Some quick context on the modifications announced today before the City Council’s land use committee voted on the Seward Park plan.
Additional Housing: Council member Margaret Chin persuaded the city to add 100 apartments on the Seward park parcels, meaning they’ll now build 1000 units instead of 900. Fifty will be affordable, 50 will be market rate, in keeping with the overall housing plan. During months of negotiations, affordable housing activists on CB3’s land use committee repeatedly asked city officials to get that number to at least 1000, but they declined. In a compromise deal, the panel had agreed that the overall project should contain 60% housing and 40% commercial/community spaces. Among other arguments, city planning officials contended that a larger number of apartments could upset the delicate balance. Separately, there’s a new agreement to build all-affordable housing on a city-owned parcel at 21 Spring Street (in Community Board 2). Council member Chin tells us it’s not yet known how many units will be created at this location.
A New School: Another modification allows for a school to be built on a 15,000 square foot portion of site 5. There’s a big caveat here. The Education Department insists there’s no need for another school on the Lower East Side and, they say, there’s no money to build one anyway. So there’s a lot of work to be done on the issue by community activists and elected officials if a school is actually going to become a reality.
Big Box Stores: The ULURP application states that there must be at least two storefronts on Delancey Street and three storefronts on Broome Street. Chin convinced the city to remove language allowing the mayor and/or the head of the Economic Development Corp. to waive this requirement. A lot of residents were hoping for more concessions on the big box issue. CB3 called for a 30,000 square foot limit for retail, but the city would not budge saying large retail outlets will help create a financially viable project.
Essex Street Market: The city finally agreed to pay the moving expenses of Essex Street Market merchants if in fact the market is moved to a new building on the south side of Delancey Street. This issue was a big deal to several community board members, but the city had not been willing to make the commitment until today. In recent weeks, vendors were asked to send city officials financial details about their capital investments at the current market.
Tonight, Chin will attend Community Board 3’s meeting (P.S. 20, 166 Essex Street, 6:30 p.m.) to talk about the new aspects of the plan and to answer any more questions CB3 members might have. We’ll have a followup tomorrow.