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City rejects land use review to curb Lower East Side skyscrapers

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Three major LES developments are not required to pass through ULURP

The Department of City Planning has denied the Lower East Side community’s request for a land review procedure on three large developments poised to rise on the neighborhood’s waterfront. The request was one of two the community is pushing forward in an attempt to curtail unchecked development in the low-rise neighborhood.

The land use review request was being championed by several elected officials including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin. Had the Department of City Planning obliged the call for the land use review, developments slated for the area would have to pass through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and be approved by the area community board, the borough board, City Council, and the mayor before being able to rise.

Carl Weisbrod, the Director of the Department of City Planning, responded to the request in a letter quoted by The Lo Down,

I agree that the development contemplated here is significant when each proposed development is considered individually, and that the potential impacts to the surrounding neighborhood require unique consideration when the three proposed projects are assessed cumulatively...Because the proposed modifications will not require any new waivers or zoning actions or increase the extent of previously granted waivers, the modifications will be treated as ‘minor.’

Councilmember Chin penned a response saying she and the community were "disappointed by the decision." City Planning has requested an Environmental Impact Statement for the developments, a modification that the councilmember heralded.

The community has also pushed forward an agenda for a neighborhood rezoning that would allow buildings to rise no higher than 350 feet. By comparison, JDS’s waterfront tower is set to rise about 900 feet, Extell’s will stand 850 feet, and L + M Development Partners are planning two 50-story towers. The rezoning would also earmark a certain percentage of new housing as affordable and require developers to get an anti-harassment certification.