City Taking Possession of Former Firehouse on Broome St.

A chapter is ending in the history of 185 Broome St., a 1930s-era firehouse, as the city’s Seward Park redevelopment project looms.

Op/Ed: Let’s Not Miss a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Get SPURA Right

The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted to The Lo-Down by Jenifer Rajkumar, the Democratic District Leader for the 65th Assembly District and a prospective candidate for City Council in District 1.

We have waited 48 years to develop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA).  Lower East Siders left their homes so we could develop this public land.  The sacrifices have been enormous, and the potential moving forward is great.  Our City’s elected officials should not miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to do it right, just because they lack the political will or courage.

Does Forest City Ratner Have an Advantage in Seward Park Bidding?

Development companies have a little over two months left to submit proposals for the Seward Park site, the 1.65 million square foot residential and commercial project at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.  An information session hosted by city planning agencies last week drew more than 300 people, including representatives from some of Manhattan’s biggest development firms.

Today the Atlantic Yards Report focuses on one of the high profile companies in attendance and its close ties to both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, one of New York’s biggest non-profit organizations.   A story posted earlier today asks whether Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, could have an advantage in winning the Seward Park contract due to its Lower East Side political connections.

Location Change For Monday’s Seward Park RFP Info Session

There’s been a change of location for Monday afternoon’s information session regarding the “Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Seward Park Mixed Use Development Project.  Last month, the city released the RFP for the 1.65 million square foot residential and commercial project.  Developers have until May to submit their applications. The info session is designed to address any questions and clarifications applicants might have/need but anyone is welcome to attend.

We’re told the location was changed because of overwhelming interest in Seward Park, the largest city-owned development site south of 96th Street.  The meeting will now take place at the National Museum of the American Indian, 1 Bowling Green, at 2 p.m.  Anyone attending should enter through the museum’s ground floor entrance; there’s a security checkpoint.

Click here to read our previous coverage of the Seward Park project.

CB3 Pitches DOE Chancellor on Seward Park School

DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott at P.S. 20.

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was on the Lower East Wednesday night for a town hall meeting.  He answered questions from parents and other interested members of the public during a sparsely attended hour-long gathering at P.S. 20 on Essex Street.  The event was hosted by the District 1 Community Education Council.

Among the issues raised during the forum: Community Board 3’s desire to build a new school in the neighborhood as part of the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan.  Earlier this month, the city released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the 1.6 million square foot project.   City planners agreed to set aside a 15,000 square foot parcel at the corner of Grand and Suffolk streets for a school.

CB3 Asked to Weigh Low Line With Seward Park Project

The abandoned trolley station under Delancey Street. All photos taken by the Delancey Underground team, May 2012.

Community Board 3’s land use committee met last night to discuss the Seward Park development project.  As it turns out, there wasn’t much to discuss.  A secret task force has now met twice to help guide the city’s creation of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the large mixed-use project adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge.  Members of the task force were required to sign confidentiality agreements, meaning they can’t talk about any issues covered in their deliberations.   The most interesting topic of conversation last night concerned an adjacent project, the proposed park envisioned in an abandoned trolley station below Delancey Street.

The project, known as “The Low Line,” is not part of the Seward Park RFP.  But during the discussion, Low Line co-founder Dan Barasch was invited to update committee members on his organization’s progress.  In a resolution approved last June, the community board expressed its strong support for the project. 

City Releases Brochure Announcing “Unprecedented Opportunity” to Develop Seward Park Site

The city won’t release the “Request for Proposals” (RFP) for the Seward Park development site until January.  But the NYC Economic Development Corp. is already getting the word out that the “unprecedented development opportunity is Manhattan” is about to be on the table.   In an email blast this morning, the EDC officially announced the project, and detailed the basic land use program, which was approved by the City Council last month.

A community-oriented task force has convened to go over the details of the RFP, which encompasses one-thousand units of housing and a large amount of commercial space on nine parcels adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge.  The meetings were delayed due to Hurricane Sandy, but city officials say the RFP will be released on schedule, shortly after the new year.

Affordable Housing Activist Added to Seward Park Task Force

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

Last week we reported there was a lot of displeasure about the composition of the new community task force created to help guide the city’s selection of developers for the Seward Park redevelopment project.  In response to complaints lodged after Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li announced the appointees, an additional community representative has been tapped to join the panel. Li made the announcement at last night’s CB3 meeting.

The task force will be working with city planning officials to draft a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Seward Park sites and they will have a role in selecting developers for the large mixed-use project.  Initially, Li appointed five community board members and two representatives from local “stakeholder” organizations (the LES BID and University Settlement).  Local elected officials also have seats on the panel.  At last week’s land use committee meeting, community activists complained that the task force lacked racial and geographic diversity.

Community Activists Question Makeup of Seward Park Task Force, Criticize Secrecy

Seward Park redevelopment area.

The warm, fuzzy feeling that prevailed last week after the City Council voted to approve the Seward Park redevelopment plan did not last long.  Last night, Community Board 3’s chairperson, Gigi Li, announced the appointees of a new task force created to work with the city to evaluate proposals from developers.  The makeup of the panel did not go over well with several members of CB3’s land use committee, which spent the past three years hammering out a compromise plan for the seven-acre site near the Williamsburg Bridge.

