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City Seeks Food Vendor For Abandoned Allen Street Building

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Allen Street at Delancey Street.
Allen Street at Delancey Street.

The city’s Parks Department outlined plans last night to reactivate this Beaux Arts-style building on Allen street, a structure that was abandoned more than 60 years ago. Over the years, there’s been talk of creating some kind of community center in the facility that once housed bathrooms serving elevated train passengers. The city is about to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a food concession inside the building.

Alex Han, deputy director of concessions, briefed members of Community Board’s parks committee about the RFP for the building, located inside an un-renovated portion of the Allen Street pedestrian mall at Delancey Street. It will be released at the end of March.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC) allocated $1 million for the renovation of the building and the city added another $1 million for the project. Parks Department officials said, however, they want the food service contractor to pay for renovations. They hope to use the $2 million already budgeted for the area around the structure. Nine out of 14 blocks making up the Allen Street and Pike Street pedestrian malls remain untouched. Finding money to renovate the entire stretch from East Houston Street to the East River has been an impossible task. If the LMDC agrees (and that’s not a given), the city would divert the funds for mall restoration.

Susan Stetzer, CB3’s district manager, noted that there are already a lot of food options in the immediate area. She asked whether the building could be used for something other than a food concession. Back in 2008, there was a community visioning process for the Allen/Pike Street malls. It was led by a coalition that include many different Lower East Side organizations. Suggestions for the Delancey Street building included: a community space of some kind, public bathrooms, food vendors/concessions, a library/gallery and a visitors’ center.

Last night, Wendy Brawer of the not-for-profit group Green Map System, noted that her group was invited by the Borough President in 2009 to come up with ideas for the building. Along with the environmental group, Time’s Up, they proposed a “Go Green Pit Stop,” described as a “vibrant community center, addressing sustainable transportation and urban greening.” Their plan was to create a “demonstration center for green roofs, rainwater collection, and solar energy, as well as a cycling resource offering repair classes and open workshops to empower and educate cyclists.”

Han said the city’s rules for franchises would not allow a bike repair center. “That’s not what parkland is for,” he explained. Following the meeting, Brawer told us a one-day demonstration project was held after the groups submitted their proposal. Due to the heavy automobile traffic in the area, they concluded the building was not the best spot for a bike repair center. But other groups have suggested alternative uses for the building, as well. In 2012, Hester Street Collaborative and Asian Americans for Equality pushed the city to consider creative ideas for the space.

At one point last night, Parks officials were asked whether revenues from the concessions could be used to pay for maintenance of the Allen/Pike malls. They said it would not be possible. Residents have often complained in recent years about the sorry state of the blocks that have been renovated. Benches were destroyed, plantings are neglected and trash is often strewn throughout seating areas and planters. At the moment, though, no one is coming forward with a solution for taking care of this neglected public space.

Parks Department officials said they will return to the community board when a vendor is identified and contacts are ready to be signed.


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  1. The community, with the leadership of Annie Frederick, held visioning sessions and raised $1million to renovate this building. There is much needed here and it isn’t another outside food vendor nor the give -away yet another public space. The idea that Parks would unilaterally decide what should be here is stunning. And the speed at which this is being pushed after all these years of neglect?
    Why not use some of that speed to fix the windows in the low-income nutrition center or build the promised bathrooms in the Stanton Park building: both in SDR? Both of which were funded with money requested by the local community and granted by our Council Member Chin.

  2. Just to clarify, we responded to then Borough President’s proposal request and selected the Allen Mall location. Either this space or the Stanton building in Sara D Roosevelt Park (a safer location for new riders) could address unmet need. I’m part of the coalition working to bring the building back to community use. There are bike rental concessions in other parks, and an open invitation to suggest new types on Parks’ website. A green culture space – with bike repair, skills exchange and innovation as the focus – could serve all ages and help NYC meet its carbon reduction goals.

