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Permanent Affordable Housing Coming to Lower East Side's SPURA Development

Deborah Gonzalez, a Stanton Street resident, said she worried the Lower East Side had become unaffordable.
Deborah Gonzalez, a Stanton Street resident, said she worried the Lower East Side had become unaffordable.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER EAST SIDE — After years of advocacy by the community, permanent affordable housing is on the way to a long-vacant Lower East Side development site.

The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, a swath of empty property south of Delancey Street, will get 450 affordable housing units as part of a major redevelopment project — and those units will remain affordable forever, city officials announced Tuesday.

The decision marked a reversal of the city Economic Development Corp.'s initial plan, in which they planned to let the units transition to market rate after the first 60 years. That plan met with fierce opposition among local residents and activists, who said the neighborhood would still need affordable housing decades from now.

"This commitment from the city guarantees that the affordable housing that is built will remain affordable not just for 30 years, or 60 years, but in perpetuity," City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said in a statement.

After Chin announced the permanent affordable housing at a Community Board 3 meeting Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously to support the city's plan for SPURA.

The development would bring 1.65 million square feet of apartments, stores, offices and community facilities to the under-used parking lots near the Williamsburg Bridge. In addition to the affordable housing, the plan also includes 450 market-rate apartments.

Borough President Scott Stringer called the permanent affordable housing "an important step forward" in a statement Tuesday night. 

"The city's commitment demonstrates the positive results that can be achieved through community based planning and responsive city agencies," Stringer said.

Still, residents did not get everything they had advocated for in the plan. The city still wants to include controversial big-box stores in the development, and officials have not agreed to build a new school, as residents requested.

The city's proposal for SPURA will now go to the borough president's office, the City Planning Commission and the City Council for approval. The city hopes to begin looking for a developer in the winter.