In the Two Bridges area of the Lower East Side, a collection of five new residential towers are planned to include over 3,000 apartments, with retail stores at the base of each project, with 700 affordable units in the mix.
However, in December 2018, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, and Council Member Margaret S. Chin filed a suit against the Department of City Planning (DCP), the City Planning Commission (CPC) and the Department of Buildings (DOB) to stop construction on the Two Bridges site, and a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge ordered a halt on work.
The Lower East Side Organized Neighbors (LESON) joined the lawsuit, because the towers violate the Zoning Resolution that governs the area, therefore should not be built. Their joint lawsuit would ensure full ULURP public review process for proposed developments in the Two Bridges neighborhood.
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.
Extell’s OMS building at 252 South Street rises 847 feet, plus a smaller new building on the north side of the tower podium containing 205 affordable units. Other sites are 247 Cherry Street, 260 South Street, and 259 Clinton Street. 247 Cherry Street will be the tallest building in the neighborhood if completed, and is developed by JDS Development and designed by SHoP Architects. At 260 South Street, two towers 728 and 798 feet tall are designed by Handel Architects and developed by L+M and CIM. A 724-foot-tall residential tower is planned for 259 Clinton Street, designed by Perkins Eastman and developed by Starrett.
Plans for flood resilience measures against future storms, a $12.5 million dollar investment in a local NYCHA apartment complex, and a new subway entrance to the East Broadway station for better ADA accessibility, helped convince the City to approve the earlier proposals.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is an architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is WestViewNews.org Architecture Editor.