Next Steps for Stopping Luxury Developments in Chinatown and the LES

In the most recent development of the fight against de Blasio’s approval of the four luxury megatowers in Two Bridges, Councilwoman Margaret Chin has demonstrated yet again whose side she is on.

Recently, the Appellate Court held a hearing on the developers’ appeal of the City Council’s ULURP process, which would give the City Council voting power on the towers. During the hearing, the City Council avoided making the argument that the Two Bridges towers were illegal and would damage the surrounding area, instead stressed that it only wanted to be at the table with the developers. Even the judges couldn’t stand it. They challenged the City Council lawyer: why didn’t the City Council change the zoning earlier to establish height limits to the area?

The community knows why: Chin and de Blasio have refused to pass the community-led Chinatown Working Group (CWG) Rezoning Plan that would establish exactly such protection. Therefore, Chin never intended to stop the towers. Her goal aligns with de Blasio: to get approval for the towers and implement his racist displacement agenda that continues to devastate our community with high rent and evictions, and to endanger our health by denying us the same access to light and air that whiter, wealthier neighborhoods are routinely given.

In addition to the violence of displacement, the City has been effectively using the pandemic health crisis to further target working people in the past few months: small businesses are massively shutting down; workers have lost their income, are unable to pay rent and facing eviction threats as the city reopens; essential workers like home attendants have to risk their lives going to work, yet neither the government nor their employers provide enough PPE for them to stay safe. Many—especially people of color–have to stay together in crowded apartments due to unaffordable rent, therefore making self-quarantining impossible and infection and death rates higher. All these forms of state violence aim to pave the way for the rich developers to come back stronger.

But Chinatown and the Lower East Side have shown unity and power to stop displacement. Earlier this year, our lawsuit won the judgment that nullified the City’s approval of the Two Bridges towers. It shows that the City violated its own zoning law to green-light these out-of-scale towers that would displace us and bring environmental destruction to the neighborhood. This victory wouldn’t be possible without people banding together through marches, door-knocking and a large petition drive to put out a unified voice: no towers, no compromise!

The developers’ appeal of our case has not yet been scheduled. As we recover from the pandemic and prepare for the next step against the Two Bridges luxury towers, we need to demand that the City stop its displacement agenda and pass the full CWG plan that would stop luxury high-rises, discourage privatization of public land and facilitate truly affordable housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side

To do that, we should hold the candidates for the upcoming City election 2021 accountable and support the ones that are willing to stand up to Chin and de Blasio for their collusion with big developers and destruction of our community. Christopher Marte, a City Council candidate who almost beat Chin in the last election, has been organizing relief efforts in the neighborhood during the pandemic, been part of our fight against the Two Bridges luxury towers and vowed to pass the full CWG plan.

Donate to support Marte for City Council District 1 and fight for the full CWG plan!

Contact us to learn more and get involved.
Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side


Stop Racist State Violence, Stop de Blasio’s Looting of Our Communities

Police violence is a raw, brutal expression of this capitalist system that robs, sickens, starves, and exploits working people, particularly Black people, on a daily basis. Black people are the hardest hit by the state’s racism through mass incarceration, racial profiling, workplace exploitation, lack of adequate health care, underemployment, and displacement–which goes hand in hand with policing. Working people, particularly people of color, are under attack when the state razes their neighborhoods to put up luxury towers, polluting their air, and robbing them of their housing, small businesses, culture and livelihoods–all while ushering in more violent cops to make investors feel safe.

When the country erupted in protests this June, people wondered why the outcry seemed larger this time. Police brutality has been happening for centuries. But when working people saw the visual of another Black man, George Floyd, being lynched by killer cops, they reacted to the murder with a renewed sense of anger that was fueled by the state violence we face on a daily basis. 

Workers were already angry because the government abandoned them during this pandemic. The state’s historic oppression and criminalization of communities of color and the looting of their labor has been going on for centuries. During the pandemic, the state has continued to steal from these communities by refusing to provide economic relief in the face of massive job loss and failing to provide enough PPE, contributing to higher death rates from COVID. It only took one more filmed act of police brutality to trigger widespread resistance: we came out of quarantine fighting to stop the racism and exploitation that pervades our daily life and from which police brutality stems. 

Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed how Mayor de Blasio’s racist, pro-real estate, pro-displacement agenda intensified police violence across our communities. Police brutality and all violence against working people must stop. We demand de Blasio:

  • Prohibit racial profiling policies and practices in all forms of law enforcement
  • Prevent government handouts to systems that inflict violence on working people by defunding NYPD (including stopping private funds) and ending government subsidies and tax exemptions to luxury developers, like 421-A
  • Implement community-control over systems that affect our community, such as community-led rezoning initiatives, like the Chinatown Working Group Plan, which would limit luxury development.

Demand disaster relief fund in response to coronavirus!

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc in our communities. We have already been facing a crisis caused by New York City government’s racist displacement agenda that has targeted communities of color. Small businesses have already been shuttering or cutting workers’ hours, while working people have been forced to double or triple up in homes, to deal with rising rents. Now, we are facing an even more rapid closure of small businesses and loss of jobs and hours. Many workers living paycheck to paycheck cannot afford to stay home and lose income, and living in crowded conditions makes self-quarantining impossible.

We call on everyone to join us in demanding the government not use this pandemic to further displace our small businesses and community members, and provide relief for working people. We demand the City and NY State government immediately:

1. Establish a disaster relief fund to help workers, regardless of their immigration status, who are laid off, have their hours cut or are otherwise affected as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19, and help workers easily obtain disaster unemployment benefits.

2. Cut small businesses’ real estate tax or rent and/or provide rent relief for small businesses.

3. Establish medical facilities that can be easily accessed by patients to get tested and receive necessary treatment quickly and be quarantined if necessary, instead of self-quarantining. Provide enough protective measures for health care workers to stay safe. 

4. Establish a disaster relief fund to help workers for lost income when they test positive for the COVID-19 and need to be quarantined, regardless of their immigration status.

5. Demand the President issue a Disaster Declaration to include direct economic assistance to individuals.

No Towers, No Compromise!

Community Defeats Two Bridges Luxury Towers

New York — In a decision released on February 24, 2020 the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the community’s lawsuit to stop the planned development of four luxury towers in Two Bridges.

Judge Engoron ruled that the developments are in direct contradiction to the underlying zoning of the area, which is the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development. In order to go forward with construction, both the City Planning Commission and the developers would have to contradict previous claims that the towers would not directly impact the surrounding environment.

“This is an amazing victory and it comes on the tails of victories across the city. From the Harlem rezoning to the tower planned to shadow the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the people are taking the City to court, and we are winning. We did the work and did hundreds of hours of research, outreach, and just a month ago delivered 5,000 signatures to our elected officials to stop the towers and pass the full Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan. Today we will celebrate, and tomorrow we will get back to work,” said Tony Quey Lin, a plaintiff of the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors lawsuit.

“At the start of this fight, Council Member Chin and Mayor de Blasio told us it was a done deal. We could not be more excited to prove them wrong. We didn’t listen to the politicians whose pockets are lined with real estate money. We came together and demand no towers, no compromise. And through our work, our organizing, and our unity, we have stopped these towers and the massive displacement they would have brought to our community,” said Zishun Ning, a member of Lower East Side Organized Neighbors.

The August 2019 NYS Supreme Court decision reverses the approval of the megatowers and dictates that the Two Bridges luxury towers must now go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). But we the community are not deceived into believing that ULURP is any kind of victory. In the hands of our local Council Member Margaret Chin, this process is sure to get the towers approved. Her intention to align with Mayor de Blasio’s displacement agenda has been clear from the beginning.

We need to take the future of the neighborhood into our own hands, for the community should have the power to decide what is built here!

Next Steps…. Take Action!
Hold Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson accountable to the people. Add your voice to the ever-growing opposition!

Our demands:
1. STOP the four luxury towers that would decimate the neighborhood
2. PASS the FULL Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan that would protect both Chinatown and LES from displacement.

This is not just a click, your support will be physicalized when we will hand-deliver your message. Add a note to let them know why you are signing!

