CB3 Again Discusses Fate of Essex Street Market

Posted on: June 28th, 2011 at 6:40 am by

Hot on the heels of awful news that Jeffrey Ruhalter’s iconic butcher shop is officially kaput, Community Board 3 convened last night to deliberate over the issue of Essex Street Market.  When, not if, SPURA is rebuilt, the fate of this Lower East Side lifeblood will delicately hang in the balance.  The discussion remains a serious sticking point in proposals to redevelop the largest fallow tract of land in Manhattan.

Before the Economic Development Corporation (“EDC”), the city entity that owns the land, launched into its presentation, a half-dozen concerned residents and current vendors spoke their two cents about the Essex Street Market.  For example, Anne Saxelby of the five-year-old Saxelby Cheesmongers stands by preservation.  She spoke about how the institution and the Tenement Museum are inextricably linked.  How notions of separating use from space cannot fly in either situation.  Cynthia Lamb also took to the podium in her crusade to save the market, while simultaneously seeking landmark status.  Her Save the Essex Street Market petition reached well over 2,000 signatures, and includes heartfelt community commentary.

After last month’s meeting, the EDC went to the drawing board and designed a number of early-stage renderings for public display.  There are currently four distinct proposals on the table regarding the fate of the Essex Street Market:

  • A new facility at site 2, which is by far the most comprehensive plan.
  • Maintaining the status quo at site 9
  • Preserving the facade, but building behind.
  • Creating two separate market buildings.

If greenlighted, the new facility would be built on SPURA site 2, located on the east side of Essex between Broome and Delancey Streets.  Renderings promise a new state-of-the-art building that would offer modular market stalls accommodating between 35 and 65 vendors depending on business size.  Total retail footprint would be 14,000 square-feet of leasable space.  Residential units are planned in the vertical real estate above, while an outdoor spillover space is envisioned for Broome weekend activity.

The status quo plan is just that; the program stays as is for the foreseeable future.  However, this option still comes at the price of two vendor stalls.  As it stands, site 8 is the main trash depot.  To maintain the current state, a new garbage storage room would need to be housed inside site 9, eliminating some precious square-footage from the market floor.

Next up was the proposition to preserve the facade, but build a new structure behind it.  This is the most costly option, both in terms of construction and vendor movement, and would actually reduce the retail space inside.  It was quickly bad-mouthed by most committee members.

Lastly, and seemingly least, was a dual market system operating on both site 2 and 9, split by the Delancey artery.  Even the EDC wasn’t too thrilled about this one, believing it would cause rivalries and unnecessary competition between both buildings (i.e. old vs. new facility).

In the end, there are really only two options.  Stay put, or move to a new location on site 2.  That said, it appeared last night that much of the board was already resigned to a new building that employs similar design elements to the original.

Below is a handy cheat sheet of each design option:

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  • bowery boy

    Seems like they should do the fallow parts of SPURA first. And if they have enough brain cells to accomplish all that without total politicization, then have them come back after and reconsider doing something about the ESM. Don’t they have enough on their hands as it is???

  • Clearly the city is making a big push for a new market, as the overview of building a new structure was the bulk of their presentation last night. The mockups promise new, exciting, and expanded, but the slant and omissions give pause to this option.

    We have asked this at many meetings, and there is no current commitment of any kind to help the current vendors with capital costs, some of whom have spent upwards of a hundred thousand on buildouts of their space. This in and of itself could put some current vendors out of business. Likewise, while the current vendors have been promised the same rent upon a move, there has been no estimation of new vendor rents, something the EDC said was “too early to talk about.”

    A private developer would develop the site, but the ownership of the actual land/site was not yet worked out. Thus, to continuously throw the scare tactic of future administrations possibly not committed to maintaining a market as a reason to demolish the current Essex Street Market, the same can be said for a public space in a private development. Change administrations, and the budget could preclude a subsidized city market, putting the “new” market at full market rate. This would not reflect the diverse needs of our neighborhood. Furthermore, last night the EDC acknowledged that the current Essex Street Market is running in the black — it is paying for itself, and it is a success.

    Despite months of public commentary, no mention was made of the historic and cultural significance of the current Essex Street Market. Numerous historic tours include a stop at the Essex Street Market, and it is part of our rapidly vanishing Lower East Side. This critical fact was not detailed in the bullet points for keeping “Status Quo.”

    Another issue brought up, which one CB3 committee member asked for EDC to stop comparing as it was non-productive, was the possible loss of the housing units of the wall of 8 story buildings that would replace the current Essex Street Market. Last month, a committee member asked if those units could be transferred to the south of Delancey site. Last night, it was asked again, and conflicting answers were given: no, it would require an upzoning and no, no one wants that. However, no rendering has been provided to see how it could be realized, how up to 80 units could be dispersed throughout the south side lots, or even what the total number of housing units is to begin with (the last number was 800 to 1,000+).

    At prior meetings where the architects Beyer Blinder Belle showed development mockups, they made it very clear that the final development could be very different from their renderings, that their renderings were for the purpose of an environmental impact study only. The CB3 committee members must understand the omissions listed above, and realize that they are not voting on the renderings presented at the meeting last night. They should also truly embrace their own guidelines in which it states “there is a strong preference that the existing Essex Street Market remain on its current site,” as well as the more than 2,000 folks who have signed the online petition, many with heartfelt comments, to keep the current Essex Street Market as is.

    Cynthia Lamb
    SaveTheEssexStreetMarket.org

  • Nacalia

    Why not do what was done at Theater for the New City… utilize the airspace and keep the space that exists?