Two Bridges Environmental Review Hearings Take Place Tomorrow

Rendering shows four large-scale projects coming to the waterfront in the Two Bridges area.

Rendering shows four large-scale projects coming to the waterfront in the Two Bridges area.

A variety of Lower East Side groups will be delivering oral remarks tomorrow during two public hearings on the upcoming Two Bridges environmental review. The scoping meetings will help determine what areas are studied in the environmental impact assessment of three large-scale residential towers coming to the waterfront.

Last night, Community Board 3 approved its statement, portions of which will be read tomorrow by Chairperson Jamie Rogers. The document is 12 pages long.

In an unusual move, the city decided to consider all three projects together. They include a 79-story tower at 247 Cherry St. from JDS Development Group; 62 ad 69 story towers from L+M Development Partners and the CIM Group at 260 South St.; and a 62-story building by the Starrett Group at 259 Clinton St.

We have embedded the full CB3 statement (see below). Among many other points, the board argues that the projects are inconsistent with the Large Scale Residential Development Plan (LSRD) enacted in 1972. In creating “super-tall” buildings dwarfing every other structure in the area, the projects would, CB3 wrote, “introduce building forms to this neighborhood that are new to the District and contrary to local plans.” While zoning in the area allows high density towers, the board contends that, “the right to build under those densities was removed” when the 1972 plan was put into effect. 

CB3 will make a number of other arguments tomorrow. Among them:

  • That the Department of City Planning may have erred in declaring the plans a minor modification of the LSRD.
  • That too few details have been provided about the creation of 694 units of affordable housing as part of the three projects.
  • That alternative plans, including lower-scale options, should be studied.
  • That a one-quarter mile study radius is insufficient (CB3 believes the impact area should extend at least to Grand Street and the Bowery).
  • That there’s a flawed method of studying secondary residential displacement in the area.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin will also offer their opinions at tomorrow’s hearings. A community task force that they helped lead has been working on oral remarks for some time, but that group is not expected to have a separate statement tomorrow. Trever Holland, a tenant leader and task force member, told us today it’s not clear why the group will not be speaking in one unified voice at the meetings. “It was my impression that we were all on the same page,” he said. [One point of universal agreement: the task force has been highly dysfunctional.] A written statement could still be in-the-works in time to meet a June 8 deadline.

Maureen Koetz and Lower East Side Organizing Neighbors held a media event on Cherry Street  May 11.

Maureen Koetz and Lower East Side Organizing Neighbors held a media event on Cherry Street May 11.

Another faction weighing in tomorrow will be Lower East Side Organizing Neighbors (LESON), a group that just formed this month to fight the towers. In a news conference May 11, they introduced attorney Maureen Koetz, who said she is preparing to sue the city over its handling of the Two Bridges projects. Koetz is a familiar figure in downtown political circles. In 2014, she ran as a Republican against former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who was convicted on federal corruption charges the following year. 

City officials have stated that no special permits or new waivers are required to build in the Two Bridges LSRD. Koetz, however, disagrees with this assessment, asserting that special permits are required under New York City’s zoning resolution. “You can’t get these special permits,” said Koetz, unless you can show that you are not going to materially interfere with the community’s existing (conditions).”

Many of those standing behind Koetz at the May 11 event were from National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS), a group that has repeatedly called for the resignation of Mayor de Blasio and Council member Chin. Another participant was Tanya Castro, a tenant leader in the Two Bridges area. In a press release, she said, “These (public) EIS meetings that Chin held (during the past several months) have been nothing but pro-development events.  If they were real spaces for community engagement, then environmental hazards such as the fact that the megatowers would add systemic overload to the Newtown Creek drainage basin, a superfund site, would have been raised.  Or issues of adverse effects to light and air at adjacent properties to the new construction would have been raised – all of which we will face if these towers go up.”

The scoping meetings will be held at the Manhattan Municipal Building, Mezzanine level, 1 Centre St. The first session will begin at 2 p.m. The second session will begin at 6 p.m. Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on June 8. Click here for more details about the meetings.