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Thread: Lower East Side Development

  1. #121

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    A nice new addition for The Educational Alliance at 197 E Broadway by Platt Byard Dovell White.



    Here's the permit.
    http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/Jo...ssdocnumber=01


    Jock Pottle Photography
    http://www.jockpottlephoto.com/Site_2a/18.html
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #122
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    Pushcarts Gone, Hester Street Area Seeks New Life

    by KAVITA MOKHA

    Once home to the city's largest and oldest pushcart market, the newly trendy pocket around Hester and Essex streets on the Lower East Side is experiencing a burst of activity on several fronts.

    Luxury condominium developments have swamped the area in recent years, and continue to pop up at a frenetic pace—many replacing long-standing institutions. The latest project to hit the market is the 11-story Hester Condominium, now offering one- and two-bedroom units.


    The Forward Building on East Broadway was home to the Jewish Daily Forward for decades.

    That building is just steps from several other projects that have opened in the vicinity in recent years. The Forward Building on East Broadway, a landmark site, was converted to condominiums in 2006. The Beaux Arts architectural gem, adorned with marble columns and panels and stained glass windows, housed the iconic Yiddish language daily, the Jewish Daily Forward, between 1912 until 1974.

    Despite the economic downturn, signs of new construction, as well as restaurant and bar openings, can be seen in every direction on previously quiet blocks.
    But not everyone is pleased.

    "I got out before the area jumped the shark," said Peter Stratigakis, a Lower East Side native who moved to the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn two years ago. "With every new corporate office or store that opens up, it takes away a little bit of the community." said Mr. Stratigakis, who still owns a construction management company on Hester Street.

    The area that was home to one of the city's largest immigrant Jewish populations at the turn of the 20th century is now a mishmash of cultures. Chinese-owned businesses that dominate East Broadway thrive alongside Hispanic bodegas lining the still-gritty streets of the Lower East Side while chic bars, restaurants and art galleries continue to claim space in the mix.

    One of the latest fixtures in the area is the Hester Street Fair. Featuring vintage clothing and crafts from local artisans, the bustling modern-day bazaar has also become a foodie destination for its treats—ranging from An Choi's Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches to La Nuyorkina's ice pops and Luke's lobster rolls. Launched this year, the fair is held on the weekends between April and December.


    Bistro Les Enfants Terribles on Canal Street draws well-heeled patrons.

    Across from the fair on Essex Street, a handful of Jewish establishments continue to evoke an old New York feel. The briny premises of the Pickle Guys on this stretch hearken back to the neighborhood's Jewish culinary traditions, when the area around Essex and Ludlow was known as the "pickle district."

    "There used to be five pickle stores on this block alone, and I'm the only one for probably miles now," says owner Alan Kaufman, as he packs an assortment of pickled olives and cucumbers for a customer from Pennsylvania.

    But the iconic Gertel's bakery around the corner on Hester didn't survive the gentrification that triggered high-end developments, resulting in higher rents. After nearly a century in business, Gertel's served its last rugelach in 2007. The site, now a boarded-up hole in the ground, stands next to the new Hester Condo.

    While some mourn the shuttering of what were the living touchstones of the American Jewish experience, others ponder the nuances of their demise.

    "When did I last crave a babka?" mused 46-year-old Emily Katz, who grew up in the area. "I can't expect them to remain open if I diligently measure my sodium and fat intake and only ever venture in for Purim."


    Steps from where Gertel's bakery once drew hoards of tourists, stylish joints like the Brown Café, which offers a seasonal menu of organic produce, and Les Enfants Terribles, a French bistro, now attract a well-heeled clientele that resides in the area's newer developments.

    or some longtime residents, the metamorphosis is bitter sweet. "There was a time you couldn't find a good cup of coffee around here," said 57-year-old Sharon Miller, who has lived on Hester Street since the 1970s "Now that there's gourmet coffee all around me, I can't say how much longer I can afford my rent to enjoy it all."

    The transformation, which has been apparent to longtimers for years, was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008 when it designated Manhattan's Lower East Side as one of the year's 11 most endangered in places in America, citing the destruction of its cultural heritage by new developments.

    "We can't only have upscale establishments," said Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3. "We need to also serve the people that essentially live in one of the last affordable nooks south of Central Park."

    Just how long what is left of the old community ethos on the Lower East Side will remain is a worry.

