LOWER EAST SIDE — The city has published documents outlining the areas set to be evaluated in its review of three massive developments planned for the Two Bridges waterfront and the impact they may have on the existing environment — but much of the population fearing that impact is unable to read them, elected officials said.
The draft scope of work for the environmental review of the proposed towers on Cherry, South and Clinton streets lays out in 77 pages the areas that will be scrutinized during the production of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS will show how the developments may collectively impact such factors as open space, school capacity, transportation and indirect residential displacement in the neighborhood.
But the materials have been published only in English — throwing up a language barrier for residents of the neighborhood, said elected officials, who are asking the city to provide the documents in Spanish and Chinese languages and to delay the public hearing.
Additionally, an Environmental Assessment Statement, published along with the draft scope document, is a questionnaire providing some preliminary insight into how the projects may impact those areas. For instance, under "indirect business displacement," the question "Would the project potentially introduce trends that make it difficult for businesses to remain in the area?" merited a "Yes" from the developers' representatives.
The city shared the documents on March 27, a month ahead of a public hearing on the projects scheduled for April 27, at which residents are invited to provide feedback on the issues included in the documents.
But elected officials say many of the locals who need to be reviewing the documents simply can't.
"We believe equal language access is essential to this process, considering the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Two Bridges neighborhood," reads a letter dated March 28 from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Margaret Chin to Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago.
"Therefore, in order to ensure the community has better access to the scoping materials, we respectfully request that DCP provide [the documents] in English, Spanish and Chinese languages for each building within the Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development.
"Because of this equity issue, we also request the scoping hearing be pushed to 45 days after the materials are available in all three (3) of these languages. We would also appreciate a hard copy of the same materials to be made available to any constituents who wish to access it at our offices as well."
A City Planning representative said the agency is looking into the request and will provide a response as soon as possible.
Three developers are planning the skyscrapers within a three-block radius. JDS Development Group plans to build a 77-story tower at 247 Cherry St., while Two Bridges Associates is planning two towers on a shared base at 260 South St. and Starrett Development is planning a 62-story residence at 259 Clinton St.
Neighborhood leaders had demanded the developers delay the April scoping hearing to allow more time for meaningful community engagement — a demand recently echoed by elected officials — but those requests were rejected by the developers.
Representatives for all the developers declined to comment.