LOWER EAST SIDE — Local activists blasted a massive luxury development on the East River waterfront Tuesday morning, calling it “racist” and saying that it “needs to go.”
More than 80 members of seven community groups crowded the sidewalk across from the construction site of a new luxury tower being built by the Extell Development Company at the corner of Cherry and Pike streets, where they held signs and shouted chants.
“Anti-displacement is what we need, say 'Hell no' to Extell greed,” shouted the crowd, which represented the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chinatown Tenants Union, Chinese Staff and Workers Association, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Mujeres Y Hombres Luchadoras and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops.
The groups fear the tower will exacerbate the neighborhood’s gentrification and push out the area’s predominantly low- and middle-income minority population.
The neighborhood already lost its only affordable supermarket in the area when the Pathmark, which used to sit where the tower is now being built, shut down in 2013, the activists said.
The crowd also criticized the developer’s plan to build a separate “poor door” tower on the site, which would contain 205 affordable units, according to DOB records.
“The working families are being squeezed more than ever. We are being treated like second-class citizens in our own community,” said Wendy Cheung from the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, who grew up in the nearby Vladeck Houses.
Extell purchased the site for $103 million in early 2013, records show, and demolished the supermarket last year. The developer declined to comment.
A sign at the construction site said the tower would be 71-stories tall but Extell currently has a permit to build a 68-story luxury building, according to a Department of Buildings spokesman.
The developer applied to lower its height to 56 stories last month. The application has not been approved and no permits have been issued, he said.
The DOB spokesman referred all questions about the proposed amendment's impact on the affordable housing tower to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. HPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The community groups called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt construction and asked him and the Department of City Planning to back a rezoning plan created by the Chinatown Working Group, a coalition of more than 50 local organizations created that included most of the ones at the rally.
The plan — a yearslong effort by the coalition — aims to preserve affordable housing and prevent overdevelopment of Chinatown and parts of the Lower East Side and East Village, the groups said.
The mayor’s office referred questions about the rezoning plan to the Department of City Planning.
DCP Director Carl Weisbrod previously called the plan “a far-reaching proposal” and said it was "not feasible at this time" in a February letter to Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Li.
CB3 is reviewing the CWG plan and the needs of the community "to arrive at a consensus about the future of the neighborhood and potential land use changes it might seek," a DCP spokeswoman said.
The study is on the board's agenda next month, district manager Susan Stetzer said.
Moving forward, the groups said they planned to rally across from the construction site on the last Wednesday of every month to protest the development and call on the city to support the rezoning plan.
“We built this damn community and we’re going to stay,” said David Tieu from the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops.