Woman wearing a white scarf looks off into the distance with vacant SPURA site and tall glass towers rising in the background

SPURA Matters was an initiative in 2008–2009 facilitated by several non-profit community organizations that wished to renew a community conversation about how the city-owned Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) site in Lower Manhattan could be developed in a way that benefits the surrounding neighborhood. Pratt Center assisted local stakeholders in creating exercises and conducting visioning sessions to address the development of the site.

Man cycles by the vacant and fenced in SPURA site containing large trucks and vans. Large high rise buildings are seen in the background

During 1950’s and 1960’s, an urban renewal project near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge on Manhattan's Lower East Side displaced thousands of low-income tenants. While the city built affordable housing on some of the cleared parcels in the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA), several large blocks went undeveloped. In 2009, parking lots occupied the undeveloped zone of SPURA along Delancey Street, even while the Lower East Side, where the typical household earned $37,000 a year, urgently needed more affordable housing.

Group of women participate in a workshop exercise at SPURA Matters community visioning session
Pratt Center Senior Planner Paula Crespo facilitates a workshop as part of the SPURA Matters community engagement process in 2009.
Residents gathered around a table rank their preferred uses of the SPURA site by placing blue dots on a game board
SPURA Matters invited residents of the neighborhood to envision the future of the SPURA site using interactive exercises.

During fall of 2009 the community organizing group Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and the neighborhood history project City Lore convened Lower East Side residents and other stakeholders in a series of four visioning sessions designed to generate discussion about the site's future, the neighborhood's needs, and the place of affordable housing in an area that has seen an influx of higher-income new residents alongside largely poor families. Pratt Center Planner Paula Crespo developed and facilitated the workshops while GOLES presented participants' input to the City agencies that control the land, making the case for development that brings benefits to a wide range of residents in the neighborhood.

SPURA Matters and findings from the community engagement process are outlined in the report “Community Voices and the Future of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area,” which was created as a tool for local stakeholders to use in their advocacy efforts to redevelop the SPURA site. This report represents a strong consensus to do something with the site that could be beneficial to broad segments of the Lower East Side community.

(Report Cover) Title text is overlaid on a photograph of vacant lots in the Lower East Side and a urban renewal map with cross-hatching highlighting the area of focus for the report

Project Status

Completed 2009


  • Community Engagement
  • Education & Training
  • Urban Planning




  • Manhattan