City Officials Grilled on Two Bridges Mega-Towers During City Council Hearing

City Council member Margaret Chin questioned city officials during a hearing June 15.

City Council member Margaret Chin questioned city officials during a hearing June 15.

A hearing (watch the video) was held last week on City Council member Margaret Chin’s legislation that would require the city to notify communities when urban renewal areas are set to expire. The public meeting of the Council’s land use committee also offered local lawmakers an opportunity to grill representatives of city agencies about several proposed Two Bridges mega-towers.

Those projects would add about 2,000 mostly market-rate apartments in towers ranging in height from 62-80 stories along the East Side waterfront. A joint environmental review is now underway for the large-scale towers, which are located in an urban renewal area that expired in 2007.  The review does not include Extell Development’s One Manhattan Square, an 80-story luxury condo project that will add another 1,000 apartments to the immediate area.

During the hearing, Council member Chin argued that public notification would have given her community an important tool to fight over-development. Residents would have been able, she explained, to ask for an extension of the urban renewal area or a rezoning if they had known restrictions on development were set to expire. In a press release, she stated, “We must take action now to ensure that all communities, especially those that are predominately low income and of color, are equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect their neighborhoods. Though we cannot turn back time to prevent the expiration of the Two Bridges URA, this legislation is integral to my mission to keep similar situations from happening again, and to carry on the fight by continuing to demand a full public review, including an up-or-down City Council vote, on the mega-towers at Two Bridges.”

Last summer, the Department of City Planning rejected Chin’s request for a ULURP in the Two Bridges area, a full land use review that would have given the Council a formal role in deciding whether the projects move forward. The agency said proposed changes in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Plan amounted to a “minor modification” as opposed to a “major modification” of the plan, meaning a ULURP was not required. 

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.

At last Thursday’s hearing, Chin noted that the underlying zoning along the waterfront (C6-4a) permits what she called “humungous” towers. But she argued that the new buildings are definitely not in the spirit of the original urban renewal area. Every time she sees photos of the Extell tower, said Chin, “it makes me sick to my stomach.” She added, “What is being proposed is totally out of scale. We cannot allow (the plan) to go forward.” Addressing officials from the Department of City Planning and Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Chin asserted, “You share responsibility with us. Something has got to be done.”

The officials said they agreed in principle with Chin’s proposal for public notification, but they pushed back on the notion that the towers in the Two Bridges area are inappropriate for the neighborhood. The chairman of the land use committee, David Greenfield, asked a series of pointed questions of the city bureaucrats and argued that stronger legislation is required to protect local communities. 

Representatives from the Department of City Planning said the Lower East Side plans were deemed to be “minor modifications” because the developers were not asking for new or modified waivers. They were simply asking the city to lift floor area limits. Greenfield, however, made the case that any plan adding 2.2 million square feet and 2,000 apartments to an existing neighborhood, “amounts to a pretty big modification.”

Photo courtesy of the Office of Council member Margaret Chin.

Community members and advocates testified at last week’s hearing. Photo courtesy of the Office of Council member Margaret Chin.

Erik Botsford, deputy Manhattan director of City Planning, said, “We understand the community’s concerns (about these projects).” He conceded that the phrase, “minor modification,” is “perhaps an unfortunate term” in reference to one-thousand foot towers. The officials, however, insisted that the projects are allowable under New York’s land use rules.

Greenfield countered by asking, “Would you agree that this is a major change to the original plan?” He also asked why Mayor de Blasio would not have insisted on a rezoning in the area to require affordable housing in the new projects (the developers are voluntarily setting aside 25% of their units for affordable housing in exchange for tax benefits). City Planning’s Joel Kolkmann responded, “These are obviously large buildings.” He said the city’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program (MIH) is only feasible in neighborhoods that can be upzoned (Two Bridges is already zoned for maximum density). “These types of large-scale districts are not unusual along the waterfront,” said Kolkmann, arguing that the large-scale towers under review are appropriate for the community. 

There was also testimony from Trever Holland, a tenant leader who read a statement on behalf of neighborhood advocacy groups GOLES and CAAAV. He said there are serious concerns about the threat of displacement of low-income tenants as a result of the luxury developments. He also cited worries about flood protection in the low-lying area and noted the city’s refusal to consider a large-scale rezoning of the community as proposed by the Chinatown Working Group.

In the end, Greenfield told city officials he believes there’s obviously a flaw in the law if massive development projects like the ones under review in the Two Bridges aren’t subject to public review. He called it a loophole that needs to be closed.

On a related note, a community engagement meeting will be held Saturday, June 24 to discuss the Two Bridges environmental review. It will take place at the Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadwaay, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The projects 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.

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.


Local Groups Focus on Threat to Rent Stabilized Housing From New Two Bridges Towers

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.

Three large-scale development projects in the Two Bridges area are expected to add more than 2,000 luxury apartments in a traditionally low-income community. So in an upcoming environmental study, local activists consider it critically important to analyze the impact of the new buildings on rent regulated apartments. The problem, however is this: there are no plans to evaluate in a comprehensive way how the Lower East Side’s affordable housing stock will be affected by the luxury towers.

At a meeting of Community Board 3 last week, land use committee members discussed how to deal with this issue, as well as other perceived shortcomings in a Draft Scoping Document (a plan detailing what specifically will be studied). The board will submit comments regarding the document at a public hearing May 25.

A joint environmental review will be conducted for the projects, which 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. The developers have filed requests with the Department of City Planning for a “minor modification” of the Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development Plan (first approved in 1970). While all of their buildings are allowed under current zoning, they require the city to lift limits on floor area permitted under the plan.

Diagram shows Two Bridges Large Scale Development Plan area.

Diagram shows Two Bridges Large Scale Development Plan area.

An organization called the Collective for Community, Culture and Environment has been working to fight the towers with the leaders of local tenant organizations and GOLES, the neighborhood preservation, group. The planners are suggesting that the proposals may go well beyond minor modifications and could actually qualify as a neighborhood rezoning. They also plan to challenge city rules which prevent a detailed study of rent stabilized housing. As it stands, the environmental review will only look comprehensively at market rate housing.

