City Planning Commission Holds Seward Park Public Hearing

Yesterday’s City Planning meeting at 22 Reade Street.

The City Planning Commission hosted a public hearing yesterday on the Seward Park Mixed-Used Development Plan, a proposal that would transform nine parcels adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge that have languished for four decades.  A sweeping land use proposal garnered the endorsement of Community Board 3 in May. As part of the public review process (ULURP), the Planning Commission and the City Council must now weigh in before developers begin submitting proposals.

The land use document allows for 900 apartments, up to 600,000 square foot of commercial space, a new Essex Street market, a small park, a hotel and community facilities.

At the meeting, the proposed plan enjoyed support from the Mayor’s office and members of the community board, as well as from other local leaders and activists. Jeff Mandel, on hand to voice the Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the plan, commended the community board for building consensus on the Lower East Side regarding the contentious issue of the Seward Park site. “They have been fantastic leaders in marshaling a wide range of stakeholder input,” he said. Mandel added that the community board’s efforts are especially impressive given the fact that agreement on a redevelopment vision had been so elusive for so many years.

City Planning Commission Holds Seward Park Hearing Tomorrow

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

Here’s a reminder about tomorrow’s City Planning Commission hearing on the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan. After winning support from Community Board this spring, the sweeping land use application is making its way through the approval process.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment about the proposal, which would allow for 900 apartments, up to 600,000 square foot of commercial space and community facilities. The meeting begins at 10 a.m., and will likely be a drawn-out affair (the Seward Park item is #17 on City Planning’s meeting agenda).

In the hours before CB3’s momentous vote, the city agreed to permanent affordability for 50% of the apartments to be built on the Seward Park parcels, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.   During tomorrow’s hearing, said board Chair Gigi Li, CB3 will continue to advocate for several other provisions omitted from the city’s plan. They include: a new public school, limits on big box stores and guarantees concerning local hiring.

Also at the hearing, another show of force is expected from a group known as the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. In recent weeks, the organization has stepped up its call for 100% affordable housing on the Seward Park site and taken aim at City Council member Margaret Chin. Today they announced a plan to collect 10,000 signatures in support of their campaign.   Coalition members met with Chin several weeks ago, and later denounced her decision to support a 50% affordable/50% market rate housing compromise.  Chin has called the coalition’s stance unrealistic and unproductive.

The hearing takes place at 22 Reade Street, Spector Hall.   We’ll have a full report follwing tomorrow’s meeting.


City Planning Commission Holds Seward Park Hearing Wednesday, July 11

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

A week from Wednesday, the City Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the land use application for the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project.  Two months ago, Community Board 3 unanimously approved the proposal, which would create 900 new apartments and up to 600,000 feet of commercial space on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge.

The Manhattan Borough President, City Planning and the City Council are now being called on to approve the Seward Park plan. The borough president’s review period expires this week.  The Planning Commission hearing takes place Wednesday, July 11 at 22 Reade Street (Spector Hall), at 10 a.m. The city agency has 60 days to review the application before it’s taken up by the City Council.

Before the plan was passed by CB3, city officials agreed to the community’s demand to guarantee permanent affordability in the Seward Park project. Half of the apartments to be built will be affordable.

See our previous coverage of the Seward Park process here.


Two Restaurant Owners Keep Wary Eye on Essex Market Redevelopment Prospects

New Roma Pizza's new awning, in a building with an uncertain future.

For many business owners, the slow creep of the city’s bureaucracy can be a source of intense frustration. But for Miguel Cortezar, owner and operator of New Roma Pizza on the corner of Delancey and Essex streets, it may be a lifeline. His restaurant is located in the city-owned Essex Street Market building, a structure that could be demolished as part of the city’s Seward Park Redevelopment Plan, which won Community Board 3 approval in May.

Whatever the city’s intentions, the building’s fate, as well as that of three neighboring Essex Street Market buildings that are scarcely occupied, remains uncertain. Although much will remain unknown until proposals from developers are solicited next year, the increasingly solid possibility of demolition looms large over New Roma’s future.

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.

Tonight’s Big Vote: CB3 Releases Draft Seward Park Resolution

Seward Park redevelopment area.

As we have been reporting, Community Board 3 meets tonight to vote on the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan.  Board members will be asked to approve the city’s land use proposal for the large site near the Williamsburg Bridge, before the proposal goes to the Borough President.

Late yesterday, CB3 posted on its web site the draft resolution that will be considered this evening.  It approves the Seward Park Plan, but lays out a number of “conditions.”  Last week, the land use committee voted 13-9 (with one member not voting) in support of the proposed resolution.

Here are some of the key conditions detailed in the document:

  • A requirement that the affording housing built on the parcels remain affordable forever, as opposed to 60 years as the city has proposed.
  • A provision requiring developers to include housing, including 50% affordable housing,  in each phase of construction.
  • The creation of a task force made up of up to seven community board members, representatives of local City Council members, a representative of the Borough President and two representatives of two local “stakeholder groups.” The advisory task force would have a role in drafting selection criteria for developers and would review development proposals.

