Community activists battling three proposed mega-towers in the Two Bridges area are gearing up for Wednesday night’s meeting of Community Board 3’s land use committee. That’s where they’ll ask the board to support an urgent plan to rezone the East River waterfront to block the unpopular projects.
Here’s the flyer they’re circulating in advance of the meeting, which will be held in the community room at Two Bridges Tower, located at 82 Rutgers Slip. (That’s right next door to the 80-story luxury condo tower being built by Extell Development).
The flyer includes a rendering of all four buildings and asks the question, “Does this belong on our waterfront?” They say the projects from “greedy developers” would trigger, “massive construction work and increased unaffordability, resulting in the displacement of many of our neighbors.”
The rezoning proposal is being pushed by tenant leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood, as well as two advocacy organizations: Good Old Lower East Side and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Here’s what they’re asking of the community board:
We — waterfront tenant leaders, CAAAV, and GOLES — ask Community Board 3 and Borough President Gale Brewer to be co-applicants on a 197-c (rezoning plan) and vocally support this endeavor, in order to strengthen our community’s call for long-term protections on the waterfront. Our waterfront needs protections — now! The Extell building is rising above our neighborhood, and three more luxury mega-towers just like it have been proposed by huge real estate developers. If rezoning protections are passed, those companies will have to follow new rules that seriously limit their height of their buildings and mandate permanently affordable housing. These rules will also cover any other sites along the waterfront vulnerable to development, like the Manhattan Mini -Storage site at 220 South St. Rezoning is the best way for our community to both fight the proposed massive luxury developments and guarantee long-term protections for the future of our neighborhood!
The rezoning proposal is actually not new. It was part of a sweeping plan released by the Chinatown Working Group, a neighborhood coalition, back in 2014. On Wednesday night, the board will be asked to support fast-track approval of a rezoning for Subdistrict D, which covers the waterfront — from Catherine Street all the way up to East 14th Street. There are currently no height limits in the area, which is why developers may be permitted to build towers thee- to four-times the size of any building currently in the neighborhood. The rezoning would cap heights at 350 feet and require new projects to include at least 50% affordable housing.
Zoning changes of this type must be approved by the City Planning Commission and by the City Council. In the past, the Department of City Planning rejected the full Chinatown Working Group Plan, saying it was too large. The commission is now reviewing the three proposed projects. City officials have previously signaled they would have a decision by the end of this year.
During the summer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin threatened to sue the city if the projects are approved without a full land use review. In the limited review now underway, the City Council has no role to play in approving or modifying the plans. The Planning Commission has the authority to act on its own.
Some members of the Chinatown Working Group are adamantly against a piecemeal rezoning. They have always argued it would be unjust to rezone one part of the neighborhood at the expense of others.
The new projects would add around 2,000 mostly market rate apartments along the East River. They include JDS Development Group’s 1,000-foot tower at 247 Cherry St.; 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 promised to set aside 25% of the apartments in their buildings for low-income households.