While the tenant groups were engaging an urban planning collective, the community board also hired a planning consultant to offer expert advice. George Janes previously worked with CB6 and CB11, and has now been asked to help the Lower East Side board shape its response to the draft scope. In brief remarks at least week’s meeting, Janes noted that the new plans total more than 2.2 million square feet. “It is very significant in terms of scale,” said Janes, adding that he believes the community has “some leverage.” Since any increase in floor area must be approved by the City Planning Commission and since the large-scale residential development plan has been in place for 45 years, Janes argued, “there is a good argument to have a lower scale alternative to be studied.” At the moment, the environmental review will look at only two options: the developers’ plan and a “no action” scenario.

Some committee members cautioned against giving residents false hope about upending the developers’ plans. Damaris Reyes, executive director of GOLES, said, “I’m not one to downplay a fight and leverage, because I believe power concedes nothing without demand, but I just want folks to be clear.” These types of proposals, she added, are almost always approved by the city. “Where we will find our leverage,” argued Reyes, “will be in what we get studied and what those mitigations (remedies to the developments’ adverse impacts) are.” Tim Laughlin, president of the LES Partnership agreed, saying, “I don’t think there’s a silver bullet to stop the minor modification.”

Committee member Lisa Kaplan said one of her biggest concerns is that the study area is too small (it’s only a quarter-mile around the development sites).  The projects, she said, are “going to have an impact on the affordability of this neighborhood (well beyond the Two Bridges area).” 

(L-R) 247 Cherry St., 260 South St., 259 Clinton St.

(L-R) 247 Cherry St., 260 South St., 259 Clinton St.

In the environmental review, there are 18 different categories that will be evaluated. At the meeting, committee members went around the table, highlighting their top issues. These included: the condition and accessibility of the F Train station on East Broadway/Madison Street, the lack of MTA bus service, pedestrian and cyclist safety on surrounding streets, school overcrowding, flood protection measures along the East River, availability of food stores, the lack of a full-service hospital and other medical facilities, the potential displacement of small businesses and the diminishment of light and air due to the new towers. Another concern: the potential for harassment of longtime residents due to increased police protection in the area.

During a public speaking session, several residents and housing activists were given an opportunity to talk about their own concerns. Daisy Echevarria, a tenant leader at 275 South St., said, “these monstrous-sized buildings should never have been allowed,” pointing out that the city rejected a request for a sweeping rezoning of Chinatown and the Lower East Side in 2015 (a smaller scale rezoning is still potentially on the table). The Department of City Planning, she asserted, only seems concerned with making zoning changes to benefit developers, not communities. “Mayor de Blasio keeps allowing developers to build luxury high rises for a paltry number of affordable apartments,” said Echevarria.

Another tenant leader, Marc Richardson, said his biggest worry about the projects is that they will more than double the number of apartments in a two block stretch of the East River. Since these apartments will be 75% market rate, the Two Bridges area will be transformed, and not necessarily to the liking of the existing the community. “I’m most concerned about changing the character and demographics of the neighborhood,” said Richardson.

Melanie Wong, who works for the advocacy group CAAAV, argued that the environmental study should include an evaluation of lost rent stabilized housing in the neighborhood during the past 5-10 years. Trever Holland, tenant president at Two Bridges Tower, called for a detailed plan to accommodate several senior residents who will be displaced from 80 Rutgers Slip.

Another local tenant leader, Aaron Gonzalez, said he’s convinced landlords will raise rents on area businesses serving low- and middle-income residents. He concluded, “these monstrous behemoths rising with their shiny exteriors are nothing but a facade. What lurks under the skin is the beginning of the erosion of our neighborhood character.”

Jan. 18 meeting, Two Bridges environmental review.

December 2016 meeting, Two Bridges environmental review.

The development teams have pledged to work with community leaders to soften the impact of their projects. One-quarter of the apartments in each tower will be set aside for affordable housing. This past winter, they conducted a series of public forums ahead of the environmental review. On a website set up by the developers, they have provided answers to many of the questions raised at these events.

In one of the meetings, they were asked whether the environmental review would, “study the potential for displacement of tenants in rent-protected units due to harassment” and whether “landlords will be incentivized to harass tenants” due to rising rents in the neighborhood. They responded that both city and state agencies, “administer measures against tenant harassment and, in severe cases, provide strong penalties for tenant harassment and illegal eviction.”  As for concerns that the impact on rent stabilized housing won’t be thoroughly evaluated, they said the environmental review will, “identify the populations that are most at risk of displacement…”

The community board will resume discussions about the Two Bridges scoping document next month. In the meantime, tenant leaders and the offices of elected officials are conducting a survey to reach community members who might not have attended previous public meetings.

Two Bridges Environmental Review, Chinatown Rezoning on Tonight’s CB3 Agenda

One Manhattan Square towers over the Manhattan Bridge. Photo by Joel Raskin.

One Manhattan Square towers over the Manhattan Bridge. Photo by Joel Raskin.

The future of Chinatown and the Two Bridges area will be back on the agenda when Community Board 3’s land use committee meets tonight.

The panel will be crafting a response to the Draft Scope of Work recently published by the Department of City Planning for the upcoming Two Bridges environmental review. That environmental assessment will study the impact of three large-scale residential towers planned along the East River, from Pike Slip to Clinton Street. A hearing on the draft scope was originally scheduled for the end of the month, but at the request of local elected officials, it will now be held May 25. Local residents have many concerns about the projects, from the potential displacement of low-income tenants, to the loss of light and air, strains on the public transportation system and the impact on crowded public schools and medical facilities.

Two related discussions will take place this evening. The land use committee will be asked to support Extell Development’s application for a tax abatement at One Manhattan Square, the 80-story tower now under construction at 250 South St.. The project includes about 200 units of affordable housing in a separate building. The 421-a application was set in motion before the program expired. While the community board has little influence over the application, committee members are sure to ask the developers pointed questions about the unpopular project. Among them: the status of a long-promised replacement for the Pathmark Grocery store, a casualty of the luxury tower.

The panel tonight will also resume talks about a potential rezoning of Chinatown, a hugely contentious topic. The city previously agreed to entertain a limited rezoning, though some community members have rejected a piecemeal approach.

Finally, the committee will continue a conversation about the fate of 11 affordable condominium units at 242 Broome St., part of the Essex Crossing project. Last month, board members were dismayed to learn that these apartments were not guaranteed permanent affordability. Discussions have been taking place with city officials and the development team about the issue. Tonight, some of the questions they previously asked will be answered.

Tonight’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 273 Bowery.

City Delays Environmental Review Meeting For Two Bridges Area (Updated)

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.