    "After school, my kids still play with the kids of other business owners on the block that are my friends," said Mr. Stratigakis. "I just don't know how long that will last."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...rk_real_estate

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    Giant Swath of Lower East Side Land To Lie Fallow Forever

    November 18, 2010, by Lockhart



    For 43 years or so, the empty swath of parking lots on the south side of Delancey Street, right by the Williamsburg Bridge entrance, have sat. And sat, and sat, and sat. Every now and then, there's the hint that maybe something will happen to the area, known to urban planning geeks as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA. Last summer brought the usual rumblings of quasi-nothingness, and wise observers figured that was that for SPURA in the news this year.

    But no! Out of nowhere, earlier this week, Community Board 3 came forth with a plan for the blighted site. We'd almost gotten excited about the details—mixed-use housing, new retail, and the like—when LES blog The Lo-Down amended its reportage to note that CB3 hadn't actually produced a "plan," but rather "guidelines to come up with a plan."

    Ah, right. Sure. "Guidelines to come up with a plan." All of which sounds like great news for fans of giant empty parking lots, which look as likely as ever to outlast us all.

    A SPURA Plan vs. SPURA Guidelines [The Lo-Down]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2010/1...rever.php#more

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

    A community-driven plan for seven undeveloped acres on the Lower East Side is trying seeking to build support.

    By Patrick Hedlund


    The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area covers seven undeveloped acres just south Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge. (Wikipedia/Yori Yanover)


    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."

    http://www.dnainfo.com/20101213/lowe...#ixzz184sa435L

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    For Every Classic Dive Bar That Falls, a Lower East Side Hotel Rises

    December 14, 2010, by Joey Arak



    The saturation of new Lower East Side hotels is such that when Bowery Boogie posted the above construction shot of Orchard Street's latest finger building, we mistakenly took it for two other Orchard Street hotel projects before realizing that, actually, we have no idea what the hell this is. According to BB it's a 16-story, 80-room inn going up at 139 Orchard Street/138 Allen Street, to be called the Allen Street Hotel. Bowery Boogie previously posted an Edward Mills & Associates rendering that looks nearly identical to the Thompson LES boutique hotel just up the block. What gives?



    Allen Street Hotel Rapidly Rising [Bowery Boogie]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2010/1...rises.php#more

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    Agreement Seems Near on Long-Stalled Lower East Side Project

    By CARA BUCKLEY


    The area intended for renewal, looking southeast from Essex Street near Delancey.
    Four decades ago, the city razed 14 blocks to make way for development.
    The area has been parking lots since.


    The Lower East Side may be in the grips of a full-on gentrification, with a rotating cast of boutiques, hotels and cafes continuously flocking there, but several forlorn patches of land have remained frozen in time.

    Coated in asphalt, ringed with chain-link fencing and a magnet for garbage and rats, the parking lots lining the south side of Delancey Street near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge were meant to become beacons of urban renewal. Instead, they have sat undeveloped for 42 years, their prospects frozen by bitter disagreements over whether they should be made into commercial spaces or low-income housing or parks.

    But now local leaders are slowly coming to an agreement over what should be built at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, as the plots are collectively known. After two and a half years of intensive meetings and negotiations, members of Community Board 3, which represents the area, are hoping that by mid-January they will finish up guidelines for the parcels’ development.

    Various city agencies would then have to weigh in on and approve the proposal, a process that would probably take at least two years. But board members said that the community had never been closer to agreeing on a plan.

    “This is the furthest it’s ever come,” said Dominic Pisciotta, chairman of Community Board 3.

    The Seward Park stalemate began in 1967, when the city razed 14 blocks of tenements and ousted 2,000 residents to make way for new retail and residential sites. But subsequent proposals, including a plan by the Koch administration to have the developer Samuel J. Lefrak build on the site, were felled by community opposition.

    Advocates for low-income housing said the city needed to house the displaced and others squeezed out by Manhattan rents. But nearby co-op owners, concerned about property values, argued that the neighborhood was already saturated with low-income housing. Seward Park redevelopment became an issue that few politicians seemed willing to touch.

    David McWater, chairman of the community board task force writing guidelines for the site, said the board was emboldened by its successful recent campaign that rezoned about 110 blocks of the Lower East Side. The rezoning put height caps on new buildings, and also forged new relationships between previously disparate community voices.

    “The rezoning gave us momentum,” Mr. McWater said. “People found out that they had a lot more in common, that there was a lot more middle ground, than what was previously thought to be.”

