Emotions ran high in Two Bridges last night when developers JDS, L+M Development Partners and CIM Group, and Starrett met with the community to explain their vision and elicit feedback for three 700-foot-plus waterfront developments planned for the neighborhood. The discussion focused on JDS’s 1,008-foot rental at 247 Cherry Street, L+M and CIM’s dual 798- and 728-foot towers at 260 South Street, and Starrett’s 724-foot building at 259 Clinton Street.
City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer were on hand to mollify attendees. “I am one of those preservationists,” Brewer said, hinting at her displeasure with the scenario, “but in this case your input is real.” The three developments, part of the Large Scale Residential Development area, can be built as-of-right, meaning without approvals from the city. An impassioned crowd of over 100 community members, however, were quick to express that they felt disenfranchised. “You’re just telling us the decision you already made,” one community member said. “You’re wasting our time.”
The meeting was the first of several in which the community will be able to express its concerns and offer feedback about what it would like to see in the new developments. One of the major concerns expressed during the session was the care of the area’s seniors throughout and after construction. JDS plans to bring a 1,008-foot, 79-story tower—a supertall by Council on Tall Buildings standards—to 247 Cherry Street, where it will cantilever over the apartment building for seniors at 80 Rutgers Slip.
During construction, nine seniors will be displaced for about three years before being offered accommodations in the new building. The construction will also change the routines of the seniors who aren’t displaced, the community says. How will those moved during construction fare, and how will the infirm be affected by the area’s aggressive construction?
These aren’t questions that can be answered right away, but the three developers’ joint Environmental Impact Statement, which the meeting was meant to address, will examine and forecast the impacts of the new buildings on the community, alongside recommendations for how to mitigate them. JDS says they’ve been working with Settlement House and social workers alongside the residents’ families to help shore up accomodations for the immediately affected seniors.
Other concerns were raised about how the developers would account for the anxiety area residents now feel about displacement. “Displacement goes beyond the construction site,” another neighborhood resident said. “The community [has] been here for a long time, and the pressures they’re facing to leave their homes, to leave what they’ve built here, is immense. Low-income tenants in this neighborhood need protection from developers like you.”
The three developments will bring about 10,000 square feet of new commercial space to the traditionally retail-starved area. Community members expressed fears that the new retail wouldn’t cater to their needs, but rather the needs of the wealthier residents who will be moving into the new developments.
Area residents also expressed fear that Stop 1 Deli, a neighborhood stronghold and one of the only places in the immediate area for quick groceries, would be forced out. “If these projects are approved, we’ll have to have a conversation with that store and see if they want to stay,” responded Katherine Kelman of L+M Development Partners. Concerns about parking, overcrowding in the school system and on nearby public transit, and resiliency measures were also addressed.
In total, the three developments are poised to bring a mix of about 3,000 rentals and condos to the area, not including Extell’s neighboring 815-condo development One Manhattan Square. As of now, the developers have set aside the required minimum of 25 percent of the building’s total units for affordable housing, numbering about 686 apartments.
“You’re coming to this community and you say you’re giving, but you’re taking,” a resident of 275 Rutgers Street said to a round of applause, after a representative of CIM Group noted that their development—rising on a parking lot adjacent to 265-275 Cherry Street—would slightly alter how area residents access the waterfront. The development groups noted, however, that they plan to make improvements to areas surrounding the buildings that connect to the waterfront.
“I think [the developers] tried to be as thoughtful as possible about massing these buildings in ways that prioritize the public spaces, provide light and air to the public spaces, and affect residents as little as possible,” Kelman said. “These are not easy decisions.”
The next Environmental Impact Statement community engagement meeting is poised to take place in January.