The Department of City Planning today announced that it’s pushing off a public scoping meeting for the upcoming Two Bridges environmental review until May 25. It had originally been scheduled for April 27.

The environmental review is meant to study how the Lower East Side will be impacted by three large-scale residential projects along the East River. City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer put out a press release heralding the delay.

The elected officials wrote a letter to the developers of the three projects March 17, asking them to support a delay. They declined, just as they had when local residents made a similar request earlier this year. Brewer and Chin then fired off a second letter to City Planning, noting that the environmental review documents were not made available in Spanish and Chinese. There are a large number of non-English speakers within the impacted area.

“The Two Bridges community needs time to consider all of the impacts of these massive development projects – and that requires the release of information in a language that they can understand,” said Chin“That is why I joined Borough President Brewer to fight for more time for the community to arrive at a consensus about its needs and desired outcomes. In order to achieve this goal, I will continue to fight to ensure that residents and business owners in Two Bridges are heard.”

The scoping meeting will now take place May 25 at the Manhattan Municipal Building, Mezzanine level, 1 Centre St. There are separate sessions at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. We published the “draft scope of work” last month.

On Wednesday, April 19, Community Board 3’s land use committee is scheduled to discuss its position on the draft scope of work. That meeting takes place at University Settlement, 273 Bowery at 6:30 p.m.

The projects planned in the Two Bridges area 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. A spokesperson for the developers declined to comment today. In late March, they released a statement saying, “We share the elected officials’ desire for meaningful community engagement, which is why we believe it’s important to start the scoping process and analyze the issues that have been raised. We have taken part in an unprecedented pre-development process and have gleaned important feedback from three public meetings in the neighborhood and several additional meetings with residents and community groups. We look forward to building on this as we head into the scoping hearing and the environmental review process.”

UPDATE 3:30 p.m. A few more details from a letter sent by DCP Director Marisa Lago to Council member Chin and Borough President Brewer today. The letter notes that the city is legally required to hold the hearing 30-45 days after the draft scope is released. Lago says her agency is committed to providing multi-language access to the community. The scoping notice, she said, would soon be posted in Chinese and Spanish on DCP’s website. The city has also asked the developers to provide translation services at the meeting. They have agreed.

(Opinion) Parking on the Lower East Side is Bad and It’s About to Get a Lot Worse

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.

The following op/ed was written by Sam Moskowitz, a 30+ year resident of the Lower East Side. He can be reached at samuelkmoskowitz@gmail.comThe Lo-Down welcomes Lower East Side-relevant submissions from members of our community. They may be sent to: Editorials on this website represent the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial viewpoint of The Lo-Down.

The Lower East Side as we have known it for the past 50 years is about to change. We are adding 1,000 units at Essex Crossing, 1,000 more at 250 South St. (in Extell Development’s One Manhattan Square), and the 2,775-unit Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development (LSRD) will pile on and drastically change the landscape of our neighborhood forever. If you are thinking you won’t be affected because you live several blocks away, think again, as the impacts will extend all the way north to Essex Street and beyond. I don’t know how many units the developer will add on the East Broadway Bialystocker site, but if Seward Park cooperators allow the air rights transfer sale, about 3 times the amount of units will be built compared to an as of right project*.

So we’re talking 4,775 units total, about three times the size of the Seward Park Co-op. And how many parking spots will be added to accommodate the luxury unit purchasers who will demand parking for their cars? About -500. Yes, you heard me. We are facing a net loss of 500 spots to accommodate almost 5,000 new apartments.


The scoping document provided by the Two Bridges LSRD and published on the Lo-Down is packed with troubling alternative facts that they are hoping you don’t read. I’m sure the developer’s environmental studies will show no adverse effects to the neighborhood’s schools, public transportation, traffic, air quality, and other factors they must review as part of the study, but I call shenanigans on their highly flawed parking study.

Their initial parking survey of .25 miles had to be increased to .5 miles just to get the data they are falsely claiming shows off-site capacity. However, the ridiculous notion that off-site parking will meet demand (page 64-65 Table 4 and indicated in the chart below) is undeniably WRONG due to the following reasons: 

1. They do not account for the fact that the vast majority of these parking lots are close to or at 100% of capacity for long-term parking. Many lots show availability in the scoping doc, but only because the lot operators do not lease to capacity to maximize profits on short-term daily/hourly rentals.  

2. The 297 parking spots indicated as Site 11 (map below, Table 4) is Essex Crossing Site 3 (the entirety of Essex Crossing is shown as #3 on the map), which is slated for closure and redevelopment. The extended parking area indicated on this map covers the Essex Crossing site, but the scoping document does not take into account the increased parking demand from that 1,000-unit development.

3. Many of the smaller Chinatown lots are also prime development targets. Maybe not this year or next, but we all know these lots will not all remain parking lots for long and will soon go the way of our Manhattan gas stations…

4. The 250 South St. development is including 110 parking spot for over 1,000 units (200 affordable, 800 market rate). These 100 spots do not alleviate the need for area parking, but only increase demand, as it well below the demand indicated by the 23% of Manhattan residents who own cars. 

This inadequate plan by the developers of the Two Bridges LSRD will compound the negative changes that will be brought by Essex Crossing, 250 South St., and whatever Seward Park cooperators allow to be built on the Bialystocker site on East Broadway. *


What can we do about it? Please take a few minutes and send an email with your comments on this project to

Please save the date for April 27th and attend either the 2 p.m. or 6 p.m. public scoping meetings at 125 Worth St. If you cannot attend, and even if you can, I strongly urge to submit written comments (feel free to cut and paste from this article) to:

Robert Dobruskin, AICP,
New York City Planning Commission
ADDRESS   120 Broadway, 31st Floor
NY, NY 10271

* I am not a Seward Park Co-op resident and have nothing to personally gain or lose by the sale of air rights. However, I do believe the infusion of $$$ is a short-sighted decision that will negatively affect the area, and specifically Seward Park cooperators, for the rest of our lives here (not to mention the resale value of the hundreds of your Seward Park neighbors who will be most affected). My family has lived in this neighborhood for six generations, and I can promise you that our decisions today affect our children and following generations. If you are a Seward Park cooperator I strongly urge you to VOTE NO on the air rights sales.

City Releases Two Bridges “Draft Scoping” Document; Public Hearing April 27

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.

The Department of City Planning today announced that a “public scoping meeting” for a Two Bridges Environmental Review will be held April 27.

A joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared for three large-scale projects being planned along the East River. There will actually be two sessions. The first begins at 2 p.m., with the second session taking place at 6 p.m. Written comments will be accepted through May 11. The meeting ttakes place at the Health Building, 125 Worth St.

See below for the draft scoping document. More details to come.

Next Environmental Review Meeting For “Two Bridges” Projects Happens on Saturday

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 third meeting will take place this coming Saturday for the upcoming environmental review in the Two Bridges area. The first two sessions, held in December and January, were contentious affairs. It’s anyone’s guess what the third gathering will bring.

The developers of three proposed projects are taking part in a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). These meetings are part of an enhanced public process they agreed to participate in, along with local elected officials. The projects 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.

Saturday’s meeting, being described as an “open house,” happens Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Manny Cantor Center, 197 East Broadway.

Leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood read a statement during an environmental review meeting Jan. 18.

Leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood read a statement during an environmental review meeting Jan. 18.

At the most recent public gathering, Jan. 18, residents took over the proceedings from a facilitator and angrily denounced all of the projects as absurdly out-of-scale for the neighborhood. Tenant leaders used a megaphone, demanding a delay in the process to allow for a more thorough community outreach campaign. A large number of people walked out, declining to take part in a planned discussion over potential environmental impacts of the projects. Later, the developers rejected the request to push back a “scoping meeting” for the environmental review until December.

In the past few days, we’ve spoken with some of the key players in the Two Bridges community engagement process. What follows is a look at where it’s headed and what they hope will be accomplished at the next meeting.

The developers understand that many people in the neighborhood have only one priority: stopping these projects from moving forward. But the development firms obviously have no intention of walking away from lucrative developments that they believe city zoning ordinances allow them to build. So they’re trying to refocus the conversation on the details of the environmental review.

Their consultant, Karp Strategies, has prepared summaries of the first two meetings and posted them online. The documents reference the protests that occurred, but emphasize the specific concerns voiced by community members about the impacts of the proposed projects. Some of the issues detailed in the summaries:

  • Gentrification & displacement: Impact of the projects on a low-income neighborhood
  • Affordable housing in the developments: How rents and eligibility will be determined
  • Access to affordable food as the neighborhood continues to gentrify
  • Affordability of retail spaces in the new developments
  • Need for improved F Train service and MTA bus service
  • Overcrowded schools; quality of existing public schools
  • Quality of life during construction
  • Lack of medical facilities
  • Resiliency measures along the waterfront

Tenant leaders in buildings adjacent to the new projects share many of these concerns. At the same time, however, they are wary of a process that they fear might not result in any real neighborhood protections.

Marc Richardson of the Lands End I tenant association, said his residents want to see some specific issues addressed. They want the developers to detail the income requirements in their “affordable” units. “These projects will totally change the character of our community,” he added. “It’s going o be a more economically hostile environment (for low- and middle income households). That’s got to be dealt with.”

Pretty much everyone engaged in the process is frustrated that more substantive talks haven’t taken place. Stakeholders formed a community task force, but meetings of that group have not been very fruitful. Recently, tenant groups in the neighborhood met with the development teams directly. Richardson said those initial conversations were productive.

Another tenant leader, Trever Holland of Two Bridges Tower, agreed that a small amount of progress has been made in recent conversations. But he said people continue to have “serious reservations” about the scale of the new projects. The towers are all three to four times the height of anything else in the neighborhood (with the exception of Extell development’s massive tower on the former Pathmark site). “We feel we still have many things to discuss before any of these proposals moves forward,” said Holland.

The upcoming meeting is the last public session before the city’s official environmental review gets underway. The public scoping meeting to decide what issues will be covered in the environmental review is scheduled for April. City Council member Margaret Chin has been helping to coordinate the work of the task force, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. During an interview earlier this week, her spokesman, Paul Leonard, said Chin has always believed her role is to,”empower the task force and to ensure that the community’s voices are heard.”  Leonard said the Council member hopes people at Saturday’s meeting will, “get down to business” and focus on “what can be done to help the community.”


Tenant Leaders in Two Bridges Area Are “Disappointed” After Bid For Delay is Rejected

Leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood read a statement during an environmental review meeting Jan. 18.

Leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood read a statement during an environmental review meeting Jan. 18.

As we reported yesterday, three development teams planning large-scale projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood have rejected a request from residents for a delay in the environmental review process. The request was made by residents in a contentious meeting held Jan. 18. This morning, tenant leaders from buildings adjacent to the development sites are out with a new statement, which is critical of the developers’ decision. But they also pledged to stay engaged with an ongoing community planning initiative.

The statement was sent to us by representatives of each building located in the Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development Area. These buildings include: Lands End I, Lands End II, Two Bridges Tower and 286 South St.

We are very disappointed by the developers decision to not extend the period of time that the community will have to discuss the impacts of these massive developments which will more than double the population of residents in the two block area affected prior to the official scoping hearing. This additional time would have been for the community to have its own discussions to ensure we’re all sufficiently made aware of what’s being proposed. Citing the limits of the law is no consolation and does not give residents of Two Bridges any confidence that these developments will provide any additional housing that is truly affordable. There is nothing stopping developers from being specific about what affordable means, yet in two community engagement meetings they’ve failed to be specific. There has been no real effort to address the issues raised by residents in the Two Bridges community who are adamantly opposed to these developments citing, gentrification, overcrowded subway stations, already scarce parking, excessive building heights, neighborhood character, displacement of senior citizens, etc. We frankly disagree that it would be counterproductive to delay as this position presumes that the only discussions regarding these developments and their potential impacts would only need to involve direct engagement with the developers and their agents; we frankly need this additional time to discuss impacts within the community and with our representatives.  We remain engaged and will continue to advocate for more comprehensive and inclusive engagement which allows for the fullest expression of the Two Bridge community.

JDS Development Group, L+M Development Partners and the CIM Group and the Starrett Group are all planning towers ranging in height from 62 to 79 stories. Along with local elected officials and tenant leaders, they have been participating in a joint environmental review. Two public meetings have already been held and a third is scheduled for early March.


Developers in Two Bridges Area Decline Request to Push Back Environmental Review

Rendering shows huge new towers dotting the East Side waterfront.

Rendering shows huge new towers dotting the East Side waterfront.

In a statement released today, the developers of three large-scale projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood are declining a request from residents to delay an environmental review in the area.