    Under the proposed guidelines, the five remaining Seward Park redevelopment parcels would intersperse commercial and residential sites with open spaces and parks. The guidelines call for roughly 1,000 rental units; 40 percent to 60 percent would be market rate, 10 percent to 30 percent would go to middle- and moderate-income earners and roughly 30 percent would be low income. Residents ousted from the buildings razed in the late 1960s — at least those still around — may be given priority.

    The largest retailers would be “midbox,” no more than 40,000 square feet each. The city has also offered to include in the plan four nearby sites, including the Essex Street Market.

    “I love it,” Brett Leitner, who lives in the area, said of the plan. He formed a group to advocate for a “moderate third way” and avoid the factionalism that stalled development for four decades.

    Perhaps inevitably, there is still resistance to the proposal.

    Joel Kaplan, another community board member, believes commercial enterprises would be best for the site: shops, a movie theater and offices that could prompt local economic development. Alternatively, he said he would support building residences that were 80 percent market rate and 20 percent lower income.

    But Damaris Reyes, executive director of the Good Old Lower East Side tenant advocacy group, and a public member of the task force, said having up to 60 percent market-rate apartments was “unacceptable.”

    “It doesn’t reflect the needs of this neighborhood, the need of the people who live here,” said Ms. Reyes, who believes all the units should be for low-income earners. “We think that we can do better. The city can do better.”

    The community board chairman, Mr. Pisciotta, said Ms. Reyes’s vision was politically infeasible, given the still potent opposition from nearby co-op owners that has been going on for decades. Still, several board members said a shared agreement was well within reach.

    “Everybody can’t have everything they want,” Mr. McWater, the community board task force chairman, said, “but I think we’re pretty close to an equilibrium.”

    One official who looms over the discussion is Sheldon Silver, the State Assembly speaker, whose district includes the land and whose power base is in those co-ops. His approval is seen as crucial.

    “The speaker has tremendous respect for the leadership and members of Community Board 3 and their effort to achieve a true consensus about the future of Seward Park,” Mr. Silver’s spokeswoman, Sisa Moyo, said in a statement. “He believes it is important for that process to take its course before commenting.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/ny...l?ref=nyregion

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    Newest Plan for Empty Swath of Lower East Side: Wal-Mart?

    January 4, 2011, by Sara Polsky

    After an unusually newsworthy 2010, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area is kicking off 2011 with a shocker: more activity. Community Board 3 is honing its proposal for SPURA's future, which would have to undergo another two years of review before anything could happen on the stalled swath of land. The Villager has an update on the plans, which most recently called for about 1,000 rental units on the site, plus "midbox" retail, and perhaps a movie theater in a throwback to an LES past. That's still the plan supported by a group called Sustainable Housing and Retail Expansion, or SHARE. But two other community leaders oppose the amount of affordable housing planned for the site and have been pushing for a Costco or a Wal-Mart instead of midbox retail. Ruh-roh! But really, if any plot of land can wait while all sides work things out calmly, our money's on SPURA.

    New group is working to get SPURA out of park, into gear [The Villager]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...de_walmart.php

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    Giant Swath of Lower East Side Land Pisses Off Everyone Equally

    January 25, 2011, by Joey Arak

    Over 40 years after many Lower East Side homes were bulldozed at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in the name of urban renewal, community representatives have finally agreed on a plan to replace them. Last night a Community Board 3 subcommittee voted 20-1 to approve development guidelines for SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which has mostly been used as surface parking lots since the '60s. Curbed readers need no introduction to SPURA, which has suffered through countless stops and starts over the years. One of the hottest topics in this latest three-year negotiation cycle was affordable housing: Some think there's not enough, while others (mainly Co-op Village residents worried about property values) think there's too much. Just before the vote was taken, The Lo-Down writes, the SPURA panel's facilitator "noted that 'everyone is equally unhappy,' which he took as a good sign." Now that all the kvetching cancels itself out, what's next for SPURA?

    The guidelines, which now call for around 1,000 rental units (50% reserved for low- and middle-income tenants and senior citizens), "midbox" retail (sorry, Walmart!) and maybe even a new Essex Street Retail Market, must now be approved by the full CB3, which votes tonight. Things are looking good, as the proposal has picked up the endorsement of powerful Assembly Speaker and local-boy-made-good Sheldon Silver, who has traditionally steered clear of this class war. If the full board approves the guidelines, then it's on to the city's review, which could change things around and result in even more negotiations. It's been 40 years, so what's a few more?

