Developers begin bids on LES’ Seward Park

February 27, 2013 12:00PM

Nearly half a century late, “urban renewal” is heading for the Lower East Side. And one of the developers angling to redevelop the six-acre Seward Park Urban Renewal Area is Gotham Organization, the New York Times reported.

Gotham, led by Joel Picket, told the Times that it is bidding for a contract, although the city prohibits bidding developers for publicly discussing their proposals.

Gotham is currently developing affordable housing in Hell’s Kitchen and partnering with Grid Properties to develop a a $14 million, three-story retail building at 269 West 125th Street in Harlem.

Other developers, such as Related, Forest City Ratner Edward J. Minskoff Equities, Avalon Bay Communities, Jonathan Rose Cos. and L+M Development, have all expressed interest in the site.

The Lower East Side area was once home to the tenement residences of nearly 2,000 New Yorkers before it was bulldozed in 1967, is finally seeing proposals by developers.

The site is the city’s largest undeveloped swath of land in Manhattan south of 96th Street and is composed of nine sites, including several parking lots along the south side of Delancey Street from Essex Street to the Williamsburg Bridge. In total, the sites make up approximately 1.65 million square feet of space ripe for development.

“Forty-five years is a very long time to look at those lots every day, and that wasn’t something that we wanted to continue for another 40 years,” Gigi Li, the chairwoman of Community Board 3, said. “I think this time when all the stakeholders were called, we were really hoping that this would be the time that everything would move along.”

Like the Lower East Side itself, the highly politicized site was caught in the struggle between the interests of the powerful and the poor, between the Grand Street co-ops, lobbying for market-rate housing, and advocates of affordable housing. The new plan takes the middle ground, calling for 1,000 new units of housing, half of which will be permanently affordable. Commercial and public space will fill the remaining 40 percent of the development area, including street level retailing, hotel or office space, as well as public space and a new public school. [NYT]Christopher Cameron