The request from tenant leaders came during a raucous meeting held Jan. 18. The developers have been participating in a series of public input sessions leading up to the official start of a joint environmental review. The residents said the process is moving too quickly to provide “meaningful feedback.” They wanted to see a “scoping meeting” for the Environmental Impact Statement pushed back until at least September (it’s currently planned for April).

The three projects include a 79-story tower at 247 Cherry St. from JDS Development Group, twin 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. The developers say a stretched timetable would be “counterproductive” because it, “will only delay the ability of community residents to access and review the kind of detailed information that they have asked for in order to evaluate the projects.”

Here’s the statement, which was provided to The Lo-Down a short time ago:

Over the past several months, we have participated in a formal community engagement process with residents of the Two Bridges neighborhood to discuss three new mixed-income rental housing projects proposed by our respective organizations. This process stems from an August 11, 2016 determination by the Department of City Planning (DCP) that all three projects should be considered in a single Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to understand how together they may affect the neighborhood and how such impacts can be addressed. We committed to conducting three community meetings prior to starting the formal EIS process, and one additional meeting once the process is underway. The first meeting was held on December 15, 2016 and the second on January 18, 2017. The third meeting will be held in March, and the fourth meeting will take place at a later date.

Jan. 18 meeting, Two Bridges environmental review.

Jan. 18 meeting, Two Bridges environmental review.

During the January meeting, residents took over the proceedings. While tenant leaders took turns reading portions of their statement, others denounced the development teams and the city. A majority of those in attendance walked out. In spite of the negative reaction from many, developers say they remain committed to the process:

To our knowledge, the current process is an unprecedented effort to provide community members with information regarding environmental review and providing an opportunities for input from local residents. These meetings are not required by law or regulation. They  are in addition to the public hearings and meetings required under City procedures that will take place once the EIS process begins. To make the process as productive as possible for participants, we engaged a professional facilitation firm   We believe that the process has been constructive, and a strong interest has shown by community members to engage in these discussions. Through these meetings, we learned a significant amount about the issues and priorities of neighborhood residents in areas ranging from housing affordability to schools to open space. Participants also asked for greater clarity on how these issues will be studied and addressed, and for the results of  analyses.

In their statement, the developers argue that the community engagement process is not a hasty one, as tenant leaders allege:

The EIS process begins when the Department of City Planning issues a Draft Scope of Work solicits public comment at a Scoping Meeting. The purpose of a Draft Scope of Work is to describe the proposed projects, the impact categories that will be studied, and the study areas and methods that will be used. The issuance of a Draft Scope of Work in no way reflects a decision to approve a project. The analyses that flow from the Final Scope of Work after the Scoping Meeting will produce the detailed information that community members have requested, such as data regarding school seats, usage of the East Broadway F Train station, traffic conditions, open space utilization, and the projects’ approach towards sustainability and flood resiliency measures, among others. In addition, it is only once Scoping has taken place that the agencies (MTA/Transit Authority; Departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection and Parks and Recreation; School Construction Authority) can weigh in and assess any mitigations in their purview.

Finally, they conclude:

At the January 18 meeting, a group of participants requested that we delay the Scoping Meeting from April to September 2017. As discussed above, however, moving the Scoping Meeting to September will only delay the ability of community residents to access and review the kind of detailed information that they have asked for in order to evaluate the projects. Further, there will be many opportunities for community involvement once the EIS process begins. The preparation of a Draft EIS following Scoping will take four to six months. It will likely take several more months for the results of the Draft EIS to be reviewed, including through public hearings held by the Community Board and the City Planning Commission, and for a Final EIS to be issued. We are committed to engaging with the local community throughout this process. For these reasons, we believe delaying the Scoping Meeting would be counterproductive. We remain committed to the current engagement process and encourage all members of the Two Bridges community to attend the next scheduled community meeting in March.  To further support these ongoing discussions, we have also posted a more extensive questions and answers document on our website at

Now it’s up to residents in the Two Bridges area to decide how they’ll respond.  We’ll be following up with them today.

UPDATE 2/7/2017 You can read a statement from tenant leaders here.

HUD Supports Relocation Plan For Seniors in Two Bridges Building; CM Chin Voices Outrage

Rendering of proposed tower at 247 Cherry St., as shown at a late April community meeting. SHoP Architects.

Rendering of proposed tower at 247 Cherry St., as shown at a late April community meeting. SHoP Architects.

We have new information this afternoon about the potential relocation of senior residents to accommodate the construction of a thousand foot rental tower in the Two Bridges neighborhood.

JDS Development Group has publicly acknowledged that it might be necessary to move some tenants of a low-income senior housing complex at 80 Rutgers Slip. Plans call for the tower at 247 Cherry St. to be built over the senior building. The Lo-Down has learned new details about the proposal as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in early January. The documents we obtained show that the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development offered its support for the plan in a letter dated Dec. 15.

The new revelations were not warmly received by City Council member Margaret Chin, who told us this afternoon, “I am outraged that this senior relocation plan has been given HUD support without any consultation with elected officials, the community or even the seniors that will have to suffer the impacts of this proposed building that will be constructed over their homes.”

The senior building is owned by Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. The not-for-profit organization and its partner, Settlement Housing Fund, sold development rights to JDS last year, making the new residential project possible. One-quarter of the apartments, or 155 units, will be set aside as affordable housing.

In a November letter to HUD, Two Bridges President Victor Papa and Settlement Housing President Alexa Sewell explained that it could be necessary to relocate the tenants of up to 19 apartments. Nine units, “which will have one window obstructed by the tower,” would be off-line for 12 months while full renovations take place. “Windows will be modified to maintain legally required light and air,” the letter stated, and full apartment renovations would occur. Ten additional apartments would be permanently taken off-line. JDS would provide replacement apartments in its new tower for those units. These 10 units for seniors would be in addition to the 155 rent-regulated apartments designated in the tower.

247 Cherry St.. Rendering by SHoP Architects.

247 Cherry St.. Rendering by SHoP Architects.

Two Bridges emphasized that it might not be necessary to move any residents. As vacancies occur, apartments are not being rented. “We are confident,” wrote Papa and Sewell, “that we will have enough vacancies in the senior building by construction start (in approximately two years) that we will not have to permanently relocate any current tenants into the new tower.”  Any temporary relocations would be accommodated in two neighboring buildings (Two Bridges Tower and Lands End II). JDS has agreed to make up the difference in the rent between the senior building (a Section 8 property) and the temporary housing units.