    CB3 Committee Makes History, Votes to Redevelop SPURA [The Lo-Down]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...ually.php#more

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    Panel Backs Plan to Develop Site on Lower East Side With Housing

    By CARA BUCKLEY

    After sitting fallow for 43 years as the Lower East Side’s popularity soared, a desolate stretch of parking lots along Delancey Street is closer than ever to being transformed into housing and shops, potentially marking the end of a long and bitter stalemate over the future of the sites.

    On Monday night, at a meeting sprinkled with cheers, jeers and catcalls, a Community Board 3 task force voted nearly unanimously in favor of guidelines to develop the five parcels, collectively known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

    Under the guidelines, which were headed to a vote by the full board on Tuesday night, the properties would become the site of about 1,000 housing units — roughly half of which would be allocated to middle- and low-income earners — along with retail shops, green space and, potentially, a school.

    After the vote on Monday, the State Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, whose district includes the land, voiced his approval of the plan, giving it a crucial boost.

    “The final guidelines that were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders,” Mr. Silver said in a statement, “and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive.”

    The parcels have sat undeveloped since 1967, when the city razed 14 tenement buildings on them and displaced their 2,000 residents in the name of urban renewal. Various development plans were paralyzed by deep disagreements over what the sites ought to become.

    Some residents argued that they should be reserved for low-income families to preserve the neighborhood’s flavor and recapture people forced out by Manhattan’s nosebleed rents. Nearby property owners said the neighborhood had more than its fair share of low-rent apartments.

    “For 40 years, it has divided this community,” said David McWater, the chairman of the task force.

    Few local residents like the parking lots; one on Monday night called them “psychological and physical barriers” that isolated the neighborhood. Community leaders began tackling the development issue anew two and a half years ago, having won a rezoning campaign to restrict the height of buildings in a 110-block area in the Lower East Side.

    At a public hearing that preceded the vote, community members and advocates affirmed their hope that the housing be allocated solely for low- and middle-income families, a concept that others described as economically unfeasible. According to Mr. McWater, the site would house 1,500 low- and middle-income earners and create jobs for up to 700 people. The Essex Street Market sits on one of the sites, and could be moved as the parcels are developed, a prospect greeted with much local dismay.

    After approval by the full community board, the subcommittee’s plan would go to various city agencies for approval.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/ny...l?ref=nyregion

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    Seward Park Area is One Hot Lot


    Fallow since Moses, city property now under scrutiny in the Lower East Side

    Derrick Mead


    Delancey and Suffolk streets fall within the Seward Park Area.

    Seven acres at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan have the distinction of being the largest undeveloped plot of city-owned land below 96th Street. Mayors from Koch to Giuliani have tried and failed to set construction in motion on the property, a parking lot for 43 years, but recent developments indicate the Bloomberg administration may be the one to finally see a ground breaking. The Seward Park Area, or SPURA, as it has been dubbed, was created in 1967 by Robert Moses, who razed a total of 14 blocks of tenements to make way for the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. The Seward Park Cooperative housing projects, however, were all Moses was able to complete on this site, south of Delancey Street in the Lower East Side, at the waning of his career.

    Under the guidance of facilitator John Shapiro, Community Board 3 released a draft of guidelines for SPURA on November 16, 2010, with mixed-use stipulations and 40-60 percent of the ensuing 1,000 housing units to be sold at market-rate values. CB3 Chairman Dominic Pisciotta later told The New York Times these guidelines were “the furthest it’s ever come.” Yet within the community, obstacles to consensus remain, from the number of residential units reserved for low- and moderate-income tenants to the price of the land itself, which at $60 million some say is far too low.

    New York State assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, first elected to the downtown 64th district in 1974, has served through multiple plans for SPURA, including a 2006 mixed-use design by Arquitectonica, but has yet to weigh in on the latest. In a statement released last month, the speaker said, “I have great respect for the members of Community Board 3 and for the process that is taking place to form a consensus about the future of Seward Park. I think it is important to allow that process to be completed before commenting.”



    On January 24, CB3’s Land Use Committee voted in favor of the proposed planning guidelines. The breakdown shifted slightly in favor of affordable housing, now at 50 percent including 20 percent dedicated to low income and another ten for low income, senior. The audience was packed, among them a few who had originally been displaced by Moses in the 1960s and would like to be guaranteed housing opportunities to return.

