Two Bridges Neighborhood Council Appoints New Associate Director

July Yang, TBNC associate director.

July Yang, TBNC associate director.

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (TBNC) has announced the appointment of a new associate director.

She’s July Yang, who previously ran the Lower East Side non-profit’s music program. Yang, raised in Shenyang, China, received her MBA from Pace University in 2017. She’s worked at TBNC since 2013. Yang replaces Kerri Culhane, who served nearly five years in the job before departing in the spring of 2016 to do independent consulting work.

There’s been a lot of turnover in the staff at Two Bridges in the past year or two. By our count, eight staff members have moved on, including: Roxana Archer (community programs manager); Elisa Espiritu (director of development and communications); Hannah Fleisher (planning projects manager); Christine Keefe (director of community programs); Dan Ping (program manager); Michael Tsang (program manager); and Wilson Soo (program manager). Some have left to pursue advanced degrees (like Soo); others have gone on to realize longtime dreams (Tsang, for example opened an ice cream shop on Allen Street).

TBNC recently posted on its website news of four new hires, including Yang.

It’s a sensitive time for the organization. Along with its development partner, Settlement Housing Fund, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council revealed last year that it was selling a Cherry Street parcel to JDS Development Group for a 77-story residential tower. TBNC President Victor Papa said the project would create new affordable apartments (a portion of the units are designated for low- and middle-income households) and help pay for critical resiliency improvements in the neighborhood. The project, along with two additional large-scale towers now in-the-works, are widely unpopular in the community.

Two Bridges co-sponsored construction of more than 1500 affordable apartments beginning in the 1970s. It also runs a variety of community programs.

Community Development Corp. Created For East River Waterfront

East River Waterfront. File photo.

East River Waterfront. File photo.

As you probably know, a lot is happening on the East River Waterfront. The federal and city governments have committed more than $600 million to build a flood protection system and new recreational areas from East 23rd Street to the Battery. A new park at Pier 42 (Montgomery Street) is long-delayed but still in the works. At Pier 35, a new public space has been under construction for many years. Given all of the activity, is there a need for a new organization to coordinate and oversee the projects? Several groups interested in the future of the waterfront say, yes, and they’ve just taken a significant step.

As of January 7, the “South Street East River Development Corp.” is registered as a not-for-profit corporation with New York State.  According to the organization’s’ bylaws, its purpose is the:

…transformation of the Lower Manhattan East River Waterfront area into a vibrant space that bridges diverse neighboring communities and offers opportunities for recreational, social, educational and cultural engagement for New Yorkers and visitors alike…

Among the corporation’s priorities is the creation of:

…an autonomous stewardship entity that will sponsor a comprehensive and feasible  master plan for equitable infrastructural and economic development of the Lower Manhattan East River Waterfront area…

The boundaries are roughly Montgomery Street on the north and the Battery on the South, covering two community boards (an area near the Brooklyn Bridge is the dividing line between CB1 and CB3). The community development corporation (CDC) last week elected an interim board of directors. Board members include: Gina Pollara, a consultant initially hired to advise the group and former executive director of FDR Four Freedoms Park (president); Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (treasurer); and Joanne Coyle from Friends of South Street Seaport (secretary). Permanent directors will be elected in the spring.

While the organization has now been officially established, it faces an uphill struggle for support from the community boards. In early presentations before CB1 and CB3, members expressed strong reservations about creating a new entity/authority on the waterfront.

east river overhead

The driving force behind the creation this community development corporation is the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a long-established affordable housing developer and advocacy organization. Two Bridges President Victor Papa said last week he’s convinced the corporation provides the only viable platform for a neighborhood-wide waterfront vision. “There is no common entity that I have seen CB1 or CB3 organize,” said Papa, “that is dealing with all of the (various waterfront) plans. The CDC promises to do that.”

The organization is moving forward with fundraising, which would allow it to hire a planner to help create a waterfront master plan. The CDC will likely be seeking funds from the $176 million recently awarded to the city by the federal government for flood protection below Montgomery Street. Papa also suggested it could tap into some or all of the $150,000 in annual rent paid by Basketball City for its lease on Pier 36. Finally, Papa said, he’d like to see Extell Development help fund the CDC. Extell is, of course, building an 80-story luxury tower on the old South Street Pathmark site.

A number of prominent groups have signed on in support of the CDC.  Board members include representatives from Hamilton Madison House, the Waterfront Alliance, Edison Properties and the Historic Districts Council. Tenant association leaders at the Vladeck Houses (NYCHA), Alfred E. Smith Houses (NYCHA), Southbridge Towers and Lands End II are also on the board.

But opinions are mixed among the mostly low- and middle-income residents who live on the waterfront. At Two Bridges Tower, a building located near the Manhattan Bridge, the tenant association does not support the CDC in its current form. “This initiative,” the tenant association noted in a statement, “does not necessarily represent the views of the residents who actually live along the waterfront between Montgomery Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.” TUFF-LES, a coalition representing several tenant associations, has not officially weighed in on the CDC. It is not represented on the corporation’s board.

In the past, CB1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes has expressed serious doubts about supporting the organization. She declined an interview request, saying only that her board has “not taken an official position” on the community development corporation.

Some members of CB3 have argued that the new entity is unnecessary and would only create another layer of bureaucracy.  Others object to the involvement of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a past and future waterfront housing developer.  In the past year, CB3 and CB6 created a joint task force to help shape a resiliency plan for the area between Montgomery Street and East 23rd Street. Gigi Li, CB3’s chairperson, said this collaboration had worked well and could be a model for the future. She said talks are ongoing to form a similar partnership with Community Board 1 for waterfront planning below Montgomery Street.

