LOWER EAST SIDE — This year has seen a lot of changes throughout the Lower East Side, East Village and Chinatown — some have delighted locals, while others have neighbors fearful of what's to come.
Assemblywoman-elect Yuh-Line Niou became the first Asian-American to represent not only Chinatown, but any part of Manhattan in the state legislature — a win local advocates say is a huge victory for diversity.
The neighborhood was also rocked by scandal when a longtime nursing home was flipped for luxury condos. On the development front, swaths of the Lower East Side are being transformed by massive projects, and Chinatown residents continue to push for a rezoning they say could prevent overdevelopment.
Here are the neighborhood stories that will continue to develop in the new year:
1. The Development of the Two Bridges Waterfront
Already in the shadow of the growing 80-story One Manhattan Square, Two Bridges residents are reeling from the news that three more large-scale residential developments will be joining their increasingly crowded skyline. Altogether, the developments will bring over 3,000 new apartments and condos to the neighborhood within the next five years.
JDS Development Group plans to build a 77-story tower at 247 Cherry St., while Two Bridges Associates — a joint venture between L+M Development Partners and the CIM Group — is seeking to stick a pair of towers on a shared base at 260 South St., blocking the waterfront views of many residents of a neighboring Section 8 housing complex.
Most recently, Starrett Development has unveiled plans for a 62-story tower to rise at 259 Clinton St.
Community members fear the impact the cluster of towers will have on their quality of life, and in response the Department of City Planning has kicked off an unusually extensive community engagement process as part of the required environmental review process, which will be guided by a "task force" made up of tenant representatives, neighborhood groups and local businesses. The first of four community engagement meetings has already taken place, with the rest to fall between January and March of 2017.
2. The Rivington House Aftermath and the State of Health Care Facilities in the Lower East Side
When it became known at the start of 2016 that the city had paved the way for Rivington House, a nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients, to undergo a luxury condo conversion by lifting a couple of deed restrictions that for decades had kept it a health care facility, outraged locals and government watchdogs alike demanded answers. Though no foul play was uncovered, a report from the Department of Investigation revealed city officials had known the facility could potentially become condos, while an investigation from Comptroller Scott Stringer found fault in officials' "passive and unquestioning" approach to lifting deed restrictions. During a lengthy grilling by the City Council, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris accepted responsibility for the fiasco.
But the fallout from the scandal isn't over yet — city officials confirmed that U.S. Attorney General Preet Bharara is currently looking into the matter, and he has yet to release his findings. Mayor de Blasio is attempting to replace some of the beds lost in Rivington by converting a city-owned facility into a senior housing and healthcare facility — the city will begin seeking contractors for the plan in 2017 — though community members and elected officials continue to demand the return of Rivington House to a community hit hard by a borough-wide decline in nursing homes.
3. The Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan
The city this year began to review select parts of an ambitious grassroots rezoning plan advocates say would tamp down on overdevelopment and displacement throughout the Lower East Side and Chinatown, prompting protests from community members who say the plan should be pushed through in its entirety and that the city's resistance has racist roots. As the city continues to meet with community representatives to craft a feasible plan for the neighborhoods, advocates for the original plan, crafted by a coalition called the Chinatown Working Group, say they will continue to fight for its entire passage.
4. The Lowline
The plan to transform a derelict trolley terminal below Delancey Street into an underground park took its first step toward becoming a reality when the city in July granted it conditional approval, kicking off an extensive community engagement and fundraising process that will continue over the next year. The Lowline team will routinely host community engagement meetings at 140 Essex St. to gather feedback on the project as it moves forward.
5. Essex Crossing
A lot of headway was made on the nine-site Essex Crossing project in 2016, and chunks of the mega-development will near completion within the coming year. The site's first dwelling units, luxury condos at 242 Broome St., hit the market this year starting at $1 million, and are expected to be completed by early 2018, while construction on additional sites will launch next summer. Market Line, a sprawling underground market and beer hall, will undergo construction and will also be open for business by early 2018.