Local Groups Rally at Extell’s Cherry Street Site, Demand Zoning Changes

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Community activists from several groups staged a protest today across the street from Extell Development’s massive project on the site of the former Cherry Street Pathmark store. They urged Mayor de Blasio to stop construction of the luxury tower, which is set to top out at 56 or 71 stories, depending on which Buildings Department documents you believe.

The project, they said, will only accelerate gentrification along the Lower East Side waterfront. Groups taking part in the rally today included the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Chinatown Tenants Union, Chinese Staff and Workers Association (CSWA), CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities (CAAAV), Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Mujeres Y Hombres Luchadoras and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS). In a press release, they noted:

The Extell tower may potentially be subsidized by tens of millions of dollars in public financing including 421A tax abatements, Housing Finance Agency Bonds and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which will be used towards building a much smaller and separate “poor door” building next to the luxury tower. Rather than helping to solve the affordable housing crisis in the city, these subsidies are contributing to the destruction of existing affordable housing by encouraging and subsidizing luxury development.

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The protesters used the Extell construction site as a backdrop, but they had a larger point to make. Most of the groups involved are members of the Chinatown Working Group (CWG), an organization that has spent the past six years drafting a master plan for Chinatown and surrounding neighborhoods. The CWG was created in 2008, after Community Board 3 and the city excluded Chinatown and the Two Bridges area from the rezoning of the LES. Earlier this year, City Planning Commission head Carl Weisbrod jettisoned the CWG’s rezoning proposal. Here’s what the groups had to say about that:

Although Mayor de Blasio’s administration has paid lip service to community involvement in the development process, a recent letter from the Department of City Planning expressed that this plan was rejected by the administration because it focused too much on the “preservation of affordable housing”. Members of the community call on Mayor de Blasio to pass this plan to protect the community from displacement and prevent future luxury development like Extell’s tower from being built in the community. The community organizations urge more residents and to come forward to say no to Extell and join monthly rallies at its site.

Next month, Community Board 3’s land use committee is scheduled to discuss “next steps” for the Chinatown Working Group.  At least one speaker today noted that no elected officials were present, with the exception of Paul Newell, a district leader. They’ll have more opportunities. As indicated above, rallies will be held on the last Wednesday of every month at 11 a.m. until further notice.