Papa said Two Bridges intends to withdraw its active involvement from the CDC in the months ahead. Noting the ongoing resistance, he countered, “There needs to be an organization that transcends both community boards… We can’t be territorial.” He added that the campaign for support is extending beyond Community Boards 1 and 2. Meetings are taking place with local elected officials, including City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Video: Two Bridges Neighborhood Council Celebrates 60 Years

Italian American Museum Moves to Evict 85-Year Old Tenant

Two Bridges Receives $300,000 Grant From “Healthy Neighborhoods” Fund

$50 Million Lawsuit Filed Over 47-Story Project Planned on Former Pathmark Pharmacy Site

$10 Winter Produce Boxes Offered in Two Bridges Area

Two Bridges Teams Up With Developer For Project Alongside Extell Tower

Two Bridges Grocery Guide Released; Extell Tower Could Rise Above 70 Stories

As plans for the former Pathmark site on Cherry Street begin to take shape, a local non-profit is encouraging residents to buy their groceries at small-scale stores throughout the Lower East Side.

New Affordable Housing at 235-247 Cherry St.; An Old Plan Revisited

235-247 Cherry St., December 2012.

235-247 Cherry St., December 2012.

Today’s New York Times report, “Reasons for Crossing Delancey” touched on the future of the former Pathmark site along South Street.  Gary Barnett’s Extell Development bought the large parcel last year and is planning a huge residential tower, apparently with a ground floor supermarket.  The article noted that, “The Two Bridges (Neighborhood Council) owns a lot adjacent to the Pathmark site, where (Two Bridges President Victor) Papa said he would like to build 75 more units of subsidized housing.”

It’s not news that Two Bridges, which along with Settlement Housing Fund built seven affordable housing complexes along the East River, has plans for the site mentioned by the Times.  The parcel, known as 235-247 Cherry St., formerly housed the Pathmark pharmacy.  But given all of the development activity in the area, we thought it worthwhile to revisit the status of this site.

Two Bridges Awarded Grant For Rain Garden; Not Everyone is Enthused

82 rutgers garden rendering 2

Rendering shows proposed garden at 82 Rutgers St. Image from: dlandstudio.

The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council recently received a grant from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to create a rain garden at a residential building it co-owns at 82 Rutgers Slip.   The people who run the non-profit organization believe it’s a sound strategy to deal with flooding and storm water issues during future “weather events” such as Hurricane Sandy. But the proposal is proving controversial among some of the people who live in the complex, located next door to the shuttered Pathmark store on South Street.

The garden, depicted in the rendering you see above, would replace a private playground which sits at the corner of South Street and Rutgers Slip.  The play equipment typically gets very hot in the summer months because the area is exposed to direct sunlight. Kids have been burned and poked by sharp metal pieces that jut out from the play surfaces.

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council Meets With Pathmark Execs

The Cherry Street Pathmark is now closed.

As most everyone knows by now, the Cherry Street Pathmark store closed in the waning days of 2012, leaving thousands of residents without a full-service grocery store.  Yesterday the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council sent out an email blast updating its efforts to fill the fresh-food gap on the Lower East Side.

On Monday, Two Bridges and its consultant, Urbane Development LLC, met with Sam Martin, the head of Pathmark parent company A&P. The meeting took place at the company’s headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey.  According to the email, the A&P team made it clear “they are sensitive to the void the departure of the Cherry Street Pathmark leaves in the Lower East Side/Two Bridges community, both from a food access and community facility perspective.”

Life After Pathmark: Community Survey Available Online

Pathmark store, 227 Cherry Street.

As we have been reporting, the Cherry Street Pathmark store is on its last legs. Although it’s scheduled to close by the end of next month to make way for a big luxury residential project, the shelves are already pretty bare and the grocery is not being restocked.  Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, which played a major role in luring Pathmark to the Lower East Side years ago, is beginning to come up with a long-range plan to full a big gap in the neighborhood’s fresh food supply.  They have hired a consultant, James Johnson-Plett of Urbane Development, to help facilitate the planning process.  He’s overseeing a community survey to get a sense of shopping patterns, income levels and overall needs when it comes to retail food establishments.  That survey is available online here.  It takes about 5-7 minutes to fill out.


Employees Still Expect Pathmark Closing December 22; Two Bridges Plans Survey

Pathmark store, 227 Cherry Street.

Here’s an update on the situation at the Cherry Street Pathmark store, which is scheduled to close in less than five weeks.  When we stopped by yesterday, workers said they still believe the last day in business for the supermarket will be December 22nd (a date that is reflected on a hand-written countdown poster in the front window).   But anyone who’s tried shopping there recently knows operations are already being dialed down.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, most of the refrigerators remain bare, although a few frozen turkeys were available. There are signs up everywhere advertising deep discounts and warning, ‘all sales are final.”  It’s pretty clear the store is not being restocked.

Pathmark Pharmacy on Cherry Street Closes Today

Pathmark Pharmacy, 227 Cherry Street.

The Pathmark Pharmacy at 227 Cherry Street is shuttering at the end of today, in spite of previous indications that it would remain open until the end of the month.   Several weeks ago it was announced that the pharmacy and adjacent grocery store would be closing to make way for a large-scale residential development project.

Yesterday, the shelves were pretty bare, as workers prepared to consolidate merchandise in the grocery store building, which itself is scheduled to close at the end of December.  The Two Bridges Neighborhood Council owns the pharmacy building.  Cherry Street LLC, which owns the grocery store site and held the lease for the pharmacy building, reportedly transferred both leases to a third party, believed to be luxury New York City developer Extell Development.