Activist Group Blasts Chin on SPURA; Chin Responds

Council member Margaret Chin.

Earlier today, we noted that an activist group is stepping up its ongoing war on City Council member Margaret Chin over the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan. Last week, Chin urged Community Board 3’s land use committee to vote “yes” on the city’s framework for the 1.65 million square foot project. She acknowledged the community board’s reservations about the proposal due to a 60-year term on the affordable housing units. Chin and her colleague, Council member Rosie Mendez, vowed to fight for permanent affordability.

CB3 Votes on Seward Park Plan Tomorrow

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

Tomorrow night Community Board 3 is scheduled to hold one of its most significant votes in several years — deciding whether to approve of the city’s land use application (ULURP) for the Seward Park Mixed Development Plan.  After three years of deliberations on the fate of nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge, CB3 leaders hoped for a near-unanimous vote in favor of the plan to build 900 new apartments and up to 650,000 square feet of commercial space on the site.   But last week CB3’s land use committee was divided on the issue (13 ‘yes’-9 ‘no’-1 ‘not voting’), and it’s likely several members of the full board will vote ‘no’ tomorrow.

After the community board acts, the proposal goes on to the Manhattan Borough President, to the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council. While CB3’s support is not technically required, some are concerned that a rejection from the board (or even a tepid endorsement) would prompt the city to walk away from the project.

CB3 Panel Approves Seward Park Plan; 9 Members Vote “No,” Citing City Betrayal

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

Community Board 3’s land use committee last night voted in favor of the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan, but no one was in much of a mood to celebrate the occasion.  After three years of deliberations, a divided panel excoriated city officials for “betraying their trust” by rejecting several key community priorities.  Now the focus turns to next week’s full board meeting, where all 50 members will be asked to support the city’s land use application for a 7-acre site that has languished for four decades.

We’ll have a detailed report later, but here are the basic details from last night’s tense meeting.   City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez addressed the committee before deliberations got underway.   They urged CB3 to approve the city’s land use application and vowed to fight for the things missing from the proposal in the months ahead.  The Council must approve the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) document; the community board’s opinion is not binding but crucial nonetheless.  “Vote tonight based on your courage and commitment, not on your fear,” Chin advised.

Reporting Live Tonight: CB3 Panel Votes on Seward Park Plan

Bulldozing the Essex Street Market Would Not Be Cool

Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

Consider me shallow if you like, but I do actually think about coolness. I know it’s generally more of a teenage concern than a middle age one, but I can’t help myself. Coolness is like beauty: it has a short shelf life. This transience is part of its appeal. Today’s shock of the “new” quickly becomes tomorrow’s rehash. Either catch the moment or miss out entirely. That’s how it works.

When it comes to neighborhoods, coolness is a function of transition. The early stages of gentrification are cool, the end result is not.  If you doubt this, spend a Saturday night in the East Village or a Sunday brunch in Park Slope. Our Lower East Side food scene has been in what I consider a perfect balance for the last five years or so. There’s just enough upscale stuff to make the old schoolers shake their heads in dismay, yet no dearth of cheap, lowbrow deliciousness. Such a balance is a delicate, fleeting thing, and I’m a big advocate of enjoying it while it lasts. Because change is inevitable.

I make no secret of the fact that I think the Essex Street Market is the coolest place to shop for food (and grab a quick bite) in the neighborhood. Why? Balance. In a neighborhood as diverse as ours, it’s easy to feel the cultural and socioeconomic differences between you and your neighbors. Yet we all walk the same sidewalks. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Essex Street Market. Upscale and down to earth businesses are side by side in an historic space originally designed to get pushcart vendors off the streets. They are all small independent businesses – the kind I prefer to patronize. Every one of them is somebody’s dream, and there’s a good chance that person is behind the counter.

CB3 Weighs Whether to Fight For School on Seward Park Site

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

On Wednesday evening, members of Community Board 3 will meet one last time before a key vote next week to support or oppose the city’s land use application for the Seward Park Redevelopment Plan.  The proposal outlines the redevelopment of nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge, creating hundreds of new apartments, dozens of new stores and community facilities.  This week’s meeting is a strategy session which will help to determine how hard CB3 will press the city on several issues.   Among those topics is the creation of a new public school somewhere on the Seward Park site.

City officials declined to allow for a school in the Seward Park application even though CB3 called for one in its planning guidelines.  The Economic Development Corp. (which is leading the development project) consulted with the Education Department, and were told there is neither a need for a new school on the Lower East Side nor the capital funds to construct a school building. The addition of 900 new apartments (which is what the plan allows for) would not lead to overcrowding in the neighborhood’s existing schools, the DOE argued.