Essex Crossing, formerly known as SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area), is an underdeveloped area in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan that has several empty lots and residents who have been around ever since the rat infestation, drugs, and prostitution of the 1980s.
Phase one of this development will commence late Spring of this year with the construction of the area’s first condo, where 20 percent of the apartments will be affordable, relative to the median income in the surrounding area. There’s a building underway, only for senior citizens, that will have a ground medical clinic and retail stores; the apartment pricing will be below the market price. Current locals are not being priced out entirely compared to the gentrification of the Lower East Side in general, as there will be affordable housing at Essex Crossing. Though residents will still have the option of living there, some say that the culture of the SPURA is irreplaceable.
One of the parking lot workers, Andres Gonzalez, reminisced, “I used to play in these lots as a little kid," referencing the several local-business-owned parking lots in the area. Another SPURA native, Robert Rivera, worries about local businesses: "I want to see what these businesses do when they close these lots down [and] where they gonna park their trucks when these close down?" Community Board 3 of the SPURA community appointed architect and committee member, Ricky Leung, as the head of the project and as an advisor for developers. Residents are pleased by the clean-up since the drug epidemic of the 90s but are on the fence about Essex Crossing closing local businesses and demolishing old buildings, like a liquor store from 1928 that’s still there.
SPURA is historically the oldest underdeveloped city-owned area south of 96th Street. Once the remaining low-rise tenements and small businesses are demolished, phase one of the project will begin. The community is concerned that the “large influx” of people will lead to the overpopulation of a new area that is not designed for high volume traffic. With sites such as a movie theater, an Andy Warhol Museum, the upgraded Essex Street Market, and a bowling alley well on the way, there has to be an effective way to facilitate the new traffic. Currently, Essex Crossing adheres to the NYC reputation of having no parking, but New Yorkers should be used to that by now.