednesday night, BBB’s Neil Kittredge told the panel his model was constructed, utilizing the community board’s planning guidelines, which were approved two months ago but not yet fully endorsed by city agencies.  The guidelines call for building at least 800 apartments, a significant amount of retail, community spaces, a school and parks on the site. Under current zoning, there’s about 1.5 million square feet available for development.

Kittredge said he believes the community’s goals can be met without substantially changing zoning. “I feel like the density is right for the neighborhood, but the shape (of buildings) is something that needs to be re-formed,” he explained.  Throughout the evening, he and his team moved styrofoam pieces from one lot to another to help illustrate the point.

A Comeback for Jeffrey’s Meats?

Jeffrey Ruhalter, Saturday morning, February 26, at the Essex Street Market.

We have an update today on Jeffrey Ruhalter, the Essex Street Market butcher who temporarily closed up shop earlier this month. Yesterday, Jeffrey was in his old space shooting a television pilot, along with LES chef Marja Samsom (formerly of the Kitchen Club).

He’s hopeful a network will have interest in the series proposal (the details of which are under wraps).  It’s at least the third pilot concept Jeffrey’s pitched.

Jeffrey and Danny McNeill, the Ruhalter family’s business manager,  both said they hoped to reopen in the next few weeks. They’d take a smaller space (perhaps a half or a third of the old shop). But it’s apparent the financial troubles that prompted the closing are not yet resolved. McNeill said they continue to talk with investors who might be willing to back the business.

CB3 Begins SPURA Design Work

Community Board 3’s Seward Park redevelopment (SPURA) committee got back to work Monday night, after last month’s momentous approval of planning guidelines for the 7-acre parcel in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Beginning a two-year odyssey to produce a detailed plan for what the city’s architect calls an “iconic site,” community activists got a glimpse of both the promise as well of the pitfalls that lie ahead.

Early in the evening, city officials said they are generally supportive of the guidelines, which call for a mixed-use, mixed income community in the “heart of the Lower East Side.” But they also made it clear they were not prepared to endorse every aspect of the guidelines.

Good Morning: Cuomo on the LES, the EDC’s Seward Park Role, 183 East Broadway Saga Continues

A soggy start to the week, weather wise. A high of 58 today with showers continuing through the night, and maybe into tomorrow. 

Chinatown Working Group: LES Question Unresolved

Mott Street

It seemed so simple. Members of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) were being asked to approve a fairly routine document — a job description of sorts for an urban planning consultant who will begin working with the organization later this year.  But last night, at the American Legion meeting room on Canal Street, the proceedings became complicated and contentious in a hurry.

Seward Park Urban Renewal Area: Past, Present & Future

The other day we reported on the continuing efforts to reach a community consensus on how to develop what was once known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. The 10 sites have sat vacant for 40 years while neighborhood organizations argued about the amount of low income housing should be built where run down tenement buildings once stood. Last week, David Quart of the Economic Development Corporation, walked a Community Board 3 committee through the current uses of the sites, and the possible impediments to redeveloping each one. His power point presentation is posted on the community board's web site.