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LES NYC: Crossing 2020

At a time of intense debate about the role of private development in New York City, Essex Crossing—the six-acre, multi-billion dollar mega-project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side—nears completion. 50 years in the making, the area bounded by Clinton, Delancey, Essex, and Grand Streets—formally known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA)—has sprouted into this much anticipated mixed-use development. With more than 1000 new residences, 350,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of green space, and 300,000 square feet of retail, Essex Crossing also promises to provide space and services for community needs, recognizing the complicated and often neglected history of the site.

As private developments across the city are increasingly shaping public life, can new projects aid in re-knitting the urban fabric? What relationships and processes can ensure a built environment that gives a sense of belonging to all New Yorkers? This December, Van Alen Institute brings together the planners, designers, and community organizations that have been reshaping the Lower East Side, and ask what lessons we should take with us as New York crosses into a new decade.

All programs are free and open to the public.

Photo Recap

Private Means to Public Ends

Site Unseen

Layered SPURA

My Essex Crossing


Private Means to Public Ends
Thursday, December 5, 6:30–8:30 pm
Panel Discussion
Essex Crossing Community Center, 175 Delancey St., 4F

How can the public, private, and design sectors work together to ensure that Essex Crossing’s outcomes serve the diverse needs of the Lower East Side? Join Essex Crossing’s designers, developers, and community partners for this engaging discussion about its planning process, which led it to be chosen as this year’s New York Urban Land Institute’s Excellence in Mixed Use Development Award Winner.

Dominic Berg, Essex Crossing Community Task Force, CB 3
Don Capoccia, BFC Partners
Robert Cordero, Grand St. Settlement
Dana Getman, SHoP Architects
Isaac Henderson, L&M Development Partners
Moderated by James Russell, architecture critic


Site Unseen
Friday, December 6, 4–6 pm
The Rollins, 145 Clinton Street

In contrast to many mega-developments across the city, Essex Crossing is knit into the Lower East Side across nine sites, with a range of services and amenities being built in three phases that are expected to be complete in 2024. Join Katie Archer, Essex Crossing’s Director of Community Relations, for this sunset tour and exploration of unseen sites. The tour will include a sneak peek at the next phase of development and current amenities including The Essex’s private 26th floor deck and Project Eat’s Rooftop Farm.



Layered SPURA
Saturday, December 7, 2–3:30 pm
Meet at Essex Market (Delancey Street entrance)

For 50 years, residents of the Lower East Side lived with a series of vacant lots known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA)—what is now home to Essex Crossing. Artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, along with her students at the New School, has collaborated with community organizations City Lore, GOLES, and SPARC to produce Layered SPURA, a series of exhibitions and walks designed to provide new opportunities for dialogue about this highly contested neighborhood. Join Gabrielle for a participatory Layered SPURA tour to better understand the urban past, present, and future(s) of Essex Crossing and the Lower East Side. 


My Essex Crossing
Sunday, December 8, 1–4 pm
Coffee, Cookies, & Conversation
GrandLo Café, 168 Broome St.

Has Essex Crossing changed the way you move, work and live in the Lower East Side? We want to hear from you! Drop in at GrandLo Café for coffee, cookies and conversation and share your stories of how you experience the changing neighborhood with Van Alen and artist collective Ghana Think Tank (GTT). In keeping with GTT’s inversion of traditional notions of “the expert,” community-generated solutions to challenges posed by Essex Crossing will be shared with the team behind the development.


These programs are made possible through our Program Leadership Council, co-chaired by Sara Grant (Murphy Burnham and Buttrick Architects), and Matthew Moss (Think Construction).

Thank you to council members Ramona Albert, Elliot Berkowitz, Andy Bernheimer, Jennifer Bolstad, Matthew Bremer, Chip Brian, David Briggs, Jerry Caldari, Philipp von Dalwig, Kevin Erickson, Lisa Frazar, Jared Gilbert, Chris Hughes, Scott Hughes, Andrew Kotchen, Drew Lang, Amy Lau, David Leven, Gareth Mahon, Michael Manfredi, Philippe Meyersohn, Michael Plottel, Ted Porter, James Ramsey, Suchi Reddy, Juergen Riehm, Carol Swedlow, Michael Szivos, Kyle Twitchell, Jonce Walker, Marion Weiss, and Stephen Yablon.

Van Alen Festivals are supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. LES NYC is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.