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

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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 www.twobridgeseis.com.

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.

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