    The full board was scheduled to vote on the following day as AN went to press. It seemed likely that approval would result. In a statement, Silver praised the progress being made, writing that “the guidelines which were approved by the committee tonight strike an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of all stakeholders and will result in a development that will ensure our neighborhood continues to thrive.”

    Once approved, the guidelines will be submitted to various city agencies for review, a process which could take up to 2 years. Even at that glacial pace, Mayor Bloomberg could wield the golden shovel at SPURA yet.

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=5122

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    Some Lower East Siders Against Possible Essex Street Market Move

    March 2, 2011, by Joey Arak


    [Photo via Flickr/Sadeea R]

    After 40 years of negotiations, one would think that the news of a preliminary agreement on how to develop the Lower East Side's SPURA would be greeted with blaring trumpets and a presentation of virgins. But the post-agreement Seward Park Urban Renewal Area is shaping up to be filled with just as many concerns as the pre-agreement one. Already critics are questioning whether the affordable housing built on the parking lots at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge will be truly affordable. Now, an online petition is circling asking that the Essex Street Market be left out of this mess.

    The historic city-run market was a late addition to SPURA, and if it were to be demolished to make way for whatever gets built, the draft guidelines call for the market to be relocated within the neighborhood, with an effort made to retain the tenants. But according to the Lower East Sider behind Save the Essex Street Market, that's not enough. The website calls for the preservation of the market in its current cramped digs because of the historic connection to the site and the lack of a guarantee that the current tenants can survive a move. Here's the petition. A formal SPURA plan isn't expected until the end of 2012, so this fledgling controversy has plenty of time to simmer.

    Save the Essex Street Market [savetheessexstreetmarket.org]
    Essex Street Market [Official Site]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0..._move.php#more

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    Is no one here interested in SPURA?


    SPURA's Environmental Review Actually Starting Soon

    July 28, 2011, by Sara Polsky



    SPURA and a calendar: two things that have not ever gone together. Which is why we were especially weirded out to see some dates attached to the project—which will bring affordable housing and retail to a swath of undeveloped Lower East Side parking lots that have been empty for 40 years—after a Community Board 3 committee meeting last night. The Lo-Down was on the scene, and officials from the city's Economic Development Corporation outlined the "maximum" plan the city will consider during its environmental review of the project. That's where the dates come in: the draft "scoping document" for the project will be issued late next month, and the environmental review will last through 2012. Once the review's done, the city and community board will put together a master plan, go through the ULURP process, and take proposals from developers. Going by this timeline, we probably won't see any real SPURA action until 2013—but given how long we've waited, the months will probably fly by!

    The "maximum" project that the EDC will be considering is a good refresher for what might happen on the site. And that is? Nine parcels' worth of development, 60 percent of it residential, for a total of 900 units. Half of that would be affordable housing. The project could include up to 10,000 square feet of green space and a public market, and underground garages would be built to replace the current SPURA lots. Any bets on what'll actually get built?

    City, CB3 Begin to Plan for SPURA Environmental Review [The Lo-Down]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0..._soon.php#more

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    Taking bets on the likelihood of this happening as rendered .


    Here Now, Renderings of the "Low Line", an Underground LES Park

    by Bilal Khan












    How it looks now

    Calling all fans of urban renewal projects who might be suffering from High Line anticipation withdrawal! New York reveals plans for a proposed underground park called the "Low Line" in the Lower East Side. Thought up by satellite engineer turned architect James Ramsey, PopTech exec Dan Barasch and money manager R. Boykin Curry IV, it's essentially a plan to convert an unused trolley terminal on Delancey Street into an underground park, illuminated by "remote skylights" which is "a system that channels sunlight along fiber-optic cables, filtering out harmful ultraviolet and infrared light but keeping the wavelengths used in photosynthesis." Ramsey goes on to say “Technology enables us to create an appealing green space in an underserved neighborhood...We’re channeling sunlight the way they did in ancient Egyptian tombs, but in a supermodern way.” Well then. We are very excited, although some of the renderings do resemble a mall-like atmosphere. The plan faces its first obstacle this Wednesday when Community Board 3 takes a look at the plan. Of course, we'll keep you up to date on what could just very well be a new obsession.

