Last night, Community Board 3 decided 45 years was long enough to wait for the redevelopment of the Seward Park parcels, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. In a unanimous vote, CB3 approved the city’s land use application for the 1.65 million square foot project, which would bring hundreds of new apartments, shops and community facilities to the Lower East Side. The decision ends decades of acrimony about the future of the site, the largest city-owned development property below 96th Street.
Last week, nine members of CB3’s land use committee voted against the proposal because it did not guarantee that the affordable housing built on the Seward Park site would remain permanently affordable. But in a last minute deal with City Council member Margaret Chin and CB3, city officials relented, upping their commitment from 60 years for the affordable units.
Residents came to last night’s meeting to protest the city’s initial offer and several community board members were prepared to vote against the plan. While there was never any question that CB3 would vote “yes” on the land use application, it became clear that the city wanted a clear consensus on the board before taking the plan to the Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Midway through the meeting, Chin announced the agreement, telling members of the audience, “the city has heard you loud and clear.” Chin and Council member Rosie Mendez vowed to fight for other things CB3 called for in the resolution passed last night, including a ban on “big box” stores, a new school and compensation for Essex Street Market vendors, who will likely be moving to a new facility.
Chin faced vocal opposition, including heckling, from activists demanding 100% affordable housing in the Seward Park project (the plan calls for 50% affordable/50% market rate housing). But she defended her record on housing issues and declared, “I am proud to be the Council member bringing SPURA about.”
CB3 Chair Dominic Berg touted another agreement with the city, which will set up a community task force to advise the city in the selection of developers. Berg and SPURA Committee Chair David McWater praised community board members and neighborhood “stakeholders” for their dedication to the Seward Park process in the past three years.
We’ll have an in-depth report from last night’s meeting later today.