In another installment of “the rent is too damn high,” Two Bridges residents are demanding that the city increase its oversight of the mega-towers coming to the Lower East Side waterfront, which are set to add thousands of luxury units to the lower-income and working-class community.
Residents, advocates, and representatives from the offices of City Council Member Margaret Chin, US Representative Nydia Velazquez, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s offices rallied outside of the Department of City Planning’s offices this morning. Their message echoed the one delivered to Mayor de Blasio in a town hall in June– they urged DCP’s recently appointed director, Marisa Lago, to make the new towers undergo the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which the city rejected last summer.
Four towers are currently being built as “minor” rather than “major” modifications, which means they don’t have to undergo the ULURP process of review by the relevant community board, borough president, City Planning Commission, City Council, and the mayor. The developments include a 77-story tower at 247 Cherry Street, 62- and 69-story towers at 260 South Street, and a 62-story tower at 259 Clinton Street. Council Member Chin has threatened to bring a lawsuit over the developments, if necessary.
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“This is the place where decisions are actually made about how new development is going to happen in New York City,” said Paua Segal, attorney at the Urban Justice Center. “Last week our clients, who we’re standing with today, sent a letter to the new director to the Department of City Planning asking her to correct her predecessor’s errors and redirect the applications filed for 3,000 units of private luxury development in the middle of a low-income community through the proper process.”
Residents from the Two Bridges neighborhood spoke at the rally and reiterated the importance of keeping luxury buildings out of the neighborhood. Marc Richardson has lived there for 38 years and has witnessed the effects of gentrification. “Nowadays it seems that this new trend is three and four people living in an apartment at a time because they can’t afford $3,500 a month,” Richardson said. “So I pause in saying that they’re more affluent because that might not necessarily be true. I don’t see that being the vision for these new developments.”
Another Two Bridges resident, Trever Holland, said his apartment would be surrounded by the mega-towers if they were to be completed. He said he experienced issues like buildings cracking while Extell’s 80-story One Manhattan Square development was being constructed and is concerned about what issues, aside from gentrification, these other towers may bring. One cited Hudson Yards as an example of the city working with developers to extend public transportation and consider planning issues like the location of schools.
“This isn’t a minor modification,” Holland said. “They have a chance to do the right thing here. Vote no on the minor modifications and put this back through proper city planning. They’ll still get towers, we might get a little affordable housing, but we’ll get proper city planning. And that’s all we’re asking for, at least that’s what I’m asking for.”