The Department of City Planning met with Lower East Side community members on Thursday to hear feedback on the proposed areas of study for an environmental review of three planned waterfront towers in Two Bridges.
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 of the projects can be built as-of-right, or without the approvals process that requires the input of the City Council and mayor.
The absence of that formal review means the process surrounding the Environmental Impact Statement is the only opportunity for the community and elected officials to voice their concerns about the three luxury developments. But community members contend that the formal review, or ULURP, is necessary to more comprehensively vet the projects’ impacts.
Early reactions to the proposed areas of study from the Community Board 3 Land Use Subcommittee, which covers the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Two Bridges, expressed doubt that the document was comprehensive enough to honestly weigh the effects of bringing 2,700 apartments, most of which will be market rate, to a neighborhood with one of the lowest area median incomes in Manhattan.
That same sentiment of fear and mistrust over the process reverberated through the auditorium during Thursday’s first meeting. “I cannot fathom the size of these towers, which are huge and out of place in this neighborhood,” said City Council member Margaret Chin, who delivered some of the day’s most vitriolic opposition to the developments. “These proposals would add thousands of new residents without a plan to address the needs of people who built this neighborhood.”
Since its release in late April, the community has argued that the proposed review of the projects selectively chooses a geographic area of study that benefits the developers. A lack of nearby hospitals, parking garages, schools, and a shortage of public transportation have all become tentpoles of the community’s opposition to the project.
Secondary displacement, the impact of construction on health, the inundation of the sewer system, and the temporary displacement of a group of seniors during the construction of JDS’s proposed tower have also become rallying points of the opposition.
A handful of speakers representing Little Cherry LLC, an alias of developers Gary Spindler and Roy Schoenburg (who themselves have interest in one of the Two Bridges sites), argued on Thursday that JDS’s plan violates a ground lease they hold on the property—a last ditch attempt, following a dismissed lawsuit, to stop the tower from moving forward. Brendan Schmidt, a representative for Little Cherry LLC, said that JDS is “looking for an environmental impact, but they don’t have a key to the front door yet.”
A few speakers recommended that the Department of City Planning take into consideration the Chinatown Working Group’s planning study, a comprehensive set of recommendations issued in 2014 that are focused on growing the community with respect to its existing fabric.
A forthcoming meeting will be held to discuss impacts of the developments and ways to amend them, and will be followed by the issuance of the Draft Environment Impact Statement.