Open City: Blogging Urban Change
By Jerome Chou


At the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, you’ll find one of few areas of the Lower East Side that still looks much like it did forty years ago. In 1967, city government demolished fourteen old tenements along Delancey Street, vowing to replace them with new apartment buildings. Some of the units were replaced, but several large parcels of land fell into a kind of purgatory. Despite numerous plans and proposals, today parking lots still line Delancey.

Two generations of local residents have projected their hopes and anxieties on these lots, which fall within the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA. In late January, Community Board 3, which represents Chinatown and the Lower East Side, voted to approve a new set of guidelines for the future development of SPURA, including an anticipated 1,000 new residences.

The Community Board’s decision was widely covered in the press, but few news outlets looked closely at what the guidelines proposed. (The most detailed and wide-ranging coverage of SPURA can be found at The Lo-Down, Ed Litvak’s and Traven Rice’s blog about the LES.) Over the next few months, Open City will examine various elements of the guidelines, and what they mean for the neighborhood and the city. Does the range of rental prices proposed by the new guidelines reflect what the current residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side can afford? What kinds of subsidies and incentives will a SPURA development project receive? What should the city’s goals be for development projects in these two neighborhoods?

We at Open City don’t pretend to have these answers. But hopefully our future posts can add to the ongoing discussions about SPURA and similar projects in neighborhoods around the city.

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

Read more.

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