Support our efforts to collect signatures and use the petition as an educational tool to talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood. Talk to community members and bring them into struggle!

Two Bridges One Fight – Zishun Ning

Frequently Asked Questions – Two Bridges

What is the scope of the proposed development?

  • 1,008-foot rental tower at 247 Cherry Street by JDS Development Group. This building with cantilever over a senior center at 80 Rutgers.
  • 798 and 728-foot tower at 260 South Street by L+M Development Partners and CIM Group. This building will be built on top of the  parking lot behind Lands End II.
  • 724-foot building at 259 Clinton Street by Starrett Corporation.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) the four towers would bring in 11,000 square feet for retail and over 2,700 new residential units to the area.

What is the purpose of the petition?

  • The towers have NOT been stopped. This is to put out our voice as a community against them
  • We have fought the City in the court through our lawsuit, now we’re taking it to the streets and showing how many people are against the towers
    • Our lawsuit is still pending, but right now the towers are temporarily halted because of it
    • Margaret Chin, the Council Member, also sued so that she can approve the developments through the ULURP (you-lerp) process (see below)

Who gave permission to build this? Are our elected officials helping us?

  • Mayor de Blasio is actively pushing a pro-developer agenda that causes and escalates displacement across New York City
    • He has said the luxury towers are legally moving forward in Two Bridges, and tried to use his agency City Planning Commission to approve them despite strong opposition from the community
    • He refused to pass the Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan that would put a height limits on new developments and stop towers like these from coming up.
  • Council Member Chin is on the same boat of de Blasio to facilitate displacement in her district
    • ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process) gives City Council the vote to approve or deny the development, and negotiate concessions
    • Chin has a track record of using ULURP to approve developments that favor the rich and destroy the community, like NYU expansion and Essex Crossing
    • In the case of Two Bridges, she has indicated that she won’t stop the towers from going up. Therefore she is planning to use ULURP to get what de Blasio wants–the luxury towers.
  • Speaker Johnson is the head of City Council who has tried to show he’s different from de Blasio
    • He joined Chin’s lawsuit and condemned de Blasio’s undemocratic approval of the towers
    • He has said he won’t necessarily defer decisions to local City Council members
    • We urge him to stand with the community to stop the towers and not to be like de Blasio and Chin.

What is the next step in fighting the towers?

  • If the towers go through ULURP, there will be public hearings. The City has been trying to put people to sleep by declaring ULURP a victory, so that people won’t come out when the corrupt politicians use the process to hijack public opinion and approve the towers. That’s why we need to show up strong to the hearings to say NO to the towers!
  • The City hasn’t announced the details of the hearings, and we will keep you informed when it does, so that we can come out together to take a unified stand against displacement.

What is the solution to stopping luxury developments and protect the whole neighborhood?

  • Passing the Chinatown Working Group Plan
    • Would use zoning to put height limits on new construction so that the Lower East Side and Chinatown can be protected like the East Village already is
    • When the East Village was protected, our neighborhood was intentionally left out, so that developers could build here instead
    • Even if the towers are stopped on the waterfront, they could then build somewhere else in the neighborhood – that’s why we need zoning that protects the entire neighborhood, not just the waterfront.

Don’t we need more housing to address homelessness / housing crisis?

  • Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan is a scam
    • These towers will bring in thousands of market-rate units with few affordable units
    • These luxury units will drive up real estate tax and rents of the surrounding area, making existing housing unaffordable. By approving the towers, de Blasio is destroying more affordable housing than he claims to create and worsening homelessness crisis.
  • The Extell tower, which is already there, costs millions of dollars to live in, and only 20% is filled so far. There is strong demand for housing that is truly affordable to working people.

What are other ways I can get involved in fighting displacement?

Join a neighborhood organization with a network of people who are fighting displacement.

Youth Against Displacement:

LES Workers Center: (212) 358-0295.

Citywide Alliance Against Displacement:

Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan The CWG group meets the first Monday of each month at the 275 Cherry Street Community Room. These meetings are open to the public.;

Our community has been successful in fighting displacement, for example, learn more about the 85 Bowery victory.

#notowersnocomproomise #twobridges