City Council Announces Legal Action for Public Review of Two Bridges Proposal

By Brian J. Pape, AIA

In the Two Bridges area of the Lower East Side, on the East River just north of the Manhattan Bridge, JDS, Extell, CIM, L+M, and the Starrett Group are planning five new residential towers. The collection of towers will include over 3,000 units, with retail spreading across the base of each project, with 700 affordable units in the mix.

1 Manhattan Square, aka 252 South, viewed from Brooklyn, image by Andrew Campbell Nelson.

Extell is building 252 South Street, aka One Manhattan Square, which rises 847 feet, plus a smaller new building on the north side of the tower podium containing 205 affordable units, is nearing completion.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, and Council Member Margaret S. Chin updated their joint lawsuit in January to ensure full public review (the ULURP process) for proposed developments in the Two Bridges neighborhood. Besides the 252 South tower, other sites are 247 Cherry St. and 259 Clinton St.

247 Cherry Street (left tower) and 252 South Street (right tower), adjacent to Manhattan Bridge, viewed from the west. Image from JDS.

The existing deed restriction at one of three properties at the center of the dispute, meant to ensure housing for low-income people with disabilities and the elderly in perpetuity, was never disclosed by DCP or the developers. The potential lifting of this restriction is akin to the city’s disastrous decision to lift a deed at the former Rivington House in the same Council District in 2015, allowing affordable housing to be converted to market-rate. The lifting of the deed would negatively impact a community struggling to remain affordable for New Yorkers, the court papers allege.

“I thought the city had learned its lesson from Rivington, but it appears that would be too much to ask for since it is making the same mistake again with Two Bridges” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“First the Administration says that massive new development does not need a ULURP, then it slips out that there’s an affordable housing deed restriction for a portion of this development that they never mentioned”, said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

Council Member Margaret S. Chin said “The proposed project will lift a deed restriction intended to reserve housing in perpetuity for ‘elderly and handicapped persons of low income’. The lifting of this deed restriction, coupled with the huge financial rewards for the developers, darkly mirrors the circumstances around the sale of Rivington House in 2015. Yet here we are again, with a project undertaken in a non-transparent way and that will almost assuredly provide windfall profits to developers at the expense of working New Yorkers.“

Just a few blocks north of 252 South St., 259 Clinton St. is viewed westerly from the East River. Image credit: Starrett Development

The Council and Borough President Brewer sued the City, the Department of City Planning and its Director, the City Planning Commission and its Chair, and the Department of Buildings in December to stop construction on the Two Bridges site. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge ordered a halt on work.

Leave a Reply