Cuchifritos Project Examines Essex Crossing (SPURA) History

Image: Nick Lawrence, Soto Family apartment, October 1969. Silver gelatin print.

Image: Nick Lawrence, Soto Family apartment, October 1969. Silver gelatin print.

Now that the Artists Alliance gallery and project space, Cuchifritos, is settled in at the new Essex Market at 88 Essex Street, they are taking a close look into some of the history of this new location (formerly known as SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area).  Their current show, “Keep Me Nearby,” which closes Sunday, July 20th, features six never-before-seen images by photographer Nick Lawrence of the “lived-in apartments that were demolished at SPURA in the late 1960s and early 1970s bring us into homes and lives in 1969.”

They write:

Four of these images were taken in the family apartment of Angel Soto, another, with its vivid declaration of “Latin + Soul,” is from a nearby tenement, and the last hints at what was to come: a staircase in 145 Clinton Street, boarded up and awaiting demolition. Nick came to make these photographs while he was an art teacher at a local junior high school, and while pursuing a larger project photographing the teenagers he came to know on the Lower East Side. We are lucky that a few of those teenagers brought him into their homes, and took him on forays into the tinned up buildings around the neighborhood. We are lucky that he had the presence of mind to make these photographs, and to have kept them safely, able to unearth them when in her research for Contested City Gabrielle came asking if perhaps he might have a photograph of anyone’s home at SPURA. To have documentation of spaces of life in the midst of urban renewal is rare, and the meaning of these photographs is both derived from everything that happened at SPURA after they were made, and from the way that many of us can see our own homes and families reflected in them…

Layered SPURA with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Cuchifritos is also hosting walking tours as part of “Layered SPURA,” an ongoing project from artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani. They write:

Ten years ago, artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani was invited to enter this tense community to collaborate on a new approach to planning through public history and public art. Created in a multi-year collaboration with community activists GOLES and SPARC, and her students at the New School, the exhibitions and performative guided tours of Bendiner-Viani’s “Layered SPURA” project provided new opportunities for dialogue about the past, present, and future of the neighborhood.

You can find more info about the tour here.

TLD Interview: Essex Crossing Development Team Discusses Lower East Side Plans

Breaking: City Planning Approves Seward Park Plan


Moments ago, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the Seward Park Mixed Use Development Plan. The proposal to build 900 apartments and commercial spaces on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge now moves to the City Council. More to come…

Committee Moves Carefully in Search of SPURA Consenus

27citywide.THUMB A commiittee of Community Board 3 met this week, trying to move towards common ground on a plan for the long-delayed Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). The five parcels at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge near Delancey Street have remained vacant since 1967, when tenement buildings were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal. Repeated efforts over the years to develop the parcels have led to bitter divisions in the community. CB3’s economic development, zoning and planning committee is now trying to build a consensus for a plan all of the neighborhood’s constituencies can accept.

The panel, led by David McWater, is drafting a statement of general principles, which will be followed by more specific plans for the site. But even this step has been difficult. The committee reflects the divergent views in the community. Members are debating how much low, middle and market-rate housing the parcels should contain. They also are working through the mix of residential, retail, commercial, non-profit and open space uses for the area.

The statement of principles will be debated again next month. There will also be a presentation from city planning officials, who will lay out some of the issues involved in developing SPURA. At some point, the committee will solicit the opinions of the broader community. Look for more extensive coverage of the SPURA issue from us in the weeks ahead.