The one constant in New York City is change, and there’s plenty of that on the horizon in 2020. A handful of neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs are poised to undergo major changes in the coming year, whether through rezonings, new infrastructure projects (including ones aimed at tackling climate change, which will have a huge impact on NYC in the years to come), or massive new mixed-use developments.
From the Lower East Side to the South Bronx, these are the areas to watch in 2020.
Lower East Side
Right now, the Lower East Side is a microcosm of the city at large, with major projects set to transform the neighborhood that touch on fears felt throughout the city: overdevelopment, affordable housing, and climate change.
In 2020, the legal fight over new housing in Two Bridges will carry on, as community advocates seek to stop the construction of three massive skyscrapers on the East River waterfront. Locals struck a major blow in their battle against the buildings’ developers and the de Blasio administration, when a New York state judge ruled that the towers must go through the city’s land use review process. Community advocates have since filed plans with the city to alter part of the neighborhood’s zoning in an attempt to block future towers from rising in the neighborhood, and that process is expected to move forward in 2020.
Further north, the Essex Crossing megadevelopment will continue its gradual rollout of new buildings with a 14-story office-condo hybrid and a 26-story mixed use building that should wrap up next year. On the waterfront, the fiercely debated $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, a first-of-its-kind flood protection plan in the five boroughs, will break ground in March as the city continues to hash out a variety of details, such as whether it will incorporate interim flood protections.
In the past year, plans to rezone Industry City’s 35-acre campus have dominated the conversation in Sunset Park. The waterfront complex, which is owned by developers Jamestown, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, Gordon & Co, seeks to further convert one of Brooklyn’s last industrial waterfronts into a commercial destination. Industry City surprised locals when the complex suddenly certified its rezoning application in October, officially kicking off the public review process necessary to push the rezoning forward.
Andrew Kimball, the complex’s CEO, said at the time that, “Industry City is willing to get done all that needs to get done in the next seven months.” That includes hashing out a community benefits agreement with local leaders, and convincing City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca to back the plan. But before that vote can happen, the proposal will face a series of reviews and advisory votes by Brooklyn Community Board 7, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the City Planning Commission, and, finally, by the City Council.
A major rezoning is also on the horizon for Gowanus, with the potential for transforming an 80-block swath of the low-rise neighborhood into a dense hotbed of development. Community advocates and City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin await the environmental impact statement—a crucial document that analyzes the potential impacts of a land use change—for the rezoning to move forward, but the land use review process could kick off by next summer.
Meanwhile, developers have already snapped up parcels of land throughout the neighborhood in anticipation of the changes. Those who live in three public housing complexes outside of the rezoning area have cried foul, calling on the city to address the deteriorating conditions there before enabling a development boom on their doorstep. Community advocates also fear the extra burden on the neighborhood’s sewage system will cause untreated waste to flood the Gowanus Canal, which is in the midst of a federal Superfund cleanup, and undo years of work that has made part of the canal the cleanest it has been in 150 years.
Staten Island’s South Shore
After years of planning, a 5.3-mile long barrier stretching from Fort Wadsworth to Oakwood Beach on Staten Island’s southeast shore is gearing up to begin construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to break ground on the $615 million project in 2020, and expects to complete the Herculean effort, officially dubbed the South Shore of Staten Island Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, in some four years. The project includes a seawall with a public promenade built atop, a mile of levees and floodwalls, and more than 180 acres of newly excavated stormwater detention ponds. Once completed, the project would protect more than seven neighborhoods that suffered staggering damage during Hurricane Sandy.
But concerns remain about the level of protection the barrier will actually provide as sea levels steadily rise and with the startling revelation that the Army Corps’ $14 billion barrier system around New Orleans is sinking and may soon be insufficient to protect the city. Army Corps officials acknowledge that the Staten Island barrier may eventually need to be built higher.
After years of watching rents and out-of-context development rise in their neighborhood, some Bushwick residents joined forces with City Councilmembers Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal to craft a community-led rezoning plan. Months later, the de Blasio administration released its own, long-awaited rezoning proposal for the north Brooklyn neighborhood. These plans have some similarities but differ in crucial ways, especially when it comes to affordable housing and manufacturing space. Either framework would bring change, but local leaders and elected officials have made it clear that a city rezoning will face an uphill battle if it does not meaningfully incorporate the community’s input. Locals await the environmental impact statement, and officials say the rezoning should begin the review process by next summer.
From Mott Haven to Hunts Point, a series of skyline-shaping projects are in the works in the South Bronx, with more developments to come in 2020. The effects of a 92-block rezoning around Jerome Avenue continue to unfold as the city eyes Southern Boulevard for land use changes. Developers have also flocked to the region and will build ambitious, neighborhood-changing projects. One of those, Brookfield Properties’ seven-building megadevelopment known as Bankside, will bring 1,350 apartments (30 percent of which will be below-market-rate), new waterfront parkland, and ground-floor retail with a tech-centric community center to the neighborhood. Other notable developments include La Central, Bronx Point and The Peninsula, all of which will physically take shape in 2020.