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Imagining a New Essex Street Market

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At tonight’s Seward Park redevelopment meeting, committee members are viewing architectural renderings of what a new Essex Street Market might look like. The building would be located on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets. The “new” option is one of four scenarios being reviewed tonight.

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  1. Tonight’s discussion included real possibilities and scenarios by the EDC, and there was ample time for both committee and audience questions and comments. The room was not packed like it was last month; I think last month’s order of business and presentation may have discouraged concerned residents from returning.

    By far, the largest portion of the presentation was devoted to Option 1, the “new” market. Option 2, which was to keep the current market as-is, or “Status Quo,” was brief, with something like “building will be lost” in the cons column of pros and cons. Its historic and cultural significance in our evaporating Lower East Side was not mentioned. Option 4 was interesting in that it considered keeping both the current Essex Street Market and building a new market below Delancey.

    I reiterated two points at the end, which I felt the CB3 committee needed to fully embrace: I pointed out that the capital costs of removing and rebuilding vendor stalls was still not covered and would probably put vendors out of business, and that my understanding was that there is no defined rent structure in place yet–the rent price point of new vendors was “yet to be determined” and “too early to talk about” with only the existing vendors having a verbal promise of keeping their rents the same. This concerns me because of the real possibility of rent creep and subsequently less product affordability for the neighborhood it serves.

    A couple of other points brought up about the existing market by CB3 and the EDC: that it will eventually cost lots of money for capital improvements (what improvements exactly and how much were not identified), and that the buildings were not built to last  — not sure if I agree that a 70 year old brick building is at the end of its useful life considering that I live in a 50 year old brick building. I’d like to know we have a lot more than 20 years left here.

    The EDC commits to a public market in perpetuity if its costs are covered by the private developer tasked with building and maintaining a public market. However, there was continued talk of doubtfulness and uncertainty with mayors and administrations in their commitment to maintain the current market. Thus, despite the more than $1.5 million the EDC has already put into the current ESM, the overall sentiment I’m hearing is that this is our one chance for a do-over, and we have to do it now or else there will be no Essex Street Market. I wonder if this same fearful sentiment would be continuously reiterated if the Essex Street Market had not been lumped into the SPURA site two years ago.

    I am cautiously optimistic that the EDC and CB3 will truly continue to look at many possibilities, and recognize that preserving the current Essex Street Market–and possibly coming up with creative ways to reuse the other Essex Street Market buildings–is just as big a picture as is a brand new development.

    Cynthia Lamb
    SaveTheEssexStreetMarket.org

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