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Lower East Side waterfront towers’ community impacts weighed

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A community board subcommittee gets to the nitty-gritty of how these developments will affect their neighborhood

Two Bridges waterfront skyscrapers Handel Architects

The Department of City Planning has issued its initial review of the impacts that three proposed waterfront developments, made up of 2,700 rentals and condos, will have on the Two Bridges area.

On Wednesday evening, the Land Use Subcommittee for Manhattan Community Board 3, which covers the Lower East Side and Chinatown (including Two Bridges), met to discuss where they think DCP’s assessment of the projected impacts is lacking. The meeting was one of the last opportunities for the community to craft recommendations before the city finalizes which projected impacts the Department of City Planning will investigate in the lead up to approving the towers.

The three developments include 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. All three projects, in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Development area, can be built as-of-right, without approvals from the city.

However, at DCP’s request, the developers have conceded to participate in a joint environmental review of how the developments will affect the neighborhood, including everything from shadows to secondary displacement. Over the last several months, proxies for the developers have been meeting with the community to elicit their concerns and accept constructive feedback about the developments.

On Wednesday night, the subcommittee’s concerns echoed those expressed by the community in meetings past. The subcommittee found that the initial review does not give enough attention to how the developments will affect public transportation, medical facilities, and school overcrowding in particular. The subcommittee and community members in attendance were also particularly concerned about the review’s lack of focus on how the developments will affect rent-regulated apartments in the area.

The review, formally known as the Draft Scope of Work, dedicates a section to indirect residential displacement, but proposes to only account for how market-rate apartments will be affected by the new development. “The bottom line is that we really care about neighborhood character and affordability,” said Lisa Kaplan, a member of the Land Use Subcommittee. “I think how it’s described [in the review] of only affecting non-regulated apartments is egregious.”

The review also proposes to look into the displacement of business that’s accelerated by the new development. Melanie Wang of the Chinatown Tenants Union addressed the issue, noting that changes in business may also contribute to making the neighborhood less affordable. “They’re assuming that secondary displacement takes place only because the rent is too high and we all know that’s not true.”

Throughout the meeting, only one person spoke to the developments’ merits. “This is a project that adds a significant amount of housing in a neighborhood and a city that is desperately in need of affordable housing,” audience member Josh Pinkerton said during the public comment period. “I think the instinct to try to shrink it or kill the project entirely is missing the larger picture of how we can make this city into a better place.” The three developments are poised to bring nearly 700 affordable apartments to the area.

The Land Use Subcommittee will offer its suggestions to the full CB3 with the hopes that they’ll be ratified and incorporated into the final Environmental Impact Statement. The public scoping meeting, which will happen before the city finalizes which areas of concern that will appear in the final environmental review, will happen on May 25.

247 Cherry Street

247 Cherry Street, New York, NY 10002