CB3 Committee Makes History, Votes Yes on SPURA

SPURA

It was the deal most everyone thought could not get done. Four decades after hundreds of homes and businesses were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal, Community Board 3 took an historic step last night towards finally rebuilding on five blighted parcels known collectively as SPURA. CB3’s land use and housing committee voted 19-1, with one member abstaining, in favor of planning guidelines (you can read the full document here) calling for a mixed-use, mixed income community at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Immediately after the vote, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement backing the proposal for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. “The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive,” he said.  State Senator Daniel Squadron also put out a statement last night, saying “the community board vote is a huge win for the community.  It is appropriate that after 43 years, a community-driven process has moved SPURA forward.”

A Hyperlocal Future for Chinatown?

Last night, I participated in a panel discussion at the Museum of Chinese in America on “what’s working and what’s not in mainstream media coverage of Manhattan’s Chinatown.”  The conversation was led by Paul Cheung of the Associated Press. The other panelists were: Cindy Liu (a Mandarin language TV reporter and former reporter for Sin Tao Daily), Kirk Semple of the New York Times, John Bayles of Downtown Express and Tony DeStefano of Newsday.

Following the discussion, there was a surprise announcement from Jeff Yang, the event’s organizer, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist and a member of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).  As panel members took their seats in the audience, Yang began a power point presentation detailing plans for a new hyperlocal news venture in Chinatown. Drawing on recently awarded grant money, AAJA is launching a multi-lingual blog — focusing on a neighborhood that is often ignored by the city’s mainstream media outlets.

Town Hall Tomorrow Night; What Are the Media Missing in Chinatown?

The Lo-Down is pleased to be taking part in a round table discussion tomorrow night focusing on what’s missing in the mainstream media’s coverage of Chinatown.  “Chinatown, Uncovered: A Panel and Town Hall,” hosted by The Asian American Journalists Association and the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), will explore what’s being covered, and what’s not, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and how ethnic, online and alternative media outlets have stepped up to fill in the holes.

Your Recession Stories: The Clinton Restaurant

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We've been bringing you the stories of the recession's impact on small businesses on the Lower East Side. The other day, I visited Pedro Vargas, the owner of the Clinton Restaurant, a fixture at the corner of Clinton and Houston for many years. Recently, his family was forced to put it up for sale. Pedro has lived on the Lower East Side for 27 years and has owned his restaurant for twelve. 

Pedro fought back tears as he told me he felt like selling was his only option after his profits dropped more than 50 percent in the last six months. Around the same time, the economy started tanking, and as we all know, food costs skyrocketed. He just didn't think passing along those higher prices to his customers was something he could do. Pedro told me he's dipped into his own pocket to keep the restaurant open, but if he does that much longer he'll lose everything.  The Clinton Restaurant has a lot of loyal customers — some eat his delicious Dominican food every day. It's a breath of fresh air on a stretch of Clinton Street that's dotted with trendy new restaurants and shops.

The restaurant is truly a family business. They all help manage the place, cook and wait tables. Pedro says he will look for another location because running a restaurant is all he knows but he is not optimistic that the economy will get any better in the next couple of years. 

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Owner Pedro Vargas at the Clinton Restaurant.

You can call 212.982.3222 for information about the sale of Clinton Restaurant.

If you or someone you know has a recession story, and would like to share it, please email us at: lodownny@gmail.com.

Posted by: Traven Rice

Banh Mi: Ready for its NYC Closeup

Earlier this week, I mentioned An Choi, the New Vietnamese place on Orchard Street, which got a mention in New York Magazine. Not to be outdone, tomorrow's New York Times food section has a big blowout on the Banh Mi craze. The Times tells you everything you could possibly want to know about these tasty sandwiches. We learn for instance, that the young co-owner of An Choi, "may be the first on the East Coast to serve the upscale delicacy
banh mi thit heo quay — stuffed with banquet-style roast pork belly and
slivers of crunchy pork skin." You can digest the entire article here.

Posted by: Ed Litvak