Block Party Celebrates “Past, Present, Future” of SPURA



By the fall, the first phase of the Essex Crossing project in the former Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) will be mostly completed. So it’s a good time to look back on the long and turbulent history of the Lower East Side development sites. A few organizations are coming together to do just that on Saturday Aug. 4.

“Imagining the LES Block Party” will take place from 5-10 p.m. on Norfolk Street (between Grand and Broome streets). Have a look at the Facebook invite:

SPARC (Seward Park Area Redevelopment Coalition), Below the Grid Lab and The Illuminator will host Imagining the LES Block Party, a day of activities to celebrate the past, present, and future of the SPURA community (now renamed Essex Crossing). Fifty years ago a vibrant community of multi-racial/ethnic residents and the tenement buildings they inhabited was destroyed by Urban Renewal. Now a new community of mixed income buildings–including 500 affordable apartments–is rising from these empty lots. Today’s event attempts to begin to knit together the old and new and imagine a strong vision of a more equitable and just neighborhood… There will be food, music and activities including: an interactive historical walking tour featuring former residents of SPURA; chalking on the sidewalks; painting of banners; oral history interviews; and dance & theatre performances from local arts organizations.  The day will culminate in a series of large projections by artist collective The Illuminator that will feature historic photos of the neighborhood and its people, and raise questions to engage attendees in conversation: “How do we honor the past with a more just future?,” “How do we bring together the old and the new?,” and “How do we imagine a truly equal city?” This exciting and vibrant day is the official launch of the SPURA Living History Project, an initiative of SPARC and Below the Grid Lab to raise the profile of this complex history, inspire a new integrated present and future, and with it a new generation of activists and organizers who will carry the legacy of the Lower East Side into the next fifty years!



30 Years Later, Revisiting Bobby G’s “Youth of the Lower East Side”

Bobby G's Delancey Street mural, 1984.

Bobby G’s Delancey Street mural, 1984.

The Essex Crossing development project is obviously changing the neighborhood in dramatic ways. A current show at the Hionas Gallery recalls a time, three decades ago, when the former urban renewal site was targeted not for redevelopment — but for radical art.

The longtime East Village artist, Robert Goldman (aka Bobby G), was a co-founder of the activist arts organization ABC No Rio. He was one of the instigators of The Real Estate Show in 1979, in which artists took over a padlocked Delancey Street building to make a statement about the city’s pro-developer policies.

“At No Rio in those early years,” Peter Hionas explains, “(Goldman) engaged the local youth. He had discussions, drawing parties, made videos, and painted their portraits…”  Last month, the Crown Heights Gallery (it was formerly located on the Lower East Side), debuted Bobby G: 1984. It includes individual paintings based on a 50-foot mural painted on an abandoned building at Delancey and Suffolk streets (now Essex Crossing site 3, which is under construction).

Here’s more from the press release:

1984 comprises a selection of works from Bobby G’s acclaimed “Youth of the Lower East Side” portrait series, painted in the early 1980s. The seemingly stoic subjects are most notable for the artist’s use of a thin solution of silver radiator paint, which frames the postured contours of his figures then drips downward with abandon, lending each standalone portrait a vibrancy and gravitas. This is the first time in more than 30 years these works have been exhibited in public.

Back in 2014, the Lower East Side’s James Fuentes Gallery organized a group exhibition centered on the Real Estate Show. You can read about that here.  ABC No Rio is working towards constructing a new building at 156 Rivington St., a site that it has occupied since 1980. The organization’s decaying tenement was demolished early last year.

The show at the Hionas Gallery Backroom is open through the end of the month (Saturdays only).

Photo by Ian Dryden.

Photo by Ian Dryden.






Essex Crossing Park to Have Play Area, Native Plantings, Abundant Seating

Essex Crossing Developers File Pre-Demolition Documents For 400-402 Grand St.

New York Times: Silver, Rapfogel “Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant For 47 Years”

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

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

The Times just posted  a lengthy article examining the roles of Sheldon Silver and former Met Council head William Rapfogel in stopping redevelopment of the Seward Park urban renewal site for decades. 

Community Members Want More Robust Outreach For Essex Crossing Park

CB3 Asked For Feedback on SPURA Park, Fate of Essex Market Vendors Discussed

Here’s an update on the planning for Essex Crossing, the large residential and commercial project coming to the former Seward Park urban renewal area.

Jewish Conservancy Advocates For New Home as Redevelopment Nears

As we reported yesterday, six remaining tenants at 400 Grand Street, which will be demolished next year to make way for the Essex Crossing project, are fighting for relocation rights.   But another tenant in the building, the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, is also concerned about its future.

SPURA Residents Facing Displacement Say City is Ignoring Them

Several residents of 400 Grand Street, which is scheduled to be demolished to make way for the Essex Crossing development, say they continue to get the run-around by the city. Last night, they turned to Community Board 3 for help.

Community Board 3 Seeks Information From City Regarding Essex Market Vendors

This week we have been following the legal back and forth between the NYC Economic Development Corp.(EDC) and a longtime vendor at the Essex Street Market.  Last night, members of Community Board 3 briefly discussed the situation and the broader issue of protections for businesses at the market.

City Declines to Renew Permit For Longtime Essex Street Market Vendor

Lately, we’ve been talking about new arrivals at the Essex Street Market (bagels, ice cream and soup have been added to the retail mix).  But — pending legal proceedings — there’s also a noteworthy departure to report; a merchant who’s been part of the market for 23 years.

Seward Park Developers Create Website, Detail Essex Crossing Plans

It’s been about six weeks since the city announced the development team and overall concept for “Essex Crossing,” the mixed-use project for the former Seward Park urban renewal site. Time for an update.

SPURA Timeline 2009-2013: The Long Road to a Development Deal

Last week’s big news concerning the Seward Park site – the selection of developers for the billion dollar project – ends a chapter in the Lower East Side’s longest-running saga. 

Followup: Essex Crossing on the Lower East Side

A day after the city announced plans for Essex Crossing, the billion dollar project on the Seward Park site, there’s plenty of new information to pass along.

Mayor, Developers Unveil “Essex Crossing” Plan

Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to the Lower East Side this morning to announce that the Seward Park project, delayed for four decades, was finally a “done deal.”