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.”
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…
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.
A new Trader Joe’s, Target and hundreds of new apartments (some luxury, some below-market rate) are the most obvious signs that the Lower East Side is undergoing dramatic change. But two community organizations are about to remind us that long before Essex Crossing came along, there was SPURA — the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Imagining the LES: Creating Community is coming up Saturday, Nov. 3. Here’s more from the organizers, the Seward Park Area Redevelopment Coalition (SPARC) and Below the Grid lab:
On Saturday, November 3rd from 2:00 to 5:00pm, SPARC and Below the Grid Lab will host Imagining the LES: Creating Community, a day of activities to celebrate the past, present, and future of the SPURA community (now officially renamed Essex Crossing). Fifty (50) 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..
Imagining the LES: Creating Community, will take place on Saturday November 3rd from 2-5pm in the 4th floor Community Center of the Frances Goldin Senior Building: entrance to the event is through the GrandLo Café at 168 Broome St. Suffolk St, between Grand St & Broome St. There will be food and music and activities to include: painting of banners, oral history interviews of residents, and performances from local arts groups. Neighborhood organizations will have tables announcing their programming. A survey will be distributed for attendees to voice their future neighborhood priorities and interests. We intend to bring together old and new residents to enjoy the activities, meet each other and engage 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!
Here’s the Facebook invite.
NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED.
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!
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.
The Seward Park site, looking south on Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa/nythroughthelens.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.