Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Margaret Chin yesterday filed with the Department of City Planning (DCP) a proposed zoning text amendment in the Two Bridges area.
The elected officials advised city officials last fall of their intentions, but the final documents weren’t delivered to City Planning until this week. According to a joint press release, the change in the Two Bridges area is meant to, “protect the area from out-of-scale luxury developments made possible by the abuse of a zoning loophole.”
Three new mega-projects are now under review by DCP. 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.
In a statement, Brewer said, “This is the real estate business in New York: there’s intense pressure to find and exploit loopholes to build huge ultraluxury buildings… That’s what’s happening in Two Bridges, where massive out-of-scale towers could move forward because of a staff-level determination that they are only a ‘minor modification’ to the neighborhood’s plan. Sometimes you need to clarify rules to make sure they’re enforced, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Chin added, “Today, I join Manhattan Borough President Brewer to renew our demand that our city provide the Two Bridges community a real opportunity to shape the future of their neighborhood… In order to turn the tide against out-of-control overdevelopment across our city, we need to act decisively and close loopholes that would allow for the construction of out-of-scale luxury towers without a robust and transparent public review. This text amendment marks the latest chapter in our fight to strengthen the community’s voice in the land use process, and preserve the legacy of affordable housing that Two Bridges residents are fighting to protect.”
The Two Bridges large-Scale Residential Plan was enacted in 1972 in a two block area along the East River. The elected officials say the plan was, in effect, a “very specific special permit,” and that the efforts by developers to,”carve pieces out of this comprehensively-planned area” violate the intent of the large-scale plan. Last year, DCP rejected a request from Chin and Brewer to order a full land use review in the area (ULURP), arguing that no new special permit was required to green light the plans. The zoning text amendment would require a full public review, and approval by the City Council.
In December, the City Council approved legislation sponsored by Chin that expedites zoning applications from elected officials. This week’s filing, Chin and Brewer note, “was made under the new law, so (the) application will proceed directly to technical review and then will be referred out by the Department of City Planning for the public review process.”
We have reached out to the development teams and to DCP. This story will be updated if they respond. In the past, the developers have argued that their projects will have a positive impact in the Two Bridges area. They’re setting aside 25% of the rentals (or about 700 units) for below-market housing.
In a separate initiative, community groups are working on a rezoning in the Two Bridges area to prevent out-of-scale development. According to one tenant leader, Trever Holland, one meeting has already been held with DCP staff. Chin and Brewer have expressed general support for a rezoning but have not as of yet signed on as co-sponsors.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning says the agency will review the application to determine its completeness (a requirement of the City Charter) before it is entered into the public review process.