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SPURA Vigil: A Renewed Demand for Affordable Housing

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Yesterday, affordable housing advocates and former tenants gathered at the corner of Delancey and Suffolk Streets to mark 42 years of inaction on the five city-owned parcels known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. The lots have remained mostly dormant all these years as community groups feuded about their redevelopment.  Several of the participants are members of a community board panel that has been trying to hammer out a plan acceptable to all sides.

Organizers say the time has come to put more pressure on city and state officials to act. More than one speaker urged residents to attend the CB3 meetings on SPURA – and to become actively involved in fighting for affordable housing on the parcels. Longtime community activist Frances Goldin sharply criticized residents of the Grand Street cooperatives and their political allies, raising the specter of racism, but hardly for the first time, as a reason the neighborhood has been divided for so long.

Also attending yesterday, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Councilmember-elect Margaret Chin. Chin did not specifically repeat her campaign pledge to oppose market rate housing altogether on SPURA. Instead she said, “affordable housing has to be part of the equation.”  However, in a followup, Chin’s transition coordinator, Jake Itzkowitz, made it clear she has not changed her position. In an email message, he said, “the starting point should be to pull together affordable housing developers and small businesses to find a way to create affordable housing on that site. The site is going to be mixed use, and there must be affordable housing. It should not include market rate housing, because the area is already saturated.”

The community board does not have SPURA on the agenda this month, but is expected to take up the issue again in December.

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