Five months after beginning a public review process, the developers of a trio of skyscrapers on the Lower East Side have cleared a major hurdle. The Real Deal reports that the City Planning Commission has approved all three skyscrapers, which will bring thousands of apartments to the Two Bridges enclave on the East River. The vote passed 10-3.
As plans stand right now, JDS will build a 1,008-foot rental, designed by SHoP Architects, at 247 Cherry Street; L+M and CIM (under the auspices of Two Bridges Associates) will build a 798 and 728-foot tower, designed by Handel Architects, at 260 South Street; and Starrett will build a 724-foot tower, designed by Perkins Eastman, at 259 Clinton Street. Together these developments will bring a total of approximately 3,000 apartments to the neighborhood, of which 700 units will be affordable.
The developers have also promised numerous neighborhood improvements, such as park and playground upgrades, flood resiliency measures, a $12.5 million investment in a nearby NYCHA complex, and a new ADA-compliant entrance at the East Broadway F station. Those improvements helped sway some of the members of CPC, though there was some hesitation even among those who approved the project.
In her remarks before voting yes on the project, CPC chair Maria Lago noted that “[t]his is nonetheless a challenging situation because the proposed buildings aren’t minor in scale and will affect the surrounding neighborhood.” But she touted the benefits the developers have promised to bring to the neighborhood, and stated that despite the lack of City Council review, “I feel confident that CEQR and the City Planning Commission’s oversight created a public review process that has resulted in a better project, and one with significant community benefits.”
“We appreciate the consideration of the City Planning Commission and feedback from the community on numerous occasions over the past two years,” a spokesperson for the developers involved in the project said in an email to Curbed, noting that they “will deliver lasting and meaningful benefits for the Two Bridges community.”
The approval comes after a contentious public hearing in October, during which dozens of neighborhood residents—along with City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer—denounced the proposal. The developers are not required to go through the city’s complex uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), and opponents have criticized what they see as a neighborhood-destroying development.
Chin and Brewer released a joint statement on Wednesday denouncing CPC’s decision. “We’re not against any and all development in Two Bridges or anywhere else,” it reads, in part. “But rules either exist or they don’t. This is a neighborhood rezoning’s worth of housing, and it’s a wild departure from what the current rules allow. Two Bridges residents deserve the same rights, the same negotiation, and the same level of investment from the city that the residents of East Harlem, Inwood, Far Rockaway, East New York, Jerome Avenue, and other communities facing neighborhood rezonings are given.”
“The de Blasio Administration’s insistence that these massive towers must move forward without a real review or negotiation is unlawful, and we are exploring all available options to oppose these developments.”
Rafael Salamanca, the chair of the City Council’s land use committee, also weighed in, calling CPC’s decision “downright wrong.”
“Building new apartments, as tall as a 1,000 feet tall and creating nearly 3,000 apartments is realistically no ‘minor modification’ and hiding behind this technicality is exactly why loopholes like these need to be addressed now,” his statement reads. “I support Speaker Johnson’s decision to pursue legal action and commend Manhattan Borough President Brewer and Council Member Chin for their leadership against this development.”