The City’s Plan For the Essex Street Market

Essex Street Market.

Leading up to next Wednesday night’s town hall meeting on the Seward park Mixed-Use Development Project, we’ve been taking a look at key aspects of the city’s plan. As you may know, Community Board 3 will be voting next month on the land use application authorizing the project to move forward. This meeting will be one of the last chances to speak out about the sweeping proposal to build hundreds of apartments, stores and community facilities on nine parcels near the Williamsburg Bridge. This afternoon we focus on what the land use application says about the Essex Street Market.

Seward Park Plan Places Some Limits on Big Box Stores

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

Last week, the city officially began the public approval process for the Seward Park Development Project.  A master plan for the nine parcels adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge will be voted on by Community Board 3 next month.  The massive document (known as the ULURP application) is 146 pages.  There are also hundreds of pages of technical diagrams and other supporting materials. In the next few days we’re going to take a look at some of the important issues embedded in the application.  Today, we tackle big box stores.

The mixed-use project includes 900 apartments, community facilities, a park and up to 600,000 square feet of commercial space.  CB3 wanted to limit retail stores at Seward Park to 30,000 square feet.  But last month, in outlining their proposal, city planners said they were placing no square footage limit on stores.  In their view, a key to success in the project will be retail diversity — the existence of small stores as well as larger “big box” outlets.

Land Use Plan for Seward Park Project Now Available Online

Rendering: NYC Economic Development Corp.

This morning we reported that the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project had been “certified into ULURP,” meaning that the public review process had officially begun. This afternoon the complete application has been posted online. You can read it on the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s web site or view the document here.


City Finally Faces Residents of 400 Grand Street

400-402 Grand Street; the building on your left is occupied; the boarded up structure on the right is vacant.

Finally this week, the residents of 400 Grand Street got to hear directly from the city about their fate. For nearly three years, they’ve been desperately trying to get answers about the status of their building, which sits on one of 10 sites making up the Seward Park redevelopment project (SPURA).  Monday night, two officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which controls 400 Grand, appeared before Community Board 3’s land use committee.  What they told residents did not go over very well.

CB3 Wants City to Study More Essex Street Market Options

Yesterday, we wrote about the upcoming public hearing regarding the Seward Park redevelopment project.  On October 11th, residents will have the chance to speak out about the “draft scoping document,” the final version of which will guide a comprehensive environmental review on the SPURA site.

The document, released last month, spells out what the city sees as the “maximum” SPURA program. It is their most comprehensive discussion of the project to date. 

CB3 Weighs Protections for Essex Market Vendors

Architectural rendering prepared by Beyer Blinder Belle.

Following Community Board 3’s land use committee meeting last week, we published some fuzzy drawings depicting what a “new” Essex Street Market located on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets might look like. The Economic Development Corp. (EDC) has now posted clearer images on its web site, along with other details from a presentation made to members of the Seward Park redevelopment panel.  As promised, here’s our detailed account of the presentation and the discussion that followed.

CB3 Approves Height, Design Guidelines for SPURA

The future of the Essex Street Market has been grabbing all of the attention lately, but there is other news this week concerning the Seward park redevelopment process.  Tuesday night, Community Board 3 approved “Urban Design Principles” for the parcels south of Delancey Street. These principles will help guide a sweeping environmental assessment set to begin later this year.

Architectural Renderings: Envisioning a New Essex Street Market

We’ll have a full report from last night’s Seward park redevelopment planning session in the days ahead. But since architectural renderings (even if they are just for demonstration purposes) cause an endless amount of fascination, we wanted to put these images up this morning.

City officials and their architectural firm walked committee members through four possible scenarios for the Essex Street Market, which is part of the larger redevelopment site. One option is leaving the market in its current 1940 building north of Delancey Street. The drawings you’re looking at now depicts another option — building a new, larger facility within a mixed (commercial and residential building) on the southeast corner of Delancey and Essex streets.

CB3 Discusses Essex Street Market; No Decisions Made

We’ll have a complete report from tonight’s CB3/SPURA Committee meeting later, but here’s a quick recap of what transpired this evening.  There were no decisions made about the future of the Essex Street Market, but quite a few people showed up to speak in favor of retaining the 1940 market buildings and we got some new insight from the city about their position on relocating the facility.

Several vendors testified passionately about their businesses, which they said would have been impossible to start if the market (with its subsidized rents) had not existed. Murad Punjwani, whose family runs a phone store and the Amigo Mini-Mart on Delancey Street, broke down, tearfully pleading with the city not to move the market. During the course of 15 years, he said, “I’ve worked so hard” to build the businesses.

Historic Protection Sought for Essex Street Market

Community Board 3 and city planning officials have decided to delay an in-depth discussion on the future of the Essex Street Market (it was originally scheduled to take place May 2). Neighborhood activists have been gearing up to defend the four 1940-era buildings for the past four months, ever since it became apparent they might be endangered by the redevelopment of the Seward Park site.

Cynthia Lamb, who’s heading up the new organization, Save the Essex Street Market, has gathered more than 800 signatures in an online petition. And today, members of the group plan to formally ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the market buildings.

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.

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.

CB3′s Full Board Approves SPURA Guidelines

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

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

The emotions ran the gamut last night inside the auditorium of P.S. 20 on Essex Street. Elation, anger, relief, regret and pride were all palpable as Community Board 3 held an historic vote on the future of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. At the end of the evening, CB3 members accomplished what seemed impossible to many not so long ago: unanimous approval of a set of planning guidelines (you can read the full document here) for a 7-acre development site the neighborhood has been fighting over for 43 years.

The decision, backed by all of the neighborhood’s elected officials, dramatically increases the odds that CB3’s vision of a mixed use (residential and commercial) project, including 50% affordable and 50% market rate housing, will one day become a reality.

CB3 Committee Makes History, Votes Yes on 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.”

Real Estate Expert Jonathan Miller on SPURA

SPURA surface parking lots line Suffolk Street from Broome to Delancey.

Over the last several months, as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area planning process chugged forward, we’ve sat through countless community board meetings, interviewed dozens of local residents and decision-makers and published op-eds from various players invested in the proposed residential and retail project. As the guidelines face a vote this evening, we’d like to offer some observations from an expert, NYC real estate analyst Jonathan Miller.

Miller, the president and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal and consulting firm, is widely respected across the industry for his comprehensive data collection and reporting and his market insights.