(Re)Visiting SPURA An exhibition by students of the City Studio at Eugene Lang College, the New School & Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani.
Abrons Art Center Henry Street Settlement 466 Grand Street, NYC 10002
April 7 - May 20, 2011 Opening: Thursday April 7, 2011 6-8pm
SPURA and the City Studio More than forty years ago, New York City took ownership of an area on the Lower East Side bounded by Essex, Delancey, Grand, and Willett Streets for “slum clearance” and urban renewal. You might know it as the area around the Abrons Art Center (where this exhibition is being held), or as those parking lots on Delancey Street, or you may know someone who once lived there. This is the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Few renewal projects have been so contested, and very few of the originally-planned buildings were ever built. As a result, it remains the largest undeveloped city-owned parcel of land south of 96th Street. Many people were once displaced from the site, some now live on it, and many people live in the blocks around it. Many different communities claim SPURA, and imagine different futures for it. Planning for SPURA is now happening, with a series of Community Board planning meetings in 2010 which continue into 2011 - the decisions made now will have enormous impact on the Lower East Side and New York City at large. For the past three years, New School Urban Studies faculty Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani has taught the “City Studio” class to consider this contested site and its history, while stressing engagement with the community planning process and the multiple Lower East Side communities. The class challenges students to understand histories of housing in
New York City, theories of urban development and community participation, and asks them to engage in archival, ethnographic, visual and participatory research. Students develop careful and creative methods for researching SPURA and finally stretch that research by collectively making exhibitions which pose questions and help envision this site’s future. In February 2009, City Studio curated “Visualizing SPURA” at common room gallery at 465 Grand Street, using many media to allow visitors to make their voices heard about the future and everyday life of this complex site. In February 2010, the second exhibition in the series opened at common room, “Exploring SPURA”, delving into the resources and restrictions of living at SPURA then and now. This year’s exhibition, “(Re)Visiting SPURA” explores a range of ways to see this complex place, through considering the SPURA diaspora, displaced many years ago, SPURA’s current conditions, and the complex conversations about planning for its future. Created by the Fall 2010 City Studio, this exhibition springs from research in, and with, the community - we talked with people in Seward Park buildings, at community planning sessions and at Community Board meetings. We researched SPURA’s history, and learned about possibilities for its future. The exhibition is made up of a sound walk through
SPURA (its public spaces & conversations), an oral history film of memories of SPURA, and a series of block panoramas, accompanied by “frames” which let you see the neighborhood in a variety of ways. City Studio exhibitions have sometimes been places where people with divergent points of view come together. Each year, we hope to encourage further productive conversation about SPURA’s future. Over three years, this class has built collaborations with a range of organizations, Good Old Lower East Side, Pratt Center for Community Development, City Lore’s Place Matters project, the architecture firm & gallery common room, and in 2011, the Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Art Center. Our partners have taken part in critiques, seen work develop, and have welcomed students into their community work. These partnerships, and the changing politics at SPURA, help to shape the course each year. The 2011 City Studio creators of (Re)Visiting SPURA are: Matthew Fujibayashi, Joshua Guerra, Jaclyn Hersh, Sohee Kim, Corey Mullee, Amy Nguyen, David Privat-Gilman, Ian Pugh and Matthew Taylor. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is the professor and exhibition curator. The City Studio is sponsored by the Eugene Lang, New School Office of Civic Engagement.
SPURA : The north side of Grand Street
What is SPURA?
SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (originally the SPURA Extension) is a city-owned area of land on New York’s Lower East Side bounded Essex, Delancey, Grand, and Willett Streets, cleared in 1967 for “slum clearance” and urban renewal. Few of the originally-planned buildings were ever built. The Seward Park co-ops across Grand Street had been the first phase of SPURA urban renewal in 1960.
You are here ! Abrons Art Center
A selection of readings
City Studio attended some very important meetings and community planning sessions in the Fall of 2010, particularly concerned with the future of SPURA.
