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Stringer Supports SPURA Plan if Permanent Affordable Housing is Protected

By Serena Solomon | July 6, 2012 12:05pm | Updated on July 6, 2012 3:59pm
A rendering of Seward Park Urban Renewal Area that has been proposed for the Lower East Side.
A rendering of Seward Park Urban Renewal Area that has been proposed for the Lower East Side.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — Borough President Scott Stringer announced Thursday his conditional support for the massive and controversial plan to develop several underused blocks along Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge — saying he wants the current plan to set aside half of the units as permanent affordable housing added to the application materials.

The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) — a 1.65-million-square-foot swath of lots that has remained undeveloped for more than 45 years — has been hotly debated by the community and the city in recent years.

The Lower East Side's Community Board 3 recently approved a plan for SPURA that includes retail stores, offices and community facilities, as well as guaranteeing 450 units of permanently affordable housing — half of the 900 total proposed units.

"To date, however, this commitment has not been codified in the application materials. Given that permanency protects diverse housing for future generations ... the application materials should be updated to reflect this commitment," Stringer wrote in his July 5 recommendation.

Stringer also backs the plan to include a school on the property and to head off the chance of a big-box store on the property by reining in stores larger than 30,000 square feet.

He also asked for assurances that the city continue to work with community groups on the project.

Stringer also supported the inclusion of a public school or space that could later become one, as well as a guarantee that locals in the area are given sufficient notice about the affordable units.

Small businesses within the Essex Street Market on Essex and Delancey streets, which will eventually be displaced if the development goes ahead, require special assistance if they are relocated, according to Stringer.

He also requested that preference be given to any future developer that planned to restrict large retailers to less than 30,000 square feet in space within the development.

The plan, having already received support from CB3, is currently going through the city's land-use approval process (ULURP) and will be the subject of a public hearing on July 11 at the City Planning Commission.

The city-owned blocks, which mostly house parking lots as well as the Essex Street Market, have been in limbo since the city tore down tenements there in the 1960s to make way for planned development that never occurred.

Last month, CB3's land use committee voted to approve the plan developed by the city's Economic Development Corp., despite some committee members' requests being denied. The decision dismayed some members who wanted the EDC to block big-box stores and ensure a school would be included in the plan.