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50 Years After Losing Their Homes, Former SPURA Tenants Look to Essex Crossing

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Essex Crossing site1, Ludlow and Broome streets. December 2016.
Essex Crossing site 1, Ludlow and Broome streets. December 2016.

In an article posted online today (Trying to Undo a Lower East Side Diaspora), the New York Times looks at the prospect of displaced residents of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) coming back to the site.

The development project now underway on four of the nine Seward Park parcels will eventually produce 500 affordable apartments. Around 2,000 people were forced from the  SPURA site in 1967. They are being given preference in the housing lotteries for the first batch of apartments. Those lotteries take place next summer.

A Times reporter spoke with 55-year-old Beatriz Torres Guzmán, who was six years old when the bulldozers arrived on the Lower East Side. She currently lives in the Campos Plaza public housing complex on East 12th Street. While Guzmán would like to come back, that might not be possible:

Because she lives on $15,300 a year in disability income, though, she does not meet the income requirements. Essex Crossing’s affordable apartments are available to New Yorkers earning from 37 percent to 165 percent of the area median income — or $23,495 to $104,775 a year for a single person. Ms. Guzmán argues that the city has a special obligation to her, regardless of her income. “I just feel that they should accommodate us,” she said.

All of these years, Guzmán has kept a letter from the city that her mother received in 1978. It says she, “should have a priority to return to the area.”

About 200 ex-SPURA residents have been identified by local activists. Here’s a fact sheet for former site tenants, outlining who’s eligible and what they need to do before the lottery takes place.

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