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.
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.
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.