In 1965, using the power of Eminent Domain, the City designated a 14-block, 7 acre area of the Lower East Side as “blighted” and began demolishing everything on it. At the time it was home to 1,800 families and 300 small businesses, and served as a focal point of a thriving and diverse community. After the land was cleared and the people and businesses removed, the area remained vacant for over 50 years (see Chronology of a Wasted City Resource).
SPARC formed to ensure that much of the demolished housing was replaced with apartments that the low-income displaced families could afford. We watched over the area while many plans were designed and defeated for the area. In 2009, SPARC participated in a community-wide stake-holder process that resulted in a compromise plan for the site that included: 500 units of affordable housing and 500 units of market rate housing; a relocated and expanded Essex Street market; and additional commercial stores, a hotel, park and recreation uses.
SPARC remains the self-appointed Guardians of the Site Tenants – working to make sure they have the opportunity to return home through a preference in the lottery for the affordable housing that is built.
Pictured below: Former site tenant Beatriz Torres Guzman in a baby carriage with her mother, Carmen Guzman, on a SPURA street in June 1962. Beatriz was nine months old.