Breaking: State Judge Stops Mega Towers in Two Bridges Area, Orders Full Public Review

Developers' vision of the Two Bridges waterfront with four new mega-towers.

Developers’ vision of the Two Bridges waterfront with four new mega-towers.

A stunning victory tonight for residents of the Two Bridges neighborhood fighting three mega-projects along the waterfront.  A state supreme court judge has stopped the towers from moving forward, at least temporarily, ruling that they must go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Several lawsuits were filed against the developers and the city, including one initiated by the New York City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.  They were seeking to throw out the Department of City Planning’s approval of the projects back in December. The city has long argued that ULURP, which requires City Council approval, wasn’t necessary, in spite of the massive scale of the proposed buildings.

Today Judge Arthur Engoron issued his decision, writing, “the approval by the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission… is hereby vacated; said respondents are hereby enjoined from sending the New York City Department of Buildings approval letters for the Proposed Project; it is hereby ordered that the Proposed Project must undergo (ULURP).”

The projects, as currently envisioned, would add 2,775 mostly market rate rental units along the historically low-income waterfront. 694 apartments (25%) would be designated as permanently affordable. The developers are JDS Development Group, a partnership between L+M Development Partners and the CIM Group and The Starrett Group. The towers would range in height from 63-80 stories.

In his ruling, the judge stated, “(t)he irreparable harm here is two-fold. First, a community will be drastically altered without having had its proper say. Second, and arguably more important, allowing this project to proceed without the City Council’s imprimatur would distort the City’s carefully crafted system of checks and balances. Under ULURP, the City Council’s mandatory role is not merely to advise, but to grant or deny final approval (with the Mayor). Without ULURP, the City’s legislature is cut out of the picture entirely.”

In a statement released a short time ago, City Council Speaker Cory Johnson said, “The Council has for years said this project – which would totally transform the Two Bridges neighborhood – requires public review and ultimately City Council approval. We’re very grateful that the State Supreme Court agreed and that the community, the Borough President, and the City Council will have an opportunity to provide real input and help shape the future of this neighborhood.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer added, “I’m so gratified that Judge Engoron has ruled in our favor, and that the Two Bridges developments—which will have a ‘huge’ impact on the neighborhood—must undergo the ULURP process. I’m grateful that Council member Chin and Speaker Johnson came together to support our suit and we were successful.”

City Council member Margaret Chin said, “Judge Engoron’s ruling is a victory for the Two Bridges community and demonstrates the power of every day New Yorkers when they come together and fight. For three years, we have rallied and petitioned. As a final step, we sued the City to trigger the public review process that the proposed mega towers in Two Bridges demanded. Through it all, I was motivated by a single goal—ensuring that the residents of Two Bridges have a say in the future of their neighborhood. Judge Engoron’s decision vindicates our efforts and, just as importantly, empowers the voices of those most impacted by the displacement and gentrification of the proposed mega towers. I want to thank Speaker Johnson for his inclusive and courageous leadership and Borough President Brewer for her invaluable partnership. Finally, I want to extend my gratitude to the Two Bridges community for their steadfast commitment to the public review process.”

More to come as reaction comes in tonight and tomorrow. You can read the judge’s full ruling below.

UPDATE 8:12 p.m. A spokesperson for the developers, promised an appeal, telling The City, “These projects were lawfully approved and met all legal requirements. They were proposed after years of community consultation, public review and environmental analysis, and in compliance with zoning that’s been in place for more than 30 years.”  A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department expressed disappointment in the ruling and said NYC lawyers are considering their options.

Rulings have not yet come down in two other lawsuits filed by different resident groups and community organizers on the Lower East Side.

Two Bridges Order by The Lo-Down on Scribd