  3. I continue to be surprised be locals who are so focused on getting funding for “their” parks that they seemingly forget about the many other smaller, neglected parks in the neighborhood. The initial funding for the Allen St malls came from the 9/11/LMDC funding and is handcuffed for this particular project.
    Because the malls run through several neighborhoods, including a poor, immigrant section near Canal, it has been very difficult to get matching funding from our local politicians to finish the rest of the malls. It’s just not as sexy as SDR or Seward Park which seem to get all the attention.
    Parks came up with a creative solution, which is used is many other parks, to help fund the restoration of this neglected building.
    We, who live in the neighborhood, see this as a fair solution and one that may actually speed up the renovation of the rest of the Allen St. malls. Some of these malls, especially the ones near Canal St., look like a third word country and are an embarrassment to the Parks dept. Not to mention the whole issue of equity.
    I sat in the back of this meeting and watched Ms. Stetzer (and why should she say what should go in this spot) try to lobby the committee to stall this project and lobby for another use of the building. Parks explained why a food vendor would best fit this location and I would have to agree. The notion that there are too many food places is really just nonsense. Did you ask the people who live in the neighborhood or is that just a personal thing? Let’s see how many people respond to the RFP.
    If a bike share, repair or whatever wants to bid on this RFP, then just let them bid as a hybrid food concession. No need to further stall this project. But let me say this-the majority of the low income people in this neighborhood do not ride bikes. Just check the demographics. It’s hipsters.
    The sorry state of the Allen St. malls is a joke. If everyone is now so concerned then why aren’t you campaigning to help fund the rest of the malls.

  4. Not sure where you get ‘focused on getting funding” for “their” park? Funding isn’t the issue in SDR. The money is already there – just not used by Parks. This is an issue over community input into what goes here. It was the local community, in those 2009 visioning events, that let their preferences be known – the only mention of wanting food vendors specifically mentioned NOT wanting outside food vendors. http://thevillager.com/villager_312/amakeoverfor.html
    You write, “we who live in this neighborhood” but obviously many of your neighbors had a different opinion from yours when they were asked? Hester Street Collaborative wrote the LMDC grant and got that funding for this comfort station – the money has been there, again, unspent. It’s been vacant for 6 decades, not exactly sure why Parks couldn’t take a bit of time to ask this community what it would like there?

  5. 2009. How long has it been. The malls were supposed to be done by now. And do you actually think there will be additional funding for the malls anytime soon, no? As far as “focused” on their parks-you do realize that your last paragraph “focused” on SDR when this article is about the malls/comfort station.
    And you need to better source your articles. This is a direct quote from your referenced article,– “Another idea was to try to support local small businesses and food vendors that would be showcased on the malls, rather than bringing in outside vendors. Also, public restrooms could be reopened, OR THE BUILDINGS CONVERTED TO FOOD CONCESSIONS, a library gallery or visitor center.” –You just gave me the ammunition I was looking for. We’ll take a local food vendor. So where do my neighbors disagree? I went to these planning sessions. Do you even live in Community Board 3?

    Yes, the money for the comfort station is there, unspent, because it still needs an additional $3-5 million for completion. Not one politician has stepped up to the plate to complete this station because most of their discretionary funds go where?-to SDR and Seward Park. Remember, your SDR project is already fully funded.
    If you are so supportive of the station, why don’t you write Chin and Brewer and campaign for additional funding? If a food concessionaire is willing to put up millions for the renovation, then more discretionary money can go towards the rest of the malls. These malls run straight through the heart of Chinatown. I wonder how much $$$ has Council Member Chin allocated for these malls.
    9 blocks still remain untouched. 9. That’s at least $10-$17 million still needed. And the lottery money from LMDC has all but dried up. Get this station DONE now and work the surrounding malls. Get the Lower BID to then maintain the area and then maybe someone will care.

  6. You sound like the perfect person to rally your neighbors to renew the commitment to this building and advocate with your neighbors on what they want along the park and in this space. The last survey was done in 2009. As to “ammunition”(?) yes food (preference for local vendors) was one of many options. Hence, why I included the link. Readers should know everything that went before – a base to build on. What do local small businesses and residents nearby want 7 years later? What could the high- end businesses contribute to the project? It’s their front yard. Ask them to help.
    As you mention, the rest of us are quite busy with the endless opportunities available to maintain and advocate for our closest neighborhood parks. And while much goes unfunded here – it is true that we have, since 1980, been advocating in SDR: beginning with the daily fight to remove pimps and drugs from the park and now planting, pruning, weeding, removing needles and human feces. It takes time, sweat, and commitment (and at times a strong stomach) despite very full lives. Form your group and take on Pike/Allen malls! Good luck!

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