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City Unveils $1.1B Lower East Side Redevelopment for Long-Abandoned Lots

By Serena Solomon | September 18, 2013 1:45pm
 The renderings for the proposed Essex Crossing on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area on the Lower East Side.
Essex Crossing
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LOWER EAST SIDE — A $1.1 billion development featuring an urban farm and an Andy Warhol museum will rise on a series of abandoned Lower East Side lots that have been a source of neighborhood tension for almost 50 years.

The city announced Wednesday that Taconic Investment Partners, L+M Development Partners and BFC Partners have been chosen to develop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which has been renamed Essex Crossing, on nine city-owned blocks near Essex and Delancey streets.

Towers containing 1.65 million square feet of residential and commercial space will shoot up from an area that once housed low-rise tenement buildings, torn down in 1967 to make way for an affordable-housing redevelopment that never materialized.

The proposed complex, designed by SHoP Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle, will feature 1,000 apartments, half of them designated as permanent affordable housing, and a brand-new, larger Essex Market south of Delancey Street.

It will also offer incubator space for technology companies, an annex of the Andy Warhol Museum, a bowling alley, a movie theater and room for a possible school.

"The promise of revitalizing this land, made in 1967, is at long last being built," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday.

"We are going to change a part of New York for the good."

The announcement came after five years of negotiating, planning and compromising between the city, elected officials and local residents.

Bloomberg said the developers will be required to break ground on the project within the next 18 months, and it will be built in stages over the next seven years.

Those who once lived in the tenements will be given first priority for the affordable housing built at Essex Crossing. The affordable units will also be targeted to senior citizens and New Yorkers earning $31,700 to $133,000 for a family of four.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin praised the potential for a new public school in the development. However, the city’s Department of Education has yet to decide whether it is necessary and has not slated any funds for its construction.

"Mayor, we still need your help to get that school built," Chin told Bloomberg at the press conference.

If the school is not constructed by 2023, the land will be used for another purpose determined by the city, local residents and developers, officials said.

About 64,000 square feet has also been slated for community space. The developers will work with the nonprofit Grand Street Settlement to run the programing.

Another local nonprofit, the Educational Alliance, will also be part of the development, running a school geared toward low-income families that would prepare parents for college while educating their young children. 

For Tito Delgado, 60, who lived in the tenements on the site until they were demolished when he was a child, a development at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area has been a long time coming.

The now-retired affordable housing advocate sat on the Community Board 3 task force that helped choose the developers. He said the task force would continue to monitor the project to ensure all promises are kept.

"I'm glad. I'm glad I’m here," he said. "I'm glad this is happening."