Task force members will include Chairperson Li, former CB3 Chair Dominic Berg, CB3 Land Use Committee Co-chairs David McWater and Linda Jones (sharing a seat), Lisa Kaplan (a CB3 member and Council member Rosie Mendez’s former chief of staff), CB3 member Karen Blatt, LES BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman and University Settlement Executive Director Michael Zisser.  Matt Viggiano (Council member Margaret Chin’s land use director),  Vanessa Diaz (Council member Mendez’s current chief of staff) and a representative of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s staff will also have seats on the task force.

Mayor Reacts to City Council Passage of Seward Park Plan

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

Last night we posted a full wrap-up from City Hall after the City Council approved the sweeping Seward Park land use application.  There’s more reaction today to the historic vote, which ended four decades of acrimony and inaction surrounding the large development site.  In a press release, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said:

Seward Park has long had the potential to bring new jobs, new housing and new retail options to one of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods… Today we know that that potential will be realized. After nearly half a century of sitting dormant, this piece of real estate – some of the most valuable underdeveloped land anywhere – will finally be transformed. Thanks to an historic and unprecedented community planning process, the plan that is moving directly reflects the input of residents, community members and other stakeholders.

More on Today’s City Council Approval of the SPURA Plan

A view of the Seward Park parcels, looking south from Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

Believe it or not, the Seward Park redevelopment plan (SPURA) has finally made it through the city’s arduous land use approval process.  We just returned from City Hall, where the New York City Council voted 48-0 in favor of the proposal to remake the 1.65 million square foot site 45 years after thousands of homes and businesses on the parcels were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal.

There are many hurdles still to be cleared.  But just about any superlative (historic, monumental, unprecedented) applies to the accomplishment that seemed so unlikely just two years ago.  Work has already begun to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) for the project, which calls for one-thousand apartments and a large amount of commercial space on nine plots of land near the Williasmburg Bridge.

As SPURA Approval Nears, Activists Angle For Spots on New Task Force

The Seward Park site, looking south on Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa/

A week from tomorrow, the full City Council is expected to vote on the sweeping land use application for the Seward Park redevelopment project (SPURA).  The land use committee signed off on the proposal last week, after City Council member Margaret Chin won several concessions from the city regarding a new public school, off-site affordable housing and other issues.  But even before final approval, some activists are turning their attention to the next steps, as the plan for one-thousand apartments and commercial spaces on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge moves forward.

Following City Council and mayoral rubber-stamping, the NYC Economic Development Corp. is expected to move quickly to draft a Request for Proposals (RFP).  They hope to release it sometime in January.  Earlier this year,  Community Board 3 proposed the formation of a new task force to help create the RFP and to evaluate proposals from developers.  The city agreed to work with the new group. The task force will consist of representatives from local elected officials’ offices (Council members Chin and Rosie Mendez, plus Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer), five CB3 members and two members from “local stakeholder groups.”

Two City Council Panels Vote on Seward Park Development Plan Today

The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

The land use approval process for the Seward Park redevelopment site is rapidly nearing completion. Today two City Council committees will vote on the proposal for 900 apartments, commercial spaces and community facilities on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge.  The final step will likely take place October 11, when the full Council is expected to vote on the ULURP application.

At 11:30 this morning, the subcommittee on planning, dispositions and concessions will convene to take up “SPURA,” as the former urban renewal area has been known for the past four decades.  Then at noon, the land use committee will take its turn.  There will be no public testimony. A public hearing was held September 19.

Community Board 3 Ends 45 Years of Rancor, Approves Seward Park Plan

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

It was big news Tuesday night when Community Board 3 broke a half-century long stalemate, voting unanimously to approve the city’s Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan.  We already reported the basic story — now here’s a more detailed account from the historic meeting.

The city is now preparing for the next phase in the land use review process, in which Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (a mayoral candidate) will have an opportunity to make his mark on the plan.  But there was obviously a huge sense of relief late Tuesday, after several days of tense negotiations with CB3 Chair Dominic Berg and City Council member Margaret Chin.   The sticking point, affordable housing “in perpetuity” for half of the project’s 900 rental apartments, threatened to undermine three-and-a-half years of painstaking negotiations.

A Deal Four Decades in the Making: CB3 Approves Seward Park Plan

The Seward Park site, looking south on Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

Last night, Community Board 3 decided 45 years was long enough to wait for the redevelopment of the Seward Park parcels, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.  In a unanimous vote, CB3 approved the city’s land use application for the 1.65 million square foot project, which would bring hundreds of new apartments, shops and community facilities to the Lower East Side.  The decision ends decades of acrimony about the future of the site, the largest city-owned development property below 96th Street.

Last week, nine members of CB3’s land use committee voted against the proposal because it did not guarantee that the affordable housing built on the Seward Park site would remain permanently affordable.  But in a last minute deal with City Council member Margaret Chin and CB3, city officials relented, upping their commitment from 60 years for the affordable units.