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City Hires Architectural Firm for SPURA Planning

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We’ve just learned that the NYC Economic Development Corp. has hired an architectural firm to work with the community on the first phase of the Seward Park redevelopment project.  Beyer Binder Belle, a prestigious New York-based company, will be advising the city and Community Board 3 on preliminary urban design issues for the 10 SPURA parcels.

Last month, CB3 ended a 43-year-old stalemate, agreeing to a set of guidelines for the Seward Park site. This month, they’ll get to work on more specific plans for the mixed-use, mixed-income project at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Beyer Blinder Belle, established in 1968, developed a specialty in historic preservation.

The firm has handled high profile restoration projects, including the Apollo Theater, Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building. But, more relevant to the task at hand, it has a planning division which has been involved in many large-scale redevelopment projects.  Among them: the Coney Island, Governors Island and DUMBO strategic planning efforts. On its web site, Beyer Blinder Belle notes:

(The firm) was founded in the wake of the urban renewal movement in the United States, during which the social fabric of cities, communities and buildings was compromised by the prevailing approaches to planning and architecture. We pioneered and defined a different approach to the design of the built environment which focused on the social integrity of communities and institutions empowering the daily lives of people; their interaction with each other on streets and in neighborhoods; their potential to take pleasure in moving through the city; and their memories and associations with the physical fabric around them.

While significant, the announcement should not be taken as a definitive indication that the city has made a final decision about moving ahead with the redevelopment of SPURA. City agencies are in the process of evaluating the community board’s guidelines. The EDC has emphasized repeatedly that they are committed to working with CB3 throughout the planning process.

On Monday February 28th, at 6:30pm, officials from the EDC and the Department of City Planning will outline proposed next steps in the process. The meeting will be held at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street.

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  1. The mixed income developments on the LES and in the East Village that include at least 50% market rate units are an unmitigated disaster!

    Starting with the Cooper Square Redevelopment which includes the Whole Foods Complex and Avalon Bay, both 80%/20% models, and other developments, as well as some Supportive Housing, was in the end supposed to have created 50% market rate/50% affordable housing, and I guess it’s a fact that this autonomous plan has achieved just that.
    Nevertheless, this plan, combined with all of the other developments in the area including hotels, luxury housing, designer clothing stores, high end restaurants, etc., has served as a catalyst and supporter to all of the above, as well as to set a precedence towards more mixed income developments. The mixed income 50% to 80% market rate developments wind up creating a neighborhood that caters to the rich and helps to push out the middle, lower middle and low income members of our society.
    The Cooper Square Committee, once a radical force to be reckoned with, was humbled to the point of forced compromise by the Bloomberg Administration.

    Other aspects of gentrification that coincide with development include but are not limited to: people being violently forced out of their apartments, treacherous and illegal construction, media exploitation of the East Village and LES, dormitory style apartment conversions, buy-outs, proliferation of liquor licenses, arson, astronomical commercial rents, religious institutions selling to the highest bidder, and other atrocities and perversions.

    The SPURA Redevelopment Plan headed by Board Chair and Seward Park co-op owner Dominic Pisciotta and former Chair David McWater has unfairly undermined the voice of the people who repeatedly called for housing for the working class, as many of the people were raised here and once lived here have been priced out of their own neighborhood. So tell me how does this plan help this unjust situation that the people of the Lower East Side are in. The Seward Park co-ops were developed as affordable housing which in 1998 shifted to the open market and since then co-op prices have escalated and apartments have turned over several times. Now these people have the nerve to support this plan for 50% market rate housing!

    The time has come for people to stop conforming to the Bloomberg Administration and individuals with a self interest guided by increasing their property values at the expense of the people.

    It is time for people to fight back, to think outside of the box and to come together with innovative ideas to save whatever is left of the community.

    Bravo to GOLES for coming up with something truly progressive!

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