New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community




Council Tries to Block Lower East Side High-Rises

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Two Bridges

The first of the East River high-rises to emerge alongside the Manhattan Bridge (image via Google Maps)

Dec. 7, 2017

In a city where real estate developers enjoy outsize power, score one for the little guys. Two Manhattan politicians are preparing a formal application that would block the development of a trio of controversial high-rise residential towers on the low-rise Lower East Side, Politico reports.

City Council member Margaret Chin and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer will submit a formal application to the Department of City Planning that, if approved, would subject the proposed buildings to enhanced public scrutiny. Their hope is that requiring the developers to go through the city's complete land use review process will result in shorter structures and other perks the neighboring communities are clamoring for. The process culminates in a council vote, and the legislative body typically defers to the local member. 

Chin and Brewer were waiting for a related bill – which passed the Council on Oct. 31 – to become law on Friday before submitting their application. The legislation allows borough presidents, council members and city agencies to waive certain procedural requirements before submitting their own zoning text amendments. 

"It's clear that we need more tools to empower everyday residents in the land use process, not less,” Chin says. “That is why my Council colleagues threw their full support behind my legislation, which would have wide implications on communities' efforts to protect their neighborhoods from the threat of large-scale luxury development. It's my hope that this legislation would help Two Bridges residents and groups across the city work more closely with their elected officials, and I will continue to advocate for more ways to strengthen the community's voice in the land use process." 

Chin and Brewer have been trying to stop the flurry of high-rise construction ever since City Planning determined last year that the buildings would constitute only a "minor modification" to the Two Bridges area. Plans for the neighborhood, historically an affordable residential enclave, include a tower from JDS Development Group that would exceed 1,000 feet. L+M Development Partners and CIM Group are partnering to build a 1.1-million-square-foot development across two buildings sharing a base. And Starrett Development wants to put up a 724-foot building with 765 rentals units. Extell’s 80-story One Manhattan Square luxury condo tower has already topped out alongside the Manhattan Bridge. Minor developments, indeed.

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