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Fate of Undeveloped Land on Lower East Side to Be Debated By Community

By Patrick Hedlund | December 13, 2010 4:34pm
The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area covers seven undeveloped acres just south Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge.
The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area covers seven undeveloped acres just south Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge.
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Wikipedia/Yori Yanover

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

LOWER EAST SIDE — The fate of a sprawling swath of vacant land near the Williamsburg Bridge that has sat dormant for more than four decades will be debated Monday.

The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) — comprising five plots of land located on seven acres just south of Delancey Street — has endured years of wrangling over what should be built on the property, which is the largest parcel of undeveloped city-owned land south of 96th Street.

Now, after three years of work by Community Board 3, Lower East Side stakeholders, including affordable housing advocates and residents of the nearby Seward Park co-ops, will be asked to weigh in on a draft proposal recently released by the board as it attempts to finalize its recommendations for the site.

"People agreed on more than they thought they would," said board member Harvey Epstein, on strides made by CB 3 in trying to bring all the various parties to the table.

CB 3's draft guidelines unveiled last month call for a mixed-use development that includes 40 to 60 percent market-rate housing, with at least 20 percent of the units reserved for low-income tenants.

The proposal also stipulates that "at least 10 percent and preferably 30 percent" of all units be reserved for moderate- and middle-income residents, and that 10 percent of the units be set aside for seniors.

But the amount of proposed market-rate housing hasn't sat well with some affordable housing groups, including Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a tenant advocacy organization that has blasted Board 3's plan to make up to 60 percent of the housing available to residents paying premium prices.

Project stakeholders will also weigh in on the inclusion of office space, a movie theater and/or hotel, as well as the relocation of retail operations at the existing Essex Street Market to the SPURA site.

The draft proposal's retail suggestions specify that no big-box stores — or a single commercial tenant with more than 30,000 square feet of space — be allowed on the property, with the possible exception of a supermarket.

Any proposal for the property will ultimately need the support of local elected officials before the city can begin its official public review process and begin seeking potential developers. CB 3 hopes to finalize its proposal in the new year.

"The final product should reflect everyone's views," Epstein added. "Obviously it's not a done deal till it's done."

Board 3's Land Use, Zoning, and Public and Private Housing Committee meets on Monday at 6:30 p.m., 301 Henry St., to discuss specifics of the draft proposal.