Community Board 3 voted in favor of a plan to turn seven city-owned acres just south of the Williamsburg Bridge into a 1.7 million-square-foot mixed-use development.
After more than 40 years, the massive Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project in the Lower East Side moved one important step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday evening when Community Board 3 unanimously voted in favor of the plan.
The project calls for turning five fallow city-owned lots, totaling seven acres and lie just south of Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge, into a 1.65 million-square-foot mixed-use development made up of 40% commercial and 60% residential. The residential portion of the development will be comprised of roughly 900 apartments, half of which will be affordable. All together this would be one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Manhattan on city-owned land in years.
The community board approved the plan under the condition that the affordable housing be permanent instead of just for 30 to 60 years as had been suggested earlier. The city agreed to the stipulation. Affordable housing has been a major stumbling block for the project in the past. Previously, many in the community insisted that 100% of the apartments be affordable. Most now accept that some market rate apartments are needed to make the project financially feasible.
The vote is just the first step in a complex public approval process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure, which is expected to be completed in the fall. The City Council and mayor have the final approval. If the project is given the green light, the next step would be for the city to issue a formal request for proposals to find a developer to take on the project.
“Over the course of the last three years, it has been made abundantly clear that the issue of permanent affordability was one of, if not the, highest priority for this community board and Lower East Side residents,” said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the area, in a statement.
Aside from affordable housing, the community was also very concerned about remaining actively involved in the Seward Park development.
“Last week, the city agreed to create a task force to ensure that this community remains involved as this process moves forward,” said Ms. Chin. “This unprecedented move by the city will ensure that your voices continue to be heard in the request for proposals process and beyond. In addition to providing oversight and accountability, this task force will work to ensure that affordable housing is built and that is it built first.”
While the issues over affordability and community involvement have been settled for now, new concerns have emerged. Some residents would like to see a school added to the development and others would like to make sure that the retail space will not go to a big-box store.
The plan will now move to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for his review and recommendations.
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