Lower East Side Development Spells Decline of Old Jewish Power Brokers

Seward Park Project Signals End of Era in Old Neighborhood

Location, Location: The development of an unimpressive looking stretch of the lower East Side after decades of delay signals a political changing of the guard in the fast gentrifying area of Manhattan.
ari jankelowitz
Location, Location: The development of an unimpressive looking stretch of the lower East Side after decades of delay signals a political changing of the guard in the fast gentrifying area of Manhattan.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published March 04, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
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“He was very clear with me that my point of view was different from the historical point of view of the Lower East Side,” Tumminia said.

Meanwhile, Berg, who also isn’t Jewish but lives in the Seward Park Cooperative with his Jewish husband, had just been elected to head the local community board. In early conversations with Silver’s office, Berg said that he saw openness to backing a new deal.

Tumminia said that it’s clear that his co-op board got Silver’s ear. The co-ops represent 4,000 apartments and tens of thousands of votes. Those votes historically had been anti-redevelopment, but now they had elected a pro-redevelopment co-op board. “I think in the end you have to consider, what do my constituents want,” Tumminia said.

“Sheldon Silver’s political base was no longer speaking with one voice on the issue,” wrote blogger Ed Litvak of The Lo Down in an email to the Forward. “While some of the people closest to Silver continued to oppose any redevelopment plan that emphasized affordable housing, it became untenable politically for him to oppose a compromise so many of his constituents had worked to achieve.”

The deal hammered out under Berg’s watch isn’t what advocates for affordable housing had been hoping for. According to the Request for Proposal, which the New York City Economic Development Corporation issued on January 9, the ten parcels will be split between commercial space and residential space. Only 1,000 residential units will be built on the lots, only half of them “affordable.” Those affordable apartments are set aside for a variety of income levels.

Yet the plan benefited from heavy support from city government. It’s one of a number of major redevelopment projects that the Bloomberg administration is working to initiate in its final term.

So Silver is on board. “The final guidelines were adopted by the community board unanimously and reflect the needs and wishes of our neighborhood,” Silver said in a statement emailed to the Forward. “I look forward to seeing the construction of much-needed housing, public space, retail and other amenities that will further encourage our Lower East Side community to continue to grow and thrive.”


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