Seward Park Urban Renewal Area

The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) is an area on Manhattan's Lower East Side south of Delancey Street by the entrance to the Williamsburg bridge. The area was declared "blighted" and cleared in 1967, but as of this writing forty years later, five parcels remain undeveloped, with four of them being used for parking lots. These blocks and the controversy they still inspire serve as a sad postscript to a misguided era of massive Federal urban renewal projects in the mid 20th century.

Numerous proposals for the site have come and gone over the years, with housing advocates pushing for low-cost housing and area co-op owners attempting to attract upscale development that will increase the value of their property.

The undeveloped area consists of four blocks of parking lots bounded on the north by Delancey Street, on the south by Broome Street, on the west by Essex Street and on the east by Clinton Street.

The westernmost lot between Essex and Norfolk
10/10/2008 01:59 PM
The westernmost lot between Essex and Norfolk
The lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
10/10/2008 02:00 PM
The lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
The lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
10/10/2008 02:01 PM
The lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
Looking west at the lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
10/10/2008 02:02 PM
Looking west at the lot between Norfolk and Suffolk
The lot between Suffolk and Clinton
10/10/2008 02:03 PM
The lot between Suffolk and Clinton
Looking south down Clinton Street between the easternmost lots
10/10/2008 02:04 PM
Looking south down Clinton Street between the easternmost lots
Looking northwest at the lot between Clinton and Suffolk
10/10/2008 02:06 PM
Looking northwest at the lot between Clinton and Suffolk
The lot east of Clinton
10/10/2008 02:06 PM
The lot east of Clinton
The lot east of Clinton
10/10/2008 02:07 PM
The lot east of Clinton
Approach to the Manhattan Bridge on Delancey
10/10/2008 02:04 PM
Approach to the Manhattan Bridge on Delancey
Blue, a gaudy luxury tumor growing across the Delancey Street
10/10/2008 01:58 PM
Blue, a gaudy luxury tumor growing across the Delancey Street

There is an additional "undeveloped" block south of Broome between Suffolk and Clinton. The north half of the block contains what appears to be a decommissioned fire house with art deco touches from the 1930s. The southern half of the block contains two residual tenament buildings - how they survived the demolition phase, I haven't a clue.

The lot south of Broome between Suffolk and Clinton
10/10/2008 02:02 PM
The lot south of Broome between Suffolk and Clinton
Old firehouse
10/10/2008 02:08 PM
Old firehouse
Old firehouse
10/10/2008 02:08 PM
Old firehouse
Old firehouse viewed from the east on Clinton Street
10/10/2008 02:09 PM
Old firehouse viewed from the east on Clinton Street
Rear of the firehouse
10/10/2008 02:14 PM
Rear of the firehouse
Rear of the firehouse
10/10/2008 02:14 PM
Rear of the firehouse
Remaining tenaments on Grand Street between Suffolk and Clinton
10/10/2008 02:11 PM
Remaining tenaments on Grand Street between Suffolk and Clinton
Remaining tenaments on Grand Street between Suffolk and Clinton
10/10/2008 02:11 PM
Remaining tenaments on Grand Street between Suffolk and Clinton
Tenaments
10/10/2008 02:12 PM
Tenaments
Work on a tenament building
10/10/2008 02:10 PM
Work on a tenament building
Looking north on Clinton Street
10/10/2008 02:09 PM
Looking north on Clinton Street
Vacant parking area on the southwest corner of the block
10/10/2008 02:12 PM
Vacant parking area on the southwest corner of the block
Vestigial brick pavement on Suffolk street
10/10/2008 02:14 PM
Vestigial brick pavement on Suffolk street
Maher and Flockhart - Polk St, Newark, NJ
10/10/2008 02:14 PM
Maher and Flockhart - Polk St, Newark, NJ
C.T. and E.S. Co.
10/10/2008 02:14 PM
C.T. and E.S. Co.
Looking north up Suffolk Street
10/10/2008 02:15 PM
Looking north up Suffolk Street

The block bordered by Broom, Norfolk, Grand and Suffolk Streets (south of the undeveloped SPURA blocks) is home to a church, an apartment tower of fairly recent vintage (with Chinese lettering on it), and an older, solid-looking five-story apartment building that seems to be a survivor of the SPURA demolitions.

