Op/Ed: Let’s Not Miss a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Get SPURA Right

The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.
The Seward Park sites south of Delancey Street. Photo by Vivienne Gucwa.

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was submitted to The Lo-Down by Jenifer Rajkumar, the Democratic District Leader for the 65th Assembly District and a prospective candidate for City Council in District 1.

We have waited 48 years to develop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA).  Lower East Siders left their homes so we could develop this public land.  The sacrifices have been enormous, and the potential moving forward is great.  Our City’s elected officials should not miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to do it right, just because they lack the political will or courage.

When we decide to develop our precious public land here in Lower Manhattan, there is one question that should drive the development every step of the way:  What value does this development add to the community?   Our elected officials should push for the development to benefit those who live and work here.  To that end, they should push for affordable housing, more schools, and ensure that all jobs created by the development pay a fair wage with good benefits.  Our elected officials should further safeguard the democratic process by ensuring that community input shapes the development project at every step in a transparent way.

So far on SPURA, our City elected officials have fallen short in almost all these respects. But it’s not too late yet.  Proposals to develop SPURA are due May 6, 2013. Our elected officials should only approve a proposal that ensures that 100% of all housing units are permanently affordable and that the jobs created by this development will be good jobs that pay fair wages and have real benefits including the right to organize a union.  Furthermore, our City elected officials should demand assurance from the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority that a school will be built on the site before the 2023 deadline.  I will work with community leaders to organize support for such a robust, forward-thinking plan. Alternatively, I will organize against developers who are looking to Seward Park for a bottom line rather than a chance to move the Lower East Side forward.

We have the opportunity with SPURA to be a shining example for development here in Lower Manhattan. Let’s not miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to do it right.

Jenifer Rajkumar can be reached at Jenifer@JeniferNYC.com or via Facebook.