Good Old Lower East Side Comes Out Against New Two Bridges Tower (Updated)

Rendering shows new Two Bridges tower in context with the surrounding East River waterfront; ShoP Architects.

Rendering shows new Two Bridges tower in context with the surrounding East River waterfront; ShoP Architects.

Here’s a statement we received a short time ago from Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), the neighborhood advocacy organization, about the new 77-story tower planned in the Two Bridges area. It was submitted last night during the land use committee meeting of Community Board 3.

GOLES has a long history of commitment to the provision and preservation of affordable and senior housing for the people of the Lower East Side. Upon a careful review of the recently proposed Two Bridges Tower with our steering committee, members, and stakeholders, GOLES has determined several key concerns that lead us to call on Community Board 3 to reject any minor modification application associated with the site.

First, the process around the proposed Two Bridges Tower occurred with virtually no community input, despite the many impacts this tower and its construction will have on local residents. In particular, residents of both 80 and 82 Rutgers have been significantly impacted by the ongoing construction of the Extell Tower, resulting in infrastructure issues like cracking walls and ceilings, and misaligned windows, doors, and locks. In addition, local residents were wary of available sunlight living in the shadow of yet another luxury tower. Also, the proposed construction allows for the potential relocation of seniors living at 80 Rutgers, along with the temporary demolition of a community center on Cherry Street.

Second, the Lower East Side and its waterfront has been increasingly targeted for aggressive development and gentrification. The Extell Tower that displaced Pathmark stands as a clear example. The prospect of further luxury development will only accelerate the community’s gentrification, and exacerbate the already dire need for truly affordable housing. The Two Bridges Tower proposes only 25% of its units be affordable, in the range of 60-90% AMI, making it unaffordable to the majority of Low Income and Extremely Low Income residents on the Lower East Side in need of real affordable housing.

Finally, as both Extell, and the proposed Two Bridges Tower show us, the Lower East Side’s waterfront is increasingly being targeted for luxury development, with future towers likely in the works. On this end, we look to CB3 to engage with the Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning plan as a way of ensuring responsible development on the waterfront happens with true engagement from its residents.

We call on Community Board 3 to support the wishes of the community and to reject any minor modification applications for Two Bridges Tower, and to pass a resolution to that effect for the Dept. of City Planning. We also look to CB3 for unity on the CWG Rezoning plan to push for the protections this neighborhood needs.

The Lower East Side cannot — and will not — accept further luxury development at the expense of the needs of its community!

On April 27, JDS Development and SHoP Architects announced plans for the new project at 247 Cherry St. It will include 600 units of rental housing (150 of those apartments will be affordable). Two not-for-profit groups – Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund — have sold development rights to JDS for the project. The developers have said that they will seek a “minor modification” of the Two Bridges Large-Scale Development Plan. They are expected to appear before Community Board 3 sometime over the summer to discuss the proposal for the Cherry Street site. The community board will be asked to issue an advisory opinion. Approval by the Department of City Planning is required.

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the developers were not necessarily obligated to seek the support of the community board. Changes were made after we heard from a spokesperson for the development team.

(Sponsored) Bring Your Business to Clinton Street; Open House March 24

clinton street

A Message from Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and the Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents (ALBOR):

Join us on Thursday, March 24 for an open house on Clinton Street. We’ll tour many of the commercial spaces available for rent on Clinton between East Houston and Delancey streets.

Meet at Donnybrook, 35 Clinton St. (at Stanton Street).

6-8 p.m.

RSVP to: ecruz@nyalbor.org.

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*This is a paid advertisement.

Business Owners Can Tour Clinton Street’s Vacant Spaces June 25

What Stores Do You Want to See on Clinton Street? Meeting Next Week on Retail Woes

LES Ready: Community Survey Underway to Create Emergency Plan

Today, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we have another installment of the LES Ready Guide. This afternoon, news of a survey being conducted to help create a comprehensive neighborhood plan for future emergencies.  The following post was contributed by Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES):

GOLES Summerfest at Pier 42 This Afternoon

This afternoon at Pier 42, at the temporary park near Montgomery Street, Good Old Lower East Side presents Summerfest 2013.

Op/Ed: Making a Case for Affordable Housing on SPURA

Earlier this year, GOLES and other housing advocates held a rally on SPURA property.