    The Renderings for the Delancey Underground Park on the Lower East Side [NYM]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...d_les_park.php

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    James Ramsey Tells Us About the 'Low Line,' His Proposed Subterranean Sci-Fi Green Space on the Lower East Side

    By Jen Doll

    James Ramsey, owner and founder of Raad Studio on the Lower East Side, has had a busy week. After New York Magazine unveiled his stunning renderings for The Delancey Underground (or, colloquially, "the Low Line," the name that seems to be sticking) -- an underground community green space proposed for an abandoned trolley terminal space beneath the Lower East Side -- he's been met with a whirlwind of interest in his idea. He presented last night to Community Board 3, and spoke to us today about his and partner (and third-generation Lower East Sider) Dan Barasch's plan to create an underground green space using advanced solar technology.

    The Low Line -- New York Magazine coined that nickname, right?

    I can't say we didn't consider that might be a name for it. We're trying to tread carefully with the community, though, and not make such overt comparisons with the Highline. This is something for the Lower East Side.

    How was the community board meeting last night?

    It went great last night. It was one of the more crowded community board events. We gave our presentation to the board and the audience, most of whom I think were there for us. We know that it's a pretty out-there idea, so rather than just going in and asking for endorsement, we thought it would be smarter to introduce the idea. I think they all got it very quickly. We want to initiate the conversation with the community about what exactly this is, what they would like to go into that space. We started off with a presentation, outlined the idea, opened it up to questions, and had a pretty frank conversation.

    What are people concerned about?

    All the usual negative associations that hover around subway stations, issues with security, darkness, dirtiness. We're asking people to imagine what's possible.

    Tell me about the space. What does it look like now?

    It's very different than most subway stations. It's an old trolley terminal, and it's a historical space from the turn of the last century. The MTA gave us a tour in March. Several things struck us. It's cavernous -- it's kind of like the scene in Lord of the Rings when they walk into the mountain and go into the dwarf cave, this large, spectacular space -- and a little bit Indiana Jones-ish, too. We were immediately struck by also, this thing is covered in cobblestones, and the old tracks are in there, the vaulted ceilings. That historical quality is something I'd love to see carry through, but with an ultra modern almost sci-fi insertion of greenery running through.

    Would you have Wifi? Cell phone capabilities?

    You're the first to ask that! We'll think about that.

    How big is the space?

    The MTA archives have an original architectural drawing showing it as 600 feet long by 100 feet wide. The MTA Signal Department is occupying some of that space, but the main bulk remains untouched, uncluttered. That's 60,000 square feet, two-thirds the size of Gramercy Park.

    Was it scary down there?

    I'm kind of a sucker for that sort of thing. In 1948 they turned off the trolleys, and it's just been pretty much in the same state since. I didn't see a single rat. I think it's pretty clear that once upon a time, in the last 60 years, people had been sleeping there, which is expected. It was an adventure.

    If you get the go-ahead and the project is completed, would you charge for admission?

    I would prefer not to charge. But we'd like to have the community tell us themselves what they would want. My office is on the ground level, Raad Studio, our door is almost always sitting open. We're very easy to get in touch with, and people should feel free to come and talk. The outpouring of support and volunteers and students writing dissertations, all since Sunday, has been very astounding and inspiring.

    What's next?

    My partner and I want to host an event for an extensive Q&A so we can foster a community conversation. We are in talks with people to settle on the exact space. We'd like to do a full-scale mockup of the technology and concept, a few months down the road -- in a warehouse or event space, we'd literally build a full-size version of this technology.

    All that sounds expensive! What's your funding plan?

    We have several concepts and models for how to raise funds. At this stage, I've personally funded almost the entire thing; it's kind of making me broke. We're not counting on city funding in any way. We have our eyes on certain types of grants, private donors, and certain types of loans. Again, I would prefer to not charge for admission. Maybe there's a greenmarket there in December...

    Speaking of greenmarkets...what do you say to those who criticize this as the yuppie-fication of the Lower East Side? There's no Standard Hotel nearby...

    There's no Boom Boom Underground! For one thing, the fact that we are engaging the community directly to figure out what exactly the community would like to see there would hopefully go to addressing issues like that. Maybe there's a larger point to make. Who says the Lower East Side can't have a landmark? What would be so terrible if the rest of the world looked to the Lower East Side and was envious? It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a neighborhood that's long been set aside.

    The MTA owns the space now? Will they lease it to you?

    The MTA holds the master lease; the space is owned by the city. They're open to it. They're legally bound to be open to every possibility. There have been a couple news stories recently citing the possibility of a big-box store there -- the community board would probably vote that down, but the MTA has to consider it.

