Mary Spink, Leader in C.B. 3’s SPURA Efforts, Is Dead at 64

Screen shot 2012-01-17 at 4.32.18 PMCourtesy of Daniel Squadron Ms. Spink with State Senator Daniel Squadron

Mary Spink, a member of Community Board 3 recognized for decades of community activism, including work on sustainable and affordable housing, died yesterday morning at around 12:30 a.m. after struggles with liver and kidney failure. Her colleague at the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association, Rona Clemente, said Ms. Spink was 64. The news was first reported by The Lo-Down.

In an e-mail to The Local, Susan Stetzer, the board’s district manager, wrote, “Mary was a good friend and a hero in the community. Many people talk about making change — Mary made things happen.”

“Mary was [a] comrade in everyday battles to work for the Lower East Side and she was friends/family with many people in the L.E.S.,” Ms. Stetzer added. “She was on many boards dedicated to working for people in the community — such as the Girls Club (until very recently) and the East Village Community Coalition, as well as the Community Board — and there were no boundaries between this work and her everyday life. Mary is much loved and will be very missed.”

Ms. Spink served as treasurer of C.B. 3 starting in 2010, when she became a member of the full board. She was previously a public member of the Land Use, Zoning, and Housing committee, where she worked on East Village and Lower East Side rezoning. She was also the executive director of the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association.

“She was a fighter. She was family,” said Ms. Clemente, noting that her colleague had been homeless in the past. “She was in a difficult situation. She knew what it was like not having a place to live. It was so important to her to build low-income housing. That was her mission.” Ms. Clemente said she will be taking over Ms. Spink’s position in a few weeks. “They’re big shoes to fill. If I can do half of what she did, we’ll be good.”

Dominic Pisciotta, the board’s chair, wrote in an e-mail: “Her work and passion to develop sustainable and affordable housing on the Lower East Side was parlayed into a leadership role in the historic 2011 agreement on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, a matter she long felt passionate about.”

The Lo-Down pointed out that Mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned the long-debated SPURA site in his State of the City address last week. “This year,” he said, “we’ll take steps to bring more affordable housing to the Lower East Side around Delancey Street to a site that has sat largely vacant for a half-century.” The swaths of property, near Delancey and Grand Streets, have long been eyed by the city as a site for major development, and have caused much anxiety about the future of the Essex Street Market.

Mr. Pisciotta wrote, “I regret that Mary did not have the opportunity to be with us for our final vote on the ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. She worked very hard and her dedication positively impacted many in our community. Her contributions and our memory of them will be recognized as we move forward with the issues she cared about.” Last January, during the board’s approval of SPURA guidelines, Ms. Spink described the call for 50 percent affordable and 50 percent market-rate housing “the best we could do with a bad situation.”

Ms. Spink was also the recipient in 2011 of a “Women of Distinction” award from State Senator Daniel Squadron.

Ms. Stetzer wrote, “Mary and [Council Member] Rosie [Mendez] and I made the trip together — and I am so thankful for that. It meant so much to her that Daniel chose her for the award — and it was time together to just enjoy each other without work or pressure. I will take that memory with me.”