Op-Ed: Saving the Essex Street Market
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.