Future of Essex St. Market Uncertain

Essex Street MarketSuzanne Rozdeba Preservationists have rallied around the Essex Street Market, which may be forced to move because of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area development project.

While a battle between preservationists and the developer of 35 Cooper Square is still brewing, residents on the Lower East Side are raising their voices about the possible uprooting of another historic location, the 70-year-old Essex Street Market.

“If that market had disappeared, and I had just sat back in my apartment, I don’t think I could live with myself,” said Cynthia Lamb, a Lower East Side resident who is circulating a petition to keep the market, home to more than 20 businesses, from being relocated as part of the contentious Seward Park Urban Renewal Area project. The site is home to five parcels of land that have sat empty as a development debate has steeped for over 40 years. John Shapiro, the city’s planning consultant, has suggested a “superior location” elsewhere on the Seward Park site for the market.

Ms. Lamb is working with Linda C. Jones, a Lower East Side resident and advisor on the Historic Districts Council, to save the market. Ms. Jones sent a Request for Evaluation yesterday to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on behalf of the Seward Park History and Preservation Club, asking for landmark designation. “I argue on the grounds of its history’s meaning within the city of New York. Its culture is a part of our neighborhood that’s irreplaceable and unique,” she said.

On Tuesday, Ms. Lamb, a technology consultant increasingly finding herself in the role of preservationist, met with the Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the market, to discuss her concerns. She said that so far, they have been very responsive in working with the community.

Essex Street Market Suzanne Rozdeba One proposal would move the market to what a planning consultant has called a “superior” location.

Last month, Community Board 3, along with several city organizations met again to discuss the project’s guidelines for developing the site. The guidelines mention the building of about 1,000 housing units, with roughly half as low and middle-income housing units, shops, a nursing home and school. The building of a hotel and office space was also mentioned at the meeting.

Ms. Jones, who is also on Community Board 3’s Land Use, Zoning, Public and Private Housing Committee, said that the Economic Development Corporation has been “tremendously supportive. They want to do the right thing.” The market will next be formally discussed at the Community Board’s Seward Park committee meeting on May 25. “This is a part of raising the consciousness of the importance of retaining the market,” said Ms. Jones. “There’s a lot of work to do.”