This week, two housing organizations, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), announced their intention to apply for a rezoning of the Two Bridges waterfront area in the Lower East Side. They asked that Community Board 3, where the meeting was held, and Borough President Gale Brewer become co-applicants of the proposal. This plan targets the proposed development of luxury skyscrapers in the Two Bridges area, which includes a 1,008-foot tower by developer JDS, two 700-foot towers by developers L+M and CIM, and a 724-foot structure by Starrett. For these organizations and other local residents, the Two Bridges projects only signal the beginning of a massive redevelopment that will push out low-income residents. In their rezoning proposal, a 350-foot height limit for new buildings would halt all of the tower projects. These concerns about affordability and exclusion have been heightened after construction began on Extell's massive, 847-foot condominium tower One Manhattan Square directly next to the Manhattan Bridge and also located in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Extell’s renderings of the tower’s target audience don’t do much to quell that fear. The proposed rezoning would apply to a long ribbon of waterfront in Two Bridges stretching from Catherine Street to around East 13th Street. Beyond the height restriction, the plan would also require new developments to commit 50 percent of their units as permanently affordable housing, and 55 percent of the new construction on a storage facility site. It would also institute an anti-harassment policy to prevent landlords seeking to demolish or redevelop their buildings from harassing tenants and require special permits for commercial establishments. Finally, the plan would rezone parts of East River Park as parkland, including an existing sports field, piers, and walkways. This rezoning proposal builds on the ideas generated in the 2014 Chinatown Working Group plan, which was restricted to a more localized area of Chinatown not inclusive of the waterfront after the de Blasio administration claimed the area it covered was too large. This Working Group plan was also bolstered by a host of community groups including GOLES and CAAAV. Although pursuing rezoning through the application process can cost a great deal of time and money, even after the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) waives fees for community groups like GOLES and CAAAV, both organizations are supported in the legal process by the Urban Justice Center (UJC), which relies largely on foundation support. Now it is all a matter of timing – the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) takes seven months to move forward, and even then it is not sure whether the City Planning Commission will approve the application. The proposal will be reviewed by the Community Board 3 Land Use Committee on Wednesday, October 18.
Posts tagged with "Two Bridges":
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilperson Margaret Chin are pushing the Department of City Planning (DCP) to conduct additional reviews of three waterfront towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood. The pair said they will pursue legal action against the city if it doesn't stop the developments. Developers have set their sights on the Chinatown-adjacent area in recent years with a series of high-rise residential buildings. The 77-, 69-, and 62-story towers would sit less than a block away from the FDR Drive, near the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges from which Two Bridges gets its names. JDS Development Group, the same firm behind the troubled supertall on Central Park, is backing the 77-story, SHoP-designed skyscraper at 247 Cherry Street, which will rise next to an under-construction 80-story tower, Extell’s One Manhattan Square, designed by Adamson Associates Architects. Two Bridges Associates is planning a double tower (69 stories each) with a shared platform at 260 South Street, and Starrett Development wants to build its 62-story structure at 259 Clinton Street. Last year, Brewer and Chin, whose district includes the proposed towers, asked DCP to assess the development via a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a seven-month review that goes through the community board all the way up to the mayor for public comment, revision, and further assessment before the development is approved or denied. Here, though, current zoning allows the towers to be built as-of-right, so no scrutiny through ULURP was legally necessary. The developers of the tower trio are only required to do environmental review for their project, though they did hold voluntary community reviews (which were interrupted by protests). In response to community concerns, DCP is considering the projects together, instead of individually. "While the modifications sought for the Two Bridges sites do not trigger ULURP—in other words no new density or waivers are needed—a thorough environmental review which offers multiple opportunities for the public and elected officials to participate is being conducted," said DCP spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff, in an email to DNAinfo. "Moreover we are ensuring a coordinated review by the project applicants that looks at the cumulative effects of these three developments at the same time—an extraordinary but important measure that is not ordinarily required. This coordinated review will help produce the best possible outcome for this neighborhood. Much as we appreciate the desire of the community to do so, there are no grounds under which a ULURP could legally be required in this instance." Though there are many neighborhood groups across the city saying "no" to tall buildings, the political geography of downtown Manhattan lends the Two Bridges controversy a special edge. Restrictive zoning and landmarking shields wealthier and whiter neighborhoods downtown from skyscrapers, but those protections are missing in the Lower East Side or Chinatown, a condition that jeopardizes affordability and encourages what some see as out-of-scale development. Though activists are working to mitigate displacement, since 2002, Chinatown has lost more than 25 percent of its rent-regulated apartments. Now, neighbors are worried the developments will stress already over-burdened infrastructure, block natural light, and engender displacement in the low-income neighborhood by causing property values to spike. At One Manhattan Square, for example, prices for two-bedrooms start at almost $2.1 million.
In a surprising reversal, the Department of City Planning (DCP) will review JDS Development's plan to build a supertall in Manhattan's Two Bridges neighborhood. Developers Roy Schoenberg and Gary Spindler (of Park-It Management) had planned to build on an adjacent site. The pair sued JDS in New York State Supreme Court recently, claiming that in 2012 Michael Stern's company co-opted the air rights they intended to buy from Settlement Housing Fund and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. Schoenberg and Spindler had plans to build a 300,000-square-foot, mixed-use affordable housing on the site. Instead, the nonprofits nixed the pending contract and sold the parcel's air rights to JDS for a cool $50 million, Crain's reports. Now, Schoenberg and Spindler have withdrawn their application for their project, so the DCP will review JDS's application for an 80-story, 1,000-foot-tall greenish cascading tower by SHoP at 235 Cherry Street, pictured above.