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Local Pols Threaten Legal Action if City Approves Trio of Waterfront Towers

By Allegra Hobbs | July 21, 2017 4:46pm | Updated on July 24, 2017 7:35am
 Local politicians rallied against the Two Bridges developments outside 80 Rutgers Slip Friday morning.
Local politicians rallied against the Two Bridges developments outside 80 Rutgers Slip Friday morning.
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Courtesy of Councilwoman Margaret Chin's Office

LOWER EAST SIDE — Elected officials said they will bring a lawsuit against the city if it doesn't halt a trio of skyscrapers slated to rise on the Two Bridges waterfront.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Margaret Chin on Friday said they will urge the Department of City Planning to reject an application submitted by developers to build the residential towers within a three-block radius, urging the agency to instead put the developments through a more rigorous review process.

But if the city elects to approve the application, which is now making its way through a comparatively lax review, they will resort to legal action, said the politicians.

"To the members of the City Planning Commission, we have a simple message: if you rule against this community, we will use every tool at our disposal to make sure the voices of the people are heard," Chin said at a rally near the development sites.

JDS Development Group plans to build a 77-story tower at 247 Cherry St., while Two Bridges Associates plans two towers on a shared base at 260 South St. Starrett Development is planning a 62-story residence at 259 Clinton St. 

Neighbors fear the collective developments will negatively impact their quality of life by blocking views and natural light, overcrowding an area with sparse transportation and open space options, and driving up property values by bringing hundreds of market-rate units to the largely low-income neighborhood.

Brewer and Chin last year urged DCP to put the towers through its rigorous, seven-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which would require a review from the local community board, borough board, city council and the mayor himself before going to a vote.

The agency shot down the request, stating the towers are considered "minor modifications" because they do not require new waivers or zoning actions. 

Instead, the developments are subjected only to a city-mandated environmental review process aimed at identifying and mitigating potential impacts they may have on the surrounding area.

The developers hosted a handful of feedback-gathering sessions in the community to inform the process, several of which were derailed by protests.

The City Planning Commission hosted a scoping hearing May 25 to gather feedback on the environmental review process. They are supposed to issue a final scope of work — detailing the areas to be covered by the assessment — within 30 days of that hearing, but the document had not been released as of July 21.

A spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning reiterated the agency's refusal to pursue a ULURP and lauded the agency's choice to consider all three developments collectively in the city-mandated environmental review process that will take into account such issues as overcrowding, light and air. 

"While the modifications sought for the Two Bridges sites do not trigger ULURP – in other words no new density or waivers are needed – a thorough environmental review which offers multiple opportunities for the public and elected officials to participate is being conducted," said DCP spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff in an email.

"Moreover we are ensuring a coordinated review by the project applicants that looks at the cumulative effects of these three developments at the same time -- an extraordinary but important measure that is not ordinarily required. This coordinated review will help produce the best possible outcome for this neighborhood. Much as we appreciate the desire of the community to do so, there are no grounds under which a ULURP could legally be required in this instance."

The environmental review process is required by the city, but developments are generally considered individually. 

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