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As Lower East Side Grows Taller, Community Seeks Alternatives

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Area residents and elected officials seek to curtail unchecked development in the neighborhood

The Lower East Side community is responding strongly to two developers’ plans to bring soaring 70-plus story towers to the downtown neighborhood. In response to developer JDS’s plans for a 77-story tower on Cherry Street along the East Village waterfront, and Extell’s incoming 80-story tower nearby, Lower East Side residents and elected officials are trying to advance one of two procedures that would curtail unchecked development of this kind in the future, DNAinfo reports.

The first of two proposals gaining momentum with Lower East Side residents is a call for ULURP, the city’s land use review procedure that requires projects that will significantly impact neighborhoods to gain input and approval from the area community board, the borough board, City Council, and the mayor.

A group of elected officials, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin have signed a letter addressed to the Department of Buildings proposing that the planned waterfront developments undergo the city’s land-use review procedure.

Area residents are also pushing forward a neighborhood rezoning agenda that would cap future development at 350 feet—by comparison JDS’s tower is set to rise about 900 feet and Extell’s 850 feet—and also earmark a certain percentage of new housing as affordable and require anti-harassment certification from area developers.

It would, however, take a significant amount of time to push an area rezoning through. "We want rezoning, even though it may be a one-and-a-half to two-year process," Trever Holland, president of the Two Bridges Tower Tenant Association, told DNAinfo. "We need to look forward—we can’t just say even though the zoning plan may take a while to implement, we’re not going to pursue that."

A rezoning plan developed by the Chinatown Working Group is currently being reviewed by the Department of City Planning, who’s working with local stakeholders to refine the proposal. A City Planning rep told DNAinfo that they’re working with the community to create a rezoning plan that would advance Bill de Blasio’s agenda to create and maintain 200,000 units of affordable housing in NYC by 2024.