In an old building on Essex Street, where Mayor Fiorello La Guardia once allowed street vendors to barter, a rusted and broken neon sign advertises beef, pork, veal and poultry to an empty open-space market — but not for much longer.
The building is to become part of a major mixed-use development project called Essex Crossing, utilizing some six acres of city-owned land on the Lower East Side.
"For nearly half a century it has been largely left behind, even as the surrounding neighborhood has revived and thrived," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the vacant market Wednesday, unveiling the new project.
Bloomberg, city officials, developers and community leaders said the project would complement the neighborhood's rich history and tradition.
"Many New Yorkers can trace their roots back to this neighborhood, where people — many of whom were just arriving in America — made their livings and built their businesses on these very streets," said Charles Bendit, co-CEO of Taconic Investment Partners, one of three developers collectively investing $1.1 billion in the project.
Noting his own grandparents settled on the Lower East Side when they immigrated to the U.S., Bendit said the project will foster that same sense of entrepreneurialism.
In addition to 1,000 units of housing, half of which will be permanently affordable for low- to middle-income households and seniors, the project will include open space, a new Essex Street Market, the Andy Warhol Museum, offices, shops, an urban farm, a community center and, eventually, a public school.
The project is expected to create 1,600 permanent jobs and 4,400 construction jobs.
"We are going to be able to see our neighborhood grow, and grow in a way that is balanced," Gigi Li, chairwoman of Manhattan's Community Board 3, said of the project.
Though Bloomberg said Essex Crossing has the support of "everybody we could find," one protester could be heard shouting from outside the market while the mayor spoke.
"It's a compromise when people want different things," he said of potential opponents of the project.
Groundbreaking for the first phase of Essex Crossing is expected in spring 2015, and the entire project is expected to be completed by 2024, a moment "a long time coming," Bloomberg said.
Buildings on several of the project's sites were demolished in 1967 and several mayors have tried — and failed — to redevelop them since.
"Now the promise of revitalization that was made back in 1967 is at long last being filled. Who said that government doesn't deliver?" Bloomberg joked.
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