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was written by Joel Feingold, a community organizer with GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side). It was posted on the Villager web site a short time ago. Feingold sent the article to The Lo-Down, as well:

On Monday, a Community Board 3 committee may vote on guidelines for the redevelopment of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area [SPURA] – the long-derelict blocks on Delancey, Broome, and Grand at the lip of the Williamsburg Bridge.  In shaping the final language of these guidelines, this committee can choose to close the chapter on a forty-three year aberration in the Lower East Side’s history: the notion that a racially integrated working-class district is harmful to society in general and property values in particular.  

GOLES Calls for 70% Affordable Housing on SPURA

Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis.

A week from Monday, Community Board 3’s SPURA task force is scheduled to vote on a set of planning guidelines for the Seward Park development site.  Late last night, a key player in CB3’s deliberations, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), sent an email blast to its supporters, urging them to attend the January 24th meeting and, for the first time, laying out publicly a position on the CB3 proposal:

NO JANUARY VOTE UNLESS IT’S FOR MORE LOW AND MODERATE INCOME HOUSING

Last month the people of the Lower East Side beat back the City’s proposal to give up to 60% of our land to those who can pay $6000 a month for rent. In the spirit of justice and reconciliation GOLES members propose 70% housing for low, moderate and middle income families. Tell the Community Board and the City that the real Lower East Side – that means our families, the working class backbone of this great neighborhood – won’t relent until the plan is right.

Pratt Reports on Findings from SPURA Workshops

Earlier this fall, neighborhood preservation organization GOLES and the Pratt Center for Community Development conducted three community meetings to learn more about what residents would like to see happen on the Seward Park redevelopment site. Pratt presented its findings to Community Board 3 earlier this month.  After the jump, you can see a summary of the report from Paula Crespo, the Pratt urban planner who facilitated the discussions. You can also see the full Power Point presentation (PDF alert!) here.

LES Tenant Activist Evicted From Apartment

Tenants' Rights Rally

Maizie Torres at 10th Street vigil, April 22nd. Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

This week a Lower East Side tenant activist, Maizie Torres, appears to have lost a long-running battle to stay in her East 10th Street apartment.  Acting on a court order, Torres’ landlord (Center Development Corp.), planned to evict her this morning. Torres is a longtime organizer with the influential housing preservation organization, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). Over the weekend, GOLES sent out a press release blasting the landlord, prominent affordable housing developer William Hubbard:

Community Groups Hold B’Ball Tournament to Protest Private Gym

A basketball tournament held on Henry Street yesterday wasn't just about the game. It was also meant to keep the pressure on Basketball City, a for-profit gym that has been awarded a long-term lease at Pier 36. Two groups, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, are negotiating with Basketball City for free and discounted access for the community to the facility.

The organizations fought the city's decision to award the lease to a corporation, citing a legal agreement requiring the pier to be set aside for a community recreation center. Now they're trying to make sure Basketball City is accessible to low and middle income residents in the neighborhood.

Yesterday's event (delayed one day due to the rain) was originally supposed to include a march to the pier. But Victor Papa (Two Bridges) and Damaris Reyes (GOLES) announced that, as negotiations continue, the march was being put on hold. But Reyes said they would reserve the option of "taking to the streets," if the talks stall. Basketball City has expressed an interest in working with the community. Reyes has said she's encouraged by their willingness to have discussions, but is looking for specific commitments. Here's a brief video from the tournament, held at the Henry M. Jackson Playground:

Avenue C Shooting Sparks New Concerns About Increasing Violence

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The victim was shot as he left this bodega on 12th Street & Avenue C

On Sunday, we noted the local TV coverage of a shooting on Avenue C, near 12th Street. A man was struck in the chest about 5am, shortly after buying a sandwich inside this bodega. We now have a few more details. Apparently, the violence spread across the street to the Villagio pizza shop.

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A bullet hole is still visible on the front door of the Villagio pizza shop, across from the bodega.

There's a bullet hole and shattered glass in the restaurant's front door. An employee confirmed that the damage was a result of the Sunday incident. According to word on the street, the shooting was a continuation of a fight that started earlier in the day. The victim was apparently a resident of the Campos Plaza Housing Project, next door to the bodega.

Unlike some other recent incidents, it doesn't appear this past weekend's violence was drug or gang-related, although some of the people involved may have been gang members. In the past several days, however, community activists, youth leaders and NYPD officials have stepped up their efforts to find a way to reduce the simmering tensions inside the neighborhood's housing projects. Earlier this week, counselors and parents from the Campos Plaza community center led a group of children, some as young as nine, over to the pizza shop to look at the aftermath of the shooting. Among their top priorities now — preventing gangs from recruiting more kids.

