Thursday, August 28, 2008

Seward Park Redevelopment

In a piece that we had missed in the Village Voice, Tom Robbins examines the failure to develop the Seward Park urban renewal site and finds fault with Shelly Silver's role: "Just south of Delancey Street on the Lower East Side, near the bustling entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge, lies that rarest Manhattan commodity: vacant land. This is not just a few buildable lots, but a huge swath of property, some five acres in all, every square inch of it owned by the City of New York. It is a fabulous parcel, the kind that developers—like those building the swanky new towers rising on the other side of Delancey Street—only dream about."

According to Robbins Silver has his thumb on the scale: "Who else but that wily old pol, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. This strip—carried on zoning maps as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area—is the northern edge of Silver's lower Manhattan district. And while he rarely leaves fingerprints, nothing moves here without his approval. In Albany, where he is the state's second-most-powerful figure, Silver is notorious for his often-obstructionist ways. On Seward Park, he has outdone himself. Under his watch, this territory has remained desolate and empty for more than 30 years, held hostage to stubborn prejudice and fear of change."

Well, we don't know if Silver is the one to blame on this failure, but we do know that this area would be ripe for a mixed-use development that includes a neighborhood supermarket-and we also know that Touro College had been interested in developing the site, but there's more obstructions than the Speaker in this shameful lack of development. The neighborhood remains fractious; so much so that any plan is doomed almost before it starts.

So, it appears to us, that the Bloombergistas could have been more engaged here; and that engagement might have been enough to overcome all of the nettlesome obstacles. Given the lame duck status of the mayor, however, it's unlikely to occur on his watch.