Public planning workshops: October 3, 2010 (St Mary’s Church) October 5, 2010 (Seward Park Ext Community Ctr) October 7, 2010 (Grand Street Settlement) [City Studio helped to facilitate] October 20, 2010 CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee @PS 124 : 40 Division Street [City Studio listened to the community] November 7, 2010 SPURA “memorial”@ Delancey + Suffolk [City Studio listened to the community] November 16, 2010 CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee @University Settlement, Speyer Hall 184 Eldridge Street (btwn Rivington & Delancey Sts) [City Studio listened to the community and saw the presentation of feedback from the October public planning sessions] Fall 2010 [City Studio engaged in on-street and in-building informal conversations with residents]
+ The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History by Dolores Hayden + “The Tenement: Place for survival, object of reform” by The Chinatown History Project in If You Lived Here, by Martha Rosler. + A History of Housing in New York City by Richard Plunz + “The Role of Housing in the Experience of Dwelling” by Susan Saegert, in Home Environments + “The Contradictions of Housing” by Peter Marcuse, in Housing: Symbol, Structure, Site + “Grieving for a lost home” by Marc Fried, in The Urban Condition + Resistance: A Radical Political & Social History of the LES, edited by Clayton Patterson + Inquiry by Design: Tools for environment-behavior research, by John Zeisel + “Walking, Emotion, and Dwelling: Guided Tours in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn” by Gabrielle BendinerViani in Space & Culture journal + “The personal archive as historical record” by Susan Schwartzenberg, in Visual Studies journal + “Alternative Space” by Rosalyn Deutsche in If You Lived Here by Martha Rosler.
City Studio reads broadly about the city, about experience of place, and about the history of SPURA. We also read oral histories from the Lower East Side and from SPURA. We also read about visual strategies for representing the city, and visit many exhibitions for inspiration.
+ One Place After Another, by Miwon Kwan + “Psychological Maps of Paris”, by Stanley Milgram, in Environmental Psychology + “The Agency of Mapping” by James Corner, in Mappings + Building Boundaries : The politics of urban renewal in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, by Joan Turner + The Million Dollar blocks online project + “Planning: Power, Politics, People” and “Housing: Gentrification, Dislocation and Fighting Back” two community meeting transcripts, in If You Lived Here by Martha Rosler + Original SPURA Extension promotional plans (c. mid-1960s) + Seward Park Extension Urban Renewal Project, First Amended Urban Renewal Plan, 1964 + Community Voices and the Future of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area by the SPURA Matters project and the Pratt Center for Community Development + Selections of articles on SPURA over the past 30 years, from: The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Villager, and other local blogs and newspapers. + Selections from the SPURA oral history project
SPURA 1965 : Housing to be demolished
What was here?
What is here?
What will be here?
The SPURA site was 14 square city blocks primarily made up of densely packed housing - much of it like the tenements that still remain on the Lower East Sideâ€™s surrounding blocks. When this housing was demolished, 1,852 families were displaced, many of whom were of low or moderate income, many of whom were people of color. Some residents were rehoused in public housing nearby, some left the neighborhood, some were rehoused in new apartments at SPURA. There were never enough new units built for everyone to return, and many have always wanted to come back.
SPURA in 2011 is populated by many parking lots, some historic buildings and houses of worship saved from the 1967 demolition, some tenements that have fought to stay, the Grand Street Guild Houses, the two Seward Park Extension houses, the Hong Ning Senior Citizen apartment house and the Bialystoker senior development. It is in the middle of a complex and vibrant Lower East Side, where housing is often at a premium.
SPURAâ€™s future is still a question, but decisions on priorities are being made now. Affordable housing? Market-rate housing? Retail? What will the designs of these spaces look like? There are planning sessions taking place in 2010 and 2011 at the Community Board 3. We encourage you to get involved.