The letter stated that, in the absence of JDS’s plan, it would be impossible to create affordable housing in, “this high cost, high opportunity neighborhood.” Other advantages of the proposal were cited, including flood protection measures for the senior building, new laundry rooms on each floor, lobby renovations and new retail.

“Based on the information provided to us,” wrote a HUD administrator, “our office is in support of this development plan.” HUD will require a formal request when the final plan is in place.

Council member Chin has been working closely with Two Bridges and with JDS to address community concerns regarding the project. It’s one of three-large scale developments coming to the immediate area. In a statement provided to The Lo-Down today, Chin did not mince words:

This week, in response to repeated requests for information on the senior relocation plan, a representative of Two Bridges/Settlement Housing Fund responded to my office that they didn’t ‘have anything written.’  That response, we now know, was completely untrue. Furthermore, this communication between Two Bridges/SHF and HUD shows that the development team has, on numerous occasions, deliberately misled residents about the senior relocation plan for 80 Rutgers. Today, I plan to make my opposition known to HUD, Two Bridges/SHF, and the development team, and to focus on community priorities and ways to achieve those priorities by any means necessary.

Contacted regarding the Council member’s statement, Victor Papa said a meeting has been in-the-works to detail for Chin and others a relocation work plan. Public meetings and meetings of a community task force, he said, are helping to focus the not-for-profit groups on what needs to be done to address the concerns of senior residents. The plan, he said, can’t be shared until it is complete. Papa said Two Bridges is working “carefully and deliberately” to make sure the construction of the new tower impacts the senior tenants as little as possible.

A spokesperson for Chin told us a short time ago that some written materials regarding the plan had been forwarded to the Council member’s office late today.

See below for the documents made available to us from HUD.

UPDATE 2/2/2017 Here’s a statement we received from a HUD spokesman:

HUD has not issued any formal approval to relocate residents at the Two Bridges Development. Should a formal request be necessary, HUD will conduct a thorough and complete review prior to approval. Our staff look forward to working with Councilwoman Chin, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, and community residents as we move forward.

two bridges 1 two bridges 2 two bridges 3 two bridges 4

hud response 1

hud response 2


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Leaders in Two Bridges Area Plead: Stop the Destruction of Our Neighborhood

Two Bridges environmental review meeting, Jan. 18.

Two Bridges environmental review meeting, Jan. 18.

Last week’s community meeting to discuss the impact of three large-scale residential projects in the Two Bridges area was a contentious affair. A majority of those present walked out in the middle of the session Jan. 18. It’s still not completely clear how the local engagement process will move forward. We’ll have a story about that in the near future. In the meantime, however, we’re sharing the substance of an open letter delivered from residents to the developers and city officials. It was read by tenant leaders at the meeting. The developers promised a response within a week.

The residents want to push back the timetable for a “public scoping meeting” to shape the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement. It’s now scheduled to take place in the spring. Here’s their argument for a delay:

We are writing you to express our concerns about the relative short period being afforded to our community in order to be informed and provide meaningful feedback about the 3 massive developments planned within a two block area in our back yard. We believe that real Community Engagement requires an authentic process that sincerely seeks to glean community expression; anything less and people come away feeling used. We believe that effective community engagement takes tremendous time and resources to be done effectively and the benefits far outweigh the costs. Expression that once collected and hashed out to a degree can be focused to shape if not outright stop development that we do not feel suits the community’s needs.

During the summer, the city rejected a request from City Council member Margaret Chin for a full land use review in the Two Bridges area. Instead, the Department of City Planning and the development teams agreed to what’s been called an “enhanced Environmental Impact Statement.” A community task force was established and several community meetings scheduled. But the residents say the developers’ efforts fall far short of what’s required to ensure true local engagement:

…many people in the Two Bridges Community simply do not trust this hasty process… or the people (who are employed by the developers to conduct open engagement meetings). Additionally, we appreciate the efforts of those involved with adopting an ‘Enhanced EIS’ process and to the extent it was meant as a genuine attempt to enhance community engagement we hope you’ll recognize that this letter is in that same spirit. Regretfully, due to the crammed nature of the process and the evolving nature of organizing community sentiment we were unable to express our misgivings with sufficient consensus earlier in the process which we believe is further evidence of a need for more time.

The residents have demanded that the scoping meeting be pushed back until “at least September.” They are also asking elected officials to schedule more public events in the weeks ahead, “aimed at developing community expression, whether that can be leveraged to shape the EIS analysis or to rally opposition…”  They concluded: “We want you (the developers and our elected officials) to rectify this otherwise muddled outreach and help us keep our community from being effectively destroyed.”

The three projects in the environmental review include a 79-story tower at 247 Cherry St. from JDS Development Group, twin 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. Taken together, they will add more than two-million square feet of mixed-use development and over 2,700 new apartments to the immediate area. This is on top of Extell’s 80-story luxury condo tower on the former Pathmark site, which is not part of the environmental assessment.

An online petition has been started in support of the residents’ demands. 125 people have signed so far. Last week’s meeting was attended by a wide variety of community activists. The tenant leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood did not plan the walkout.



Two Bridges Mega Projects: Residents Doubt Their Concerns Will Be Heard

Rendering shows huge new towers dotting the East Side waterfront.

Rendering shows huge new towers dotting the East Side waterfront.

We have spent a lot of time during the past few months talking about four large-scale development projects coming to the Two Bridges area. There’s a good reason why. In the years ahead, these developments will bring more than 3700 new apartments to the neighborhood, transforming the waterfront community of the Lower East Side.

Today we’re taking a look at what happened last week when the development teams, local elected officials and residents piled into a community room for the first of four public meetings to discuss the projects. The session, held at Gouverneur Health Dec. 15, was part of a joint environmental review of the Two Bridges proposals.

The city this past summer rejected Council member Margaret Chin’s request for a full land use review (ULURP) in the Two Bridges area. Instead, the Department of City Planning and the developers teamed up with local office holders for what has been described as an enhanced study of environmental impacts.

They’ll be looking at three projects, including a 79-story tower at 247 Cherry St. from JDS Development Group, twin 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. An 80-story luxury complex from Extell Development, now under construction, is not part of the environmental review.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin kicked off last week’s event, addressing a skeptical audience about the merits of the public process that’s now unfolding. The two elected officials have been coordinating the work of a community task force that recently began meeting behind closed doors regarding the development projects.