    Does something like this exist in any other city?

    I don't personally know of anything like this in another city -- I've been to the medieval catacombs in Paris, but those aren't public gathering spaces. We're proposing a public green space; imagine people lying on a subterranean lawn...

    Would you let a Starbucks open there?

    Starbucks? It would be my great preference for that not to be the case. But if that's what people want, I would consider it.

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runnin..._ramsey_of.php

  15. #135
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    What’s Really Living in the ‘Low Line’ (Slideshow)

    By Drew Grant

    Start The Slideshow

    Who lives under the Williamsburg Bridge?

    Last week, New York magazine revealed James Ramsey and Dan Barasch‘s plans to create a subterranean green space in the abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Station under Delancey Street. The pictures that Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Barsch (a former NASA engineer and a PopTech executive with a background in non-profit social design and government work, respectively) produced for the article were futuristic wonderlands, like Japanese illustrations inspired by Ray Bradbury.

    But the reality is not so fanciful: The proposed “Low Line” project would transform the approximate 600 x 100 square feet area that lay across from the Brooklyn-bound JMZ-line into an organic public space that would be three quarters the size of Gramercy Park. It will cost millions of dollars in private funding, and will need the support of a community that has spent forty years fighting with another environmental group over approximately the same space above ground.

    “About three years ago, I was working on the channeling and redirection of sunlight” in mainly urban settings, Mr. Ramsey told the New York Observer while sitting in the RAAD offices on Christye street, only several blocks away from the proposed Delancey Underground project. “I was also working with a former engineer of the MTA, and he started telling me all these crazy stories about his time working in the 70′s. The city was at its rock bottom, and they were starting to discover all these weird underground spaces.

    “There’s something like 13 acres of unused underground space underneath New York…A lot of what we’re trying to do is thematically similar to rediscovering these lost spaces,” Mr. Ramsey told us.
    “The really crazy thing is that the MTA has only given two guided tours down to the space underneath Essex Market (where part of the Low Line space would exist), and what we saw down there was startling. It’s not a very safe place to go right now.”

    When we brought up our issue with the displacement of New York’s legendary Mole People, Mr. Ramsey concurred, “I think it’s safe to say that in the past sixty years, there have definitely been Mole People living there. There’s graffiti everywhere, and it didn’t make itself. It has a little bit of that feeling of Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”

    If you needed any more evidence of the existence of an underground community, the tiny house that stands with a door and windows smack dab in the middle of the Low Line’s proposed space can be seen if one squints hard enough into the darkness across the JMZ’s platform.

    But Mole People displacement is the least of the Low Line’s worries. First, the RAAD team will have to convince the community of Delancey Street that more construction is needed in the area.

    This might be particularly hard to do considering the neighborhood’s history: the equally environmentally-ambitious SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area) Project has spent fifty-some years in community meetings trying to come upwith a plan on what to do with their space. Since the proposed Low Line is literally across the street from SPURA, it is handled by the same community board, C.B. 3, leading to a whole bunch of cold feet, red tape and lack of public funding for the project.

    “It’s a very delicate balance,” Mr. Barasch tells us, “and we don’t want to disrupt the consensus that they (SPURA, city officials, and the community still living in the tenement hold-outs that haven’t been destroyed by LES’ parking lots) “have only recently come to.”

    Last week, Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Barasch showed their proposal to the C.B. 3, and though they say the community board was receptive, they’ve basically been told that unlike their friends at the High Line, they will receive no public funding whatsoever. Hopefully that is where Mr. Barasch’s knowledge in NYC non-profits and public sector will come in to raise private donors.

    “You have to remember that when the High Line was conceived, the situation was different than it is now,” says Mr. Barasch. “The recession hadn’t hit, and it was right after 9/11, when the city was looking to put money in an urban renewal project.” But the High Line was funded mainly with the help of private donors, and the RAAD group remains hopeful that these early research stages will lead them in the same direction.

    “New York has fifty percent less green space than any other major urban city, and the Lower East Side has the least eco-friendly space in all of the Manhattan. Our objective right now is to start a dialogue with community to get them interested in turning this abandoned space into a green area, while still honoring the history of the place,” says Mr. Ramsey.

    Already, they’ve altered their original illustrations to better reflect the space they saw on the tour. “We made it way less day-glow,” said Mr. Ramsey. A good first step, for sure.

    http://www.observer.com/2011/09/what...ine-slideshow/

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