Older building on Grand at Suffolk to the east of the Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 02:13 PM
Older building on Grand at Suffolk to the east of the Seward Park Extension
Grand Bakery / Chester Fried Chicken
10/10/2008 02:15 PM
Grand Bakery / Chester Fried Chicken
Tuerack Agency / Two Boots Pizza
10/10/2008 02:16 PM
Tuerack Agency / Two Boots Pizza
Abandoned community garden
10/10/2008 02:16 PM
Abandoned community garden
Chinese apartment tower
10/10/2008 02:18 PM
Chinese apartment tower
Grand Street
10/10/2008 02:17 PM
Grand Street

The block bordered by Broome, Norfolk, Grand and Essex Streets (south of the undeveloped SPURA blocks) is the Seward Park Extension, a NYCHA complex consisting of two, 23-story buildings. The buildings have 359 apartments for 812 residents and were completed October 31, 1973.

Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 01:59 PM
Seward Park Extension
Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 02:17 PM
Seward Park Extension
Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 02:18 PM
Seward Park Extension
Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 02:19 PM
Seward Park Extension
Seward Park Extension
10/10/2008 02:19 PM
Seward Park Extension

Seward Park itself sits in the corner of a triangle formed by Essex Street, East Broadway and the Seward Park Houses. The city acquired the land for Seward Park by condemnation in 1897 but left the site unimproved until the Outdoor Recreation League (ORL) included the park with the nine privately-sponsored playgrounds they opened between 1898 and 1902. Seward Park opened in the north corner of the park on October 17, 1903 as the country's first municipally-built playground. The playground was a prototype for other playgrounds around the city and country with cinder surfacing, fences, a recreation pavilion, and play and gymnastic equipment. The 1903 park design also incorporated a large running track, a children's farm garden and a terra cotta pavilion with marble baths, a gymnasium and meeting rooms. The park was largely rebuilt in 1941 with facilities for basketball, horseshoe-pitching, and shuffleboard courts, and a large paved area adaptable for roller skating, paddle tennis, and ice skating. (Parks Dept. Historical Sign).

William H. Seward Park
10/10/2008 02:23 PM
William H. Seward Park
Tennis and basketball court
10/10/2008 02:22 PM
Tennis and basketball court
Seward Park
10/10/2008 02:34 PM
Seward Park
Seward Park
10/10/2008 02:39 PM
Seward Park
Schiff Fountain (1895)
10/10/2008 02:25 PM
Schiff Fountain (1895)
Police warning
10/10/2008 02:26 PM
Police warning

In 1957, the triangle bounded by Essex, East Broadway and Grand (to the east and north of the park) was condemned and leveled to build the Seward Park Houses as a private, free-market co-op. 219 buildings (most dating well back into the 19th century) housing 4,300 people were demolished. The development that opened in 1960 consisted of four 20-story residential buildings housing 1,728 families, two commercial structures and a small office building.

Seward Park Housing Corporation
10/10/2008 02:31 PM
Seward Park Housing Corporation
Seward Park Houses
10/10/2008 02:32 PM
Seward Park Houses
Seward Park Houses
10/10/2008 02:28 PM
Seward Park Houses
Seward Park Houses
10/10/2008 02:28 PM
Seward Park Houses
Seward Park Houses
10/10/2008 02:37 PM
Seward Park Houses

The only buildings spared during the demolition for Seward Park Houses were a public library building and the Bialystoker Home for the Aged.

Seward Park Branch Library
10/10/2008 02:28 PM
Seward Park Branch Library
Seward Park Branch Library
10/10/2008 02:33 PM
Seward Park Branch Library
Bialystoker Home
10/10/2008 02:29 PM
Bialystoker Home
Bialystoker Home
10/10/2008 02:30 PM
Bialystoker Home
Bialystoker Home
10/10/2008 02:30 PM
Bialystoker Home