Another Side of the SPURA Debate
In recent months, the debate over the fate of SPURA has reached an uncharacteristic fever pitch. Community Board 3 has already met a few times this year to field development ideas and hear from the neighborhood. But as you might imagine, not everyone is happy with the so-called progress.
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Most want to see this tremendous six-acre parcel of land, now just a collection of commercial parking lots, developed in a residential capacity with affordable housing. But there’s reason to remain skeptical, and others still prefer to see the space sit dormant. Like Julia Kent and Ernest Wurzbach. They believe that if development continues, the likely outcome to the scenario would be something much more akin Avalon Chrystie “with generic, reflective-glassed architecture and chain stores.” Both activists wrote the following letter to the board.
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From the inbox:
We are writing to express our viewpoint as stakeholders in the SPURA debate. We have not been able to communicate our perspective at any of the public meetings, but the issue is of vital importance to us. We live overlooking the site, and any development that occurs there will have an immediate and dramatic impact on our quality of life, property value, and livelihood.
The SPURA site, in its current state, is part of our daily environment. Some who are involved in this debate imply that the continued emptiness of the site has blighted the surrounding neighbourhood. We suggest that this is not true. The neighbourhood, as it exists today, is vibrant and demographically diverse, home to a multiplicity of small, unique, and, in some cases, historic businesses and cultural institutions. The site itself has existed as open, yet functional, space for 40 years. We are intimately familiar with the character of the site, since we look at it and walk through it on a daily basis.
We ask: Why the impetus to develop now, in this uncertain financial climate, and at a time when this neighbourhood already has seen radical, and not necessarily beneficial, changes created by development? The surrounding area is littered with abandoned private developments, the most egregious example being 183 Orchard Street, which has blighted an entire block of the Lower East Side for six years, causing the demise of businesses and untold disruption to residents. And construction projects undertaken by the city in this neighbourhood also do not have an impeccable record in terms of finishing expeditiously. We question whether the disruption that development will create will be equalled by the benefits it will provide. Certainly, construction on the SPURA site will negatively impact the lives of everyone who lives adjacent to the site; we hope that is being taken into consideration in this debate.
If development does take place, we hope it prioritizes open, green space; low-rise, architecturally innovative, and environmentally sensitive construction; and retail and cultural additions that will benefit the community and preserve its unique character, rather than generic towers and chain stores. We look to public housing projects in Europe, such as Gehry’s Siedlung Goldstein, as a model of what could be achieved here. The SPURA site is unique in New York City, and provides the opportunity to create a new urban paradigm; we hope that, if development is inevitable, that opportunity is not wasted.
We understand there are a multiplicity of viewpoints, priorities, and agendas involved here, and we are grateful for your consideration of ours. It seems to us that, for some of those who are involved in this debate, the issue of development on the SPURA site is something of an abstract concept. For us it is far from abstract. Due to our proximity to the site, any development will have an enormous impact on our lives. This why we are trying to have our voices heard as well. We are hoping there will be further opportunity for discussion.
What is your stance on the debate? Develop or delay?