November 7, 2019
Essex Crossing Is the Anti-Hudson Yards
The new mixed-use mega-project on the Lower East Side heals a civic wound with hundreds of affordable apartments, community perks and a sleek home for Essex Market.
By Michael Kimmelman - The New York Times
Even half-done, Essex Crossing, on the Lower East Side, is shaping up as one of New York’s most promising new mixed-use developments — the anti-Hudson Yards.
A $1.9 billion, six-acre, for-profit mega-project occupying several blocks around Delancey Street where traffic barrels onto and off the Williamsburg Bridge, it replaces what had been a vast no-man’s land and gaping civic wound with new subsidized apartments, a bushel of community perks, parkland, a movie multiplex, office and retail space for local businesses and a capacious new home for the city-owned Essex Market.
Launched a decade ago during the Bloomberg administration, shepherded through the de Blasio years by New York’s Economic Development Corporation and master-planned by SHoP and Beyer Blinder Belle, two big city-based architecture firms, Essex Crossing results from long years of ground-up neighborhood consultation and holistic planning. If you have been anywhere near the Lower East Side lately you could hardly have failed to notice the egregious new supertall that the opportunistic developer called Extell has imposed some blocks away along the waterfront around the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
Other developers are now bidding to erect more towers there. Taking advantage of anomalous zoning regulations, these projects have provoked some very loud, angry protests from residents who feel the buildings are being shoved down the throats of a largely poor, immigrant, low- and mid-rise community.
By contrast, while some Lower East Siders remain leery, a relative lack of vocal opposition to Essex Crossing since 2013 — when a consortium of developers and investors calling themselves Delancey Street Associates won the competition to do the project — seems testament to the virtue and value of arduous, upfront negotiations and plans. This may come as close as we can now get, in a political system obeisant to private enterprise, to balancing equity with gentrification.