SPURA 2011: Some housing, many parking lots
(Re)Visiting SPURA: A guide to the exhibition City Studio developed (Re)Visiting SPURA to explore a range of ways to see this complex place, through considering the SPURA diaspora, displaced many years ago, its current conditions, and the complex conversations about planning for its future. (Re)Visiting SPURA springs from the City Studio’s research in the community and uses photographs, objects, videos and listening stations. We hope to encourage productive conversation about the site’s future. This is a guide to the pieces in the exhibition. The 2011 City Studio creators of (Re)Visiting SPURA are: Matthew Fujibayashi, Joshua Guerra, Jaclyn Hersh, Sohee Kim, Corey Mullee, Amy Nguyen, David Privat-Gilman, Ian Pugh and Matthew Taylor.Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is the professor & curator.
The sounds of SPURA David Privat-Gilman, Jaclyn Hersh & Matthew Fujibayashi
Destination Unknown : A look back at SPURA Joshua Guerra, Ian Pugh & Sohee Kim Considering SPURA this semester, we have been fascinated by how residents regard their neighborhood. In many ways, SPURA as it exists today is a monument to a painful and incredibly complex history. Yet, when residents speak about this place it is with a tremendous amount of pride, care and longing. With the site’s designation as SPURA came changes and later, broken promises. The area has changed drastically, and for 40 years has also been on the cusp of further change. In producing a representation of SPURA, it is, we believe, most important to communicate a sense of change, and how this is experienced by residents.
One change in SPURA has been that there are now fewer places for people to go. There are fewer destinations on the site, and for some, possibly even in the neighborhood as a whole—fewer shops, fewer homes, generally fewer things to do. Streets that were once vital, are now bleak or don’t exist at all. Naturally, the way in which people move throughout SPURA has changed, and in tracing that change, we hope to communicate what it is to experience this neighborhood. We chose to interview former and current site tenants, and to walk with them through their neighborhood in order to reveal what people see, and what people remember about this place. Special thanks to Rosa Brobeck, Frances Goldin, and David Nieves for sharing their pasts and taking us for a walk around their neighborhood.
This project is an audio installation organized around three themes: the past, present and future of the site. We were drawn to audio because it is provocative and thought provoking without engaging all the senses. Sound allows the mind to wander and to imagine - this is a kind of sound walk through SPURA. We have used recordings of people’s reminiscences, speeches from community meetings, and site specific ambient noises to guide listeners to see the site in their mind’s eye and imagine their own stories. It is important to recognize the many facets of a place like SPURA. We hope these seemingly esoteric sounds help the listener focus their sense of place. This project allows visitors to listen and to then reflect on their own memories and opinions of the site. We hope to engage people with many connections to SPURA : those who only have memories of the past can still envision a future and those with knowledge of the present but not the past can listen and imagine what the past may have been. Having listened, we hope people will be inclined to share their own perceptions of SPURA. Our goal is to evoke the sense of place of the unique physical and historical place that is SPURA in 2011.
Framing SPURA Amy Nguyen, Matthew Taylor & Corey Mullee How do we imagine a particular place, and how can that be visualized? The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) is and has been a space of contention around this very question. Competing visions of the future of this place have bumped up against one another for decades - a vision of a future without crowded tenements, a vision of a future with affordable housing for all who need it, a vision of a future with a rebuilt physical and social community, a vision of a future with a vibrant and successful use of precious real estate.
Our perceptions of space are framed within these often individualized or collective expressions. By abstracting various imagery within singular frames and superimposing them upon scenes of SPURA, these narratives are made visible. Seemingly separate conceptions of SPURA are united in space and place, while being isolated in their frames. Raise a frame to your eye - and look through it at the panoramas around you, or to the street outside (also a part of SPURA) - and think about how this vision of the place compares with your own, compares with what exists now, or compares with what you’d like to see.
City Studio gives many thanks to: Joel Feingold, Damaris Reyes + Santos Rivera (GOLES) Judy Mejia (The New School) The New School Civic Engagement Committee Lars Fischer, Todd Rouhe + Maria Ibanez (common room) Jonathan Durham (Abrons Art Center) Paula Crespo (The Pratt Center) Kaushik Panchal (Buscada) Lydia Matthews (The New School) Alana Krivo-Kaufman (JFREJ) Chung Chang (The Graduate Center, CUNY)