“The good news is that your input is real,” said Brewer. Noting that oftentimes public meetings “don’t mean anything,” the borough president asserted, “the real fact is that your input means something.”  Chin agreed, saying, “Your input does count. Even though we could not get a ULURP, we fought for it (and) didn’t get it, we want to make sure, in this whole process, that with three major developments coming… we hear from the community about what is needed…”

The meeting was choreographed by Rebecca Karp of Karp Strategies, an urban planning consulting firm. She was hired by the development team, as was AKRF, the environmental consultants who will prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement to be submitted to the City Planning Commission.

Karp pointed out that, in contrast with a regular environmental review, the general public will be involved from the very beginning in this process. They’ll help shape a scoping document, detailing exactly what will be studied in each of 18 categories. They’ll be looking at the impact of the three developments on schools, transportation, open space, air quality, etc. The environmental review also must spell out proposed mitigations (remedies) to address these impacts.

One local resident asked, “What kind of weight will our suggestions have?” Almost no one in the neighborhood wants to see towers put up that are three and four times the height of existing buildings. But since the projects are all allowable under current zoning, there’s little anyone will be able to do to stop them. “Would I like to have small buildings?, said Borough President Brewer. “Yes, but I’m not sure that will be as possible. Almost everything else is on the table.”

One audience member, Ozzie Hernandez, was more than skeptical. “I have never seen a consultant hired by a developer,” he said,  “come back with the true effects that (a project) is going to have on the community… I don’t think the community really has a say-so.”

In response, Brewer told Hernandez, “The best that the Council member and I can do (is) to have serious community input about what goes into and around the buildings, and maybe, make them smaller. Could we make them smaller like you and I would like? I don’t know. I’m being honest with you.”

two bridges meeting 3

One-by-one, the development teams presented very brief overviews of their projects. But before this part of the meeting could begin, the evening’s proceedings were nearly derailed by outraged residents fed up with rampant real estate development on the Lower East Side.

As Michael Stern of JDS Development Group came up on stage, a man in the back third of the room yelled, “You greedy corporate fuck… Get the fuck out of (this neighborhood).”  Hernandez spoke up again, saying, “Everyone in this room has a financial interest. How many millions are being paid to people in this room?” Another audience member added, “This decision has already been made. You are wasting our time.”

Matthew Washington, a deputy borough president who was moderating the discussion, struggled to regain control. It was 10 minutes or so before local tenant leaders managed to refocus the conversation. Trever Holland stood up to say, “I live at 82 Rutgers Slip. I live right next to the Extell project… I want to see what they’re building.” Nancy Ortiz, tenant leader at the Vladeck Houses, added, “These people (the developers) own this land as-of-right. These people already have the right to build these buildings. This (an environmental review) is something we demanded because we are concerned about the impact of these four developments in the community. Can we please be respectful?! I am asking please, can everyone just listen to the developers and then ask your questions.”


(L-R) 247 Cherry St., 260 South St., 259 Clinton St.

Project: 247 Cherry St.
Developer: JDS Development Group
Building Size: 79 floors, 1008 feet, 504,175 square feet
Apartments: Up to 660, 25% affordable
Retail: 2500 square feet
More Information: Our interview with the development team

Project: 260 South St.
Developer: L+M Development Partners, CIM Group
Building Size: 69 + 62 floors, 798 feet, 1,125,000 square feet
Apartments: Up to 1350, 25% affordable
Retail: Up to 5300 square feet in existing buildings
More Information: Our interview with the development team

Project: 259 Clinton St.
Developer: Starrett Development
Building Size: 62 floors, 724 feet, 592,890 square feet
Apartments: Up to 732, 25% affordable
Retail: 2500 square feet
More Information: Our interview with the development team

Total Apartments: 2742
Total Affordable Units: 686
Retail: 10.300 square feet
Total Square Footage: 2,222,065


When the developers were finally able to speak, they emphasized that the market rate projects would also include more than 600 units of affordable housing. They talked up the resiliency measures being undertaken to protect the buildings from future storms and highlighted new retail and open space amenities that would be added to the community.

A senior resident of 80 Rutgers Slip spoke up, referencing the fact that JDS’s tower will be cantilevered over his home. “An 80 story building over the top of my head!?,” he screamed. The man said that senior residents had been let down. “Now you want to know, after the fact, how we feel about it?,” he said incredulously. In past meetings, JDS explained that tenants in several units would be displaced during construction. One member of the audience asked for more details. Michael Stern replied that nine seniors would be relocated for about three years. When the new building opens, they will be given new apartments, he said, adding that social workers will be helping to relocate the displaced residents.

There were other questions about the lack of parking in the neighborhood, overburdened local schools and whether construction jobs would be set aside for local residents. Few definitive answers were offered. Parking and the impact of new residents on neighborhood schools will both be studied in the environmental review.  There were promises to hire within the community whenever possible.

two bridges meeting 1

Other residents raised concerns about the future of Stop 1 Deli, a longtime business at 265 Cherry St.. They said that the deli, located within a building L+M and CIM Group own, has been under the threat of eviction. After the Cherry Street Pathmark store closed a few years ago, it’s the only place in the immediate area for people to buy milk, coffee and other staples. One man asked, “Are you talking about tripling their rent to get them out?” Katherine Kelman of L+M responded, “We recognize that it’s the only source of food (in the neighborhood) and that it’s important to the community.” She said the management team has been working with Stop 1 to, “correct a number of issues that they’ve had” and that the business will have the “opportunity to stay” when lease negotiations for the revamped retail spaces begin.

While there were some concerns about commercial displacement, there was even more anxiety about the prospect of residential tenants being forced from the community. The developers have said that no residents will be displaced from buildings adjacent to the building sites. One speaker said she’s worried about secondary displacement, a likely result of increased rents and rising property values in the area. “Will you support anti-harassment measures?,” she asked, asserting that people in the Two Bridges area, “need protection from developers like you. I don’t see how you will fight against your own interests.”

Over and over, speakers returned to one central topic: the massive scale of the proposed projects. One resident asked, “What about building shorter buildings?” Noting that all of them will be constructed in very close proximity to peoples’ homes, the speaker wanted to know, “Why are all three developers building up against (existing properties)?” The development teams responded that they have designed projects that make use of all of the floor area allowable under zoning regulations. They said the new towers, to the best of the architects’ ability, have been positioned to impact their neighbors as little as possible.

