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Two Bridges Towers Plan Faces New Challenge Through Zoning Amendment

By Allegra Hobbs | October 18, 2017 9:24am | Updated on October 19, 2017 6:30pm
 Three residential skyscrapers are slated to rise within three blocks on the Two Bridges waterfront.
Three residential skyscrapers are slated to rise within three blocks on the Two Bridges waterfront.
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Handel Architects

LOWER EAST SIDE — Elected officials filed an application to change zoning rules for a swathe of the Two Bridges waterfront in a bid to halt three controversial skyscrapers from rising.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Oct. 12 submitted a draft zoning text amendment that, if approved by the Department of City Planning, would require developers to get a special permit to build in the area bordered by Market, South, Montgomery and Cherry streets.

In seeking a special permit, a developer would have to go through the extensive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires a proposed zoning change be vetted by a series of bodies including the local community board, city council and mayor’s office. 

An exception for the new rule would be granted for enlargements of community facilities for less than 15,000 square feet, according to the text.

Chin and Brewer also sent a letter to DCP director Marisa Lago requesting the draft application be accepted as complete, skipping the formal process for processing a draft application in order to expedite the agency’s consideration of the amendment — because the community can’t afford to wait, the letter reads.

"Any delay in the filing of the complete application will have severe ramifications for the community in the Two Bridges area,” reads the letter.

“The extraordinary set of circumstances that the application seeks to address have been the subject of much public debate. Specifically, we refer to the development of more than 2,000 luxury apartments in buildings reaching heights of over 1,000 feet … currently proposed for the heart of the Two Bridges community.”

DCP is currently scheduling a meeting with the elected officials to discuss the application, a spokeswoman said.

The proposed amendment is the latest attempt by community members and elected officials to thwart the influx of three high-rises into a three-block radius in the largely low-rise, low-income neighborhood. 

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. In addition, Starrett Development is planning a 62-story residence at 259 Clinton St — altogether, the developments would hold an estimated 2,682 new housing units.

In August, attorneys with the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project sent a letter to Lago arguing the city is skirting land use law by refusing to subject the developments to a more strenuous review process and threatening to sue if the towers were approved.

Chin and Brewer have also threatened to sue the city if the developments get the green light. 

The developers noted that a quarter of the incoming units will be permanently below-market-rate and said they will continue to work with the community.

"We appreciate that the current process has provided multiple opportunities for robust community input, including through four productive feedback sessions and ongoing discussions with neighborhood leaders," the developers said in a joint statement. "We will look forward to continuing that dialogue, and to discussing the substantial upgrades proposed for neighborhood flood resiliency, open space and retail opportunities with local stakeholders as the process moves forward." 

The draft zoning text amendment can be read in full below — some of the pages in the document are sideways. 

Draft Zoning Text Amendment Application by DNAinfoNewYork on Scribd

The accompanying letter can be read in full below.

Letter to Director Marisa Lago by DNAinfoNewYork on Scribd