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 existing zoning for the proposed development sites?
Two Bridges was previously an Urban Renewal Area, where the city sought to remove blight and create mixed-income housing and employment opportunities. In 1972, the area was designated as a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area.
Why are these proposed towers illegal?
These towers violate the terms of the LSRD. The Zoning Resolution of the area (LSRD), specifically Section 7, Chapter 8, states that any development in this zone cannot: interfere with light, air, and privacy, change the character of the neighborhood, cause detrimental building bulk, or create traffic congestion. It is proven that these tall towers will limit existing residents’ light, block air, create an infiltration of privacy as the towers will be built against existing buildings. They will change the character of the neighborhood by bringing in thousands of high-income residents and dramatically increasing the number of people who live in Two Bridges. The 700+ story towers size will be detrimental. The new residents, whether they drive or take taxis, will add congestion to the roads. Each specific term in the zoning resolution is being violated, therefore these developments are against the law.
How was this out-of-scale and illegal development approved?
On December 5, 2018 in a 10-3 vote, the City Planning Commission approved the special permit for development, despite protests from residents and elected officials. This special permit allows the developers to continue with their project as it creates a “minor modification” to the existing zoning. CPC Chair Marisa Lago said that the minor modification meets the conditions of the current zoning regulations, and added that the developers have made efforts to invest in the surrounding Two Bridges community. The three no votes came from Michelle de la Uz, Anna Levin and Raj Rampershad. They said the legality of the zoning resolution was questionable and the benefits did not outweigh the impact the large-scale developments would have on the Two Bridges community. “While I appreciate the steps the applicants took to joint environmental impact statement and recent commitment to NYCHA, I do not believe the actions the commission is being asked to take today with the LSRD are appropriate nor are they conforming to the original CPC resolution from 1972,” said Commission member Michelle de la Uz.
Was the Two Bridges community given an opportunity voice their concerns before The City Planning Committee vote?
On October 17, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). About 100 people testified. The vast majority raised serious objections to the project and the approval process. Only five were in favor: two members of a union advocating for 50 permanent building service jobs promised for the site; an advocate for the disabled, who supports all projects that add elevators to subway stops; the current Two Bridges commercial tenant, who is promised a long-term lease in the new complex; and the executive director of Settlement Housing Fund, who is selling air rights to the 80-story tower. In the years prior to this while the developers were creating their DEIS, there were 4 community outreach meetings where residents were able to express their concerns on environment, traffic, gentrification, and other topics. The comments were supposed to be factored into the DEIS, however residents did not feel their concerns were heard, which is why so many testified at the October hearing.
How is LESON’s lawsuit different from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s lawsuit?
Johnson’s lawsuit argues that the towers should go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a voting process that involves City Council on development applications. However, Council Member Margaret Chin has already asserted that she will “not stop the towers from going up” and therefore we cannot rely on ULURP to stop the towers. The LESON lawsuit, on the other hand, simply argues that the towers shouldn’t be built because they are illegal. This is a true reflection of the community’s demand. Corey Johnson’s lawsuit has created construction delays and is an indication that Mayor de Blasio’s failure to protect working-class communities are evident to many, including the City Council, both of which are positive steps. A significant element of the controversy over the Two Bridges proposals is that the de Blasio administration has determined they represent only a “minor modification,” and therefore do no require a full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP.
Will tenants be displaced during construction?
Some senior residents of 80 Rutgers may be relocated during construction.
Will the proposed developments provide affordable housing for are residents?
694 out of 2,775 units are designated as “affordable” however these so-called affordable units will have income requirements. The current residents of Two Bridges have a household median income of $30K, below the minimum $37K amount for renting the new “affordable” units! This supposed compromise is just a way to buy out the community. It will not actually benefit Two Bridges residents! It will DISPLACE residents.
What is wrong with Mayor de Blasio’s existing affordable housing plan?
De Blasio’s plans use a standard for affordability, also known as Area Median Income (AMI), that is based on the income level of all five boroughs and three wealthy upstate counties. Therefore you can make up to $160,000 a year and qualify for affordable housing. This means that the housing being marketed as affordable is actually very unaffordable for the average New Yorker. It is a sham. Real affordability would be based on the local income level of our neighborhood.
Why not just target the developers, instead of go up against the Mayor?
Developers act through their political representative at City Hall. Mayor de Blasio is their representative. He executes the pro-developer agenda by greenlighting luxury towers and giving developers the incentives to build. Moreover, he is the worst landlord in New York City by keeping NYCHA tenants in horrible living conditions while handing public land to developers. That’s why by holding the Mayor accountable, we are attacking the developers as a class. The Mayor is an elected official; he is supposed to be accountable to the people. But instead he is disenfranchising the community and encouraging the developers to take land from the community. We need a City that works for us, so by holding the Mayor accountable, we are taking back our city.
So we can stop these towers. But what about all the other towers going up across Chinatown and the LES and the displacement they’re causing?
Fighting individual developments or specific landlords is important, but we need to fight for a long term solution for the entire community. The Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan is a community-led plan that requires strict height limits on new development, and that housing built on public land is 100% affordable to low income people. These restrictions prevent over-development across the entire Chinatown and LES neighborhood by limiting the profits of developers. People from different parts of the neighborhood have united to push to pass the full CWG Plan to protect the entire Chinatown LES community.
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: email@example.com.
LES Workers Center: (212) 358-0295.
Citywide Alliance Against Displacement: firstname.lastname@example.org
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. www.chinatownworkinggroup.com; email@example.com
Our community has been successful in fighting displacement, for example, learn more about the 85 Bowery victory.