In the end, the conversation came back to the value of this environmental review process and whether it will end up making any difference in the community. Damaris Reyes, executive director of the tenant advocacy group GOLES, wanted to know what happens if the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) finds there are “adverse impacts. ”

“If (for example) the EIS finds there are not enough school seats, not enough transportation — will (the city administration) approve (the plans anyway), and if they don’t approve them, can the project still move forward?”

The consultants working for the development teams said the Department of City Planning (DCP) can lay out conditions for approval. They said that the applications for “minor modifications” in the Two Bridges Large-Scale Development Area must be signed off by DCP. They cannot move forward otherwise. But they added, “DCP can decide that, on balance the, benefits (of the projects) outweigh the impacts.”

Following last week’s meeting we checked in with Council member Chin’s office. We were offered the following statement about the environmental review process:

As an as-of-right project built without any environmental review, Extell’s One Manhattan Square development has been a disaster for our community. That is why I joined the Borough President to ask for a major modification to the existing large-scale plan in order to maximize public review of these three new developments. Instead, we got a process that will result in public input being included in an Environmental Impact Statement. I understand and share the frustration of residents about this process, but it is the only one available to ensure that the public gets the increased transportation options, public school seats, construction mitigation and real affordable housing that our community needs. Last (Thursday) night’s meeting was just the beginning of a substantial public process. I thank residents for braving the cold and making their voices heard.

Karp Strategies has set up a website with more details about the upcoming meetings and about the three projects. The next session will take place in January.

Happening Tonight: Meeting on Mega-Towers in Two Bridges Area

Rendering shows huge new towers dotting the East Side waterfront.

Rendering shows huge new towers looming over the East Side waterfront.

In our recent coverage of several new large-scale projects coming to the Two Bridges area, we’ve referenced a joint environmental review now taking place in the neighborhood. The kickoff meeting for that process happens tonight. See below for the flyer put out by the developers and a task force being overseen by local elected officials. Click here if you’d like to catch up on our recent coverage.



Local Residents Vent About Starrett’s Proposed 62-Story Tower in Two Bridges Area

Lands End 1 complex alongside Starrett's development site.

Lands End 1 complex, 275 South St., alongside Starrett’s development site.

Residents living next door to Starrett Development’s proposed 62-story tower at 259 Clinton St. got a first look at the plans yesterday evening. You saw the renderings first last night on The Lo-Down. Now we have a follow-up, detailing reaction from residents at Lands End 1, the mixed-income property bordering the development site.

In case you missed it, Starrett is hoping to build a 732-unit rental tower with 25% of the units designated as affordable. There would be about 2,500 square feet of retail along South Street. The firm’s president, Josh Siegel, is touting the project’s focus on resiliency (there will be greenery surrounding the building, flood gates and storm water retention devices).

After a short presentation last night, residents spoke out. Lands End 1 , a 260-unit-complex, was sold by Starrett to L+M Development Partners and Nelson Management Group in 2015. Starrett kept a small parcel for future development and shifted air rights from an adjacent tax lot.

Proposed tower at 259 Clinton St. Rendering by Perkins-Eastman.

Proposed tower at 259 Clinton St. Rendering by Perkins-Eastman.

Daisy Echevarria, a member of the tenant association board, was first to speak. “The tenants reject this proposal,” she said, “to build a 62-story building on our lot.” The Starrett project and two other large-scale projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood will undergo a joint environmental review. But Echevarria called for a more thorough study of impacts in the community. “We have many, many concerns,” she added, mentioning worries about the stability of the foundation of Lands End 1. Echevarria brought up the construction of Extell’s mega-tower a few blocks away, where sidewalks buckled, streets were flooded and apartments in neighboring buildings developed cracks. “This monstrosity,” Echevarria told Siegel, “will impact our building.”

Other residents asked whether the proposal is “a done deal.” While it is an “as-of-right” project and does not require any special city waivers, the building site is located in the Two Bridges Large-Scale Development Area. An Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared and the city has the option of asking for changes in the plans.

starrett briefing

A longtime resident said she believes the new buildings will change the entire neighborhood. “I liked the fact that it wasn’t crowded” in the Two Bridges area, she said. The proposal, she argued, “is not conducive to community.” A neighbor told the developer, “Your building is so tall. It will block our sunlight.” [Developers conceded that Lands End 1 and the new building will touch but have stated that no views will be directly blocked.] Other residents chimed in, asking, “Any particular reason it has to be so tall and so big?,” and telling Starrett, “If you really wanted to fit in within this community, you wouldn’t be building a 62-story building.”

In response, Siegel said, “We recognize it’s a prominent building, but we are building in accordance with the existing zoning.”  He noted that the project is not receiving any subsidies, meaning that the market rate units must help pay for the affordable apartments. [Starrett does hope to make use of a floor area bonus in exchange for building the affordable units.]

Residents expressed other concerns, saying that existing schools, hospitals and mass transit are already overloaded and can’t absorb thousands of new residents. They voiced fears about the displacement of low-income neighbors. While acknowledging that new affordable housing will be built, they said rising housing costs in the neighborhood will put pressure on the most vulnerable tenants. Siegel said, “No one will be directly displaced by this project,” adding that Starrett wants to help local residents apply for the affordable apartments when they come online.

Following the meeting, we spoke with three tenant leaders at Lands End 1 (Daisy Echevarria, Aaron Gonzalez and Marc Richardson). Gonzalez, tenant association president, said, “The top issue for me is the multitude of buildings going up at the same time (in the neighborhood).” He mentioned the construction of Lands End 1 in 1975, using “precast concrete.”  Gonzalez fears that his building could be compromised when Starrett begins to dig its foundation on the neighboring lot.

Richardson added, “I really wonder how (the project) serves our community, the existing residents who are there. I question how many of those units are going to be affordable to the community.” Richardson said he hopes the environmental review is truly focused on community needs, not simply the interests of developers. “Do we have a list of things we would like to see in the community? The answer is ‘no’ because the process is so focused on catering to what they want to do as opposed to actually providing those (local) amenities,” said Richardson.

Echevarria said it bothers her that Starrett, when it owned Lands End I, chose to leave the Mitchell Lama program. The result, she said, was displacement of longtime residents (the building has gone from being 100% affordable to 50% affordable). That was a long time ago (2004), but Echevarria said she finds it difficult to trust Starrett now given its history on the Lower East Side.

All three developers will present their plans at a public meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It will be held at Gouverneur Health, 227 Madison St.