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Police officers were stationed outside Campos Plaza this morning.

Officers from the NYPD's PSA4, which covers 23 housing projects, have met with community leaders and counselors in the past week about combating the problem. Residents believe the lack of recreational and extracurricular programs for youth have made kids even more susceptible to the lure of gangs and drugs. The New York City Housing Authority slashed the funding for its community centers. The Boys' Club shuttered its facility on Pitt and Houston Street, several years ago, saying gentrification had reduced the need for the organization's services. A second Boys' Club center on 10th Street suspended its summer programs, apparently due to budget difficulties.

In a recent interview with The Lo-Down, Damaris Reyes, the executive director of the community organization, GOLES, talked about the youth violence issue and the lack of programs for teens:

What GOLES is focused on is trying to look at
alternatives to violence by creating spaces and opportunities for young
people to do something positive and productive and be engaged in
something that's meaningful that could be recreational, that could be
summer jobs. It could be all kinds of things. We do work as part of the
POP Coalition, which is the Power of Peace. For example, on August 15th
at the Generation X Garden (4th Street between B & C) we are having
our second day of programming for the GO LES Summer Fest, which will
include open mic for young people from the community, to come share
their talent with us. It is a way to encourage them to come do some
positive things. So there is need for concern, there is activity that
is happening, there's more than meets the eye and … to
some extent, there is a lack of a focus on that age group – and
positive activities and resources that will help them, steer in another
direction.

We stopped by this past weekend to check in on the Summer Fest event, which included remarks from City Council member Rosie Mendez, who is helping sponsor the series. You can see our video from the Generation X Garden here. Mendez provided funding several months ago for security cameras at Campos Plaza. But residents say, NYCHA has not installed them, due to budget constraints.

Another City Council member, Alan Gerson, has given the Chinatown YMCA (on Houston Street & the Bowery) funding for summer programs for kids in the neighborhood. After this past week's violence, there's talk about extending those programs beyond the end of this month. Dereese Huff, president of the Campos Plaza Residents Association, is trying to organize a "stop the violence" event, to be held in the early fall.

GOLES Sponsors SummerFest

This past weekend we checked in on the "open mic & local talent" day, sponsored by GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) at the Generation X Garden on East 4th Street. It was part of SummerFest, a series GOLES is starting up to engage the community. Since 1977, the organization has been "dedicated to tenants’ rights, homelessness prevention, economic development and community revitalization." You can find out more about their services and mission here. There were some great performances on Saturday. but also important messages from City Council member Rosie Mendez and GOLES community organizers: embracing the neighborhood's traditional culture and fighting displacement due to gentrification have never been more important. Take a look:


Community Resumes Battle for Access to Pier 36

Basketball City, now under construction, is housed in a portion of Pier 36, just to the south of Pier 42.

The fight over Pier 36 on the East River – raging since the Dinkins Administration – is heating up once again. This month, neighborhood organizations began new talks with Basketball City, the private company granted a 20 (plus) year lease for part of the pier. They want assurances that the community will have access to the facility, that membership fees will be discounted and that the company will hire local residents.

The organizations, including the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), fought a long battle to keep Basketball City from occupying the waterfront. Citing a 1994 agreement requiring Pier 36 to be “permanently dedicated for use by the community as a community recreation facility,”  they opposed the city’s decision to go ahead with a lease to the for-profit company (a bid was first submitted in 1996). But, with support from Community Board 3, the deal went through — although promises were made that Basketball City would provide certain free and discounted services to the community.

Now, as Basketball City makes plans to refurbish a section of the pier for an opening later this year, the groups are determined to make sure they get what was promised. Two Bridges recently sent a letter to supporters saying, “…the whole affair demonstrates an egregious indifference to the youth and families of our community.” It urges residents to contact elected officials and community board members and sign an online petition. The organizations are planning an “All-LES Basketball Tournament” on August 29th at the Henry M. Jackson Playground on Henry Street. A flier for the event says, “The City is taking the People’s Land… and turning it into a huge private gym.” It continues, “All we need is two hoops, some pavement and a ball.”

But even as the groups mobilize their supporters, they have already held one meeting with Basketball City owner Bruce Radler, and more negotiations are scheduled. Contacted by The Lo-Down, Radler said he was surprised by the letter, given the fact that talks are ongoing. He emphasized that part of Basketball City’s mission is to “give back to the community” and he’s committed to honoring the promises that were made. Radler acknowledged, however, that the details still needed to be worked out.