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Essex Street Market Could Move Across the Street

By Patrick Hedlund | June 28, 2011 7:32am | Updated on June 28, 2011 10:34am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

LOWER EAST SIDE — The Essex Street Market, a popular destination for foodie fans of Saxelby Cheesemongers, Shopsins restaurant and bountiful produce, could get relocated across the street under a proposal by the city.

Officials unveiled early designs for the market on Monday night as part of a preliminary proposal for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) redevelopment, which includes the Essex Street Market site at the corner of Delancey Street.

The NYC Economic Development Corporation, which operates the market and has been working with Community Board 3 on a plan for the longtime market, detailed a series of possible options for the space, including one that would move it across Delancey Street into a state-of-the art new facility.

No decision has been made on the fate of the current market, which houses nearly two-dozen vendors ranging from butchers to an art gallery and barber, as the community board has yet to vote on the matter.

The public has come out largely in support of preserving the market in its current space, though the EDC suggested the most practical plan would be to develop a brand-new market with the capacity to hold up three times the current vendors.

That option, which is among four the board's land use committee discussed Monday, would create a new, larger market space on the southeast corner of Essex and Delancey streets. The proposed new site would offer 25,000 square feet of space — compared to the existing market's 15,000 square feet — and be able to accommodate up to 65 vendors.

The proposed new site's L-shaped layout would create "miniature neighborhoods within the market," officials said, while adding seating areas, event space and possibly expanding the market onto Broome Street during weekends.

EDC representatives noted the new market option offers the best scenario for maintaining current vendors and mix of price points, and "guaranteeing stability for the market in future administrations."

Comparatively, preserving the existing market would prevent the expansion of new vendors and offer no guarantee of funds for capital investment under future administrations, the EDC said.

The two other options for the market include preserving the current market's façade while gut-renovating the existing space, or maintaining the current site while also developing an entirely new one across the street.

The EDC indicated that the brand-new market option would provide the best value — though many remained unconvinced about abandoning the historic site.

"It's really part of that cultural patrimony that we share on the Lower East Side," said Anne Saxelby, a current vendor who operates the popular Saxelby Cheesemongers. "The Essex Market as it stands is living history."

Cynthia Lamb, who founded the group Save the Essex Street Market, wondered why the board didn't simply defer to its original recommendation in the SPURA guidelines not to relocate the existing market.

She said the public has spoken overwhelmingly in favor of preserving the site, adding she has gathered more than 2,000 signatures herself in support of that plan.

However, EDC officials explained that the new market option would present the best scenario for maintaining the board's goals for SPURA and the creation of affordable housing. Under that plan, the Essex Street Market's existing vendors would remain at the current site until construction finished on the new space — which would take about five years — allowing them to function uninterrupted.