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CB3 Panel Seeks to Finalize SPURA Guidelines Tonight

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John Shapiro, Pratt Institute

John Shapiro (pictured), a facilitator working with Community Board 3’s SPURA task force, has his work cut out for him when the panel reconvenes this evening. As we reported Friday afternoon, a group of community activists will try to finalize a set of draft guidelines presented to the committee last month.  Even before they gather, it’s pretty obvious various factions still have a ways to go to reach a consensus on a redevelopment plan for the Seward Park Urban Renewal site.

In an email blast shortly after we posted our story, neighborhood preservation group, GOLES, alerted its members, “Time to Fight: Community Board’s Draft Plan… Allows Up to 60% Market Rate Housing.” The email continued, “tell the community board we will never accept a plan that would give most of our land to people who can afford to pay $6000 a month for rent.”

GOLES organizers are not alone in fighting the proposal. In the Grand Street News, editor Yori Yanover writes:

…we’ve made no attempt to hide our bias on this issue: we believe the neighborhood deserves an open space, a park the size of Washington Square, with grass lawns, water fountains, trees and benches; a civilized gathering place for young and old. The LES already endures the highest low income housing density south of 96th Street, why must we shoulder even more? And we have no desire for more high income housing, either… We didn’t elect our public officials to sell away our city. Who gave them permission? Where’s the ballot proposal empowering them to sell these lots?We’re livid over SPURA. We don’t begrudge poor people their desire to have decent homes. But that’s not what SPURA is about at the moment. SPURA is about granting enormous riches to developers. No parks, no libraries, no museums, no theaters, just more Christie Avalons. If that’s the best the City can do at this time, because of the economy, it shouldn’t act at all. Where is it written that it must be done during the Bloomberg Administration? Remember, once we accept this new SPURA neighborhood in our midst – it stays.

Recently we noticed an online petition has been started, which seems to have been inspired by the Grand Street News editorial (no signatures yet).  As we mentioned Friday, SHARE, a group of Grand Street moderates seeking compromise on the SPURA issue, has also launched an online petition (it’s recorded 94 signatures).

In spite of some of the strong language coming from some quarters, task force chair David McWater told me recently he’s cautiously optimistic. After investing two years of their lives in the process, most committee members sense they’re getting close to a deal and increasingly don’t see failure as an option, he said.

Steve Herrick of the Cooper Square Committee agrees.  In an interview last week, he said “the time seems to be right for compromise.”   Herrick added, however, that he has serious reservations about the draft guidelines. Like most of the affordable housing advocates on the committee, he’s wary of language calling for anywhere between 40-60% low/middle income housing on the SPURA parcels.

Herrick indicated he’d be more comfortable with a firm number closer to 60% than 40%.  He also wants to continue pursuing public subsidies to, potentially, create even more affordable housing. While the city has resisted the idea and everyone concedes the economic climate is inhospitable, Herrick is among those activists seeking creative alternatives.

The task force meets this evening at 630, in the Henry Street Settlement’s Youth Services Gymnasium, 301 Henry Street. Members of the public are invited to speak about SPURA at the beginning of the session (you can sign up beginning at 6pm). If you would like to see the draft guidelines, they’re available on Community Board 3’s web site.

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