Manhattan neighborhood balks at plans for residential skyscrapers

Along the East River, the Two Bridges neighborhood of Manhattan's Lower East Side is comprised of mostly low- and mid-rise buildings. But developers want to change that.

Plans are in place to build four high-rise towers. Three would be 700 feet tall and one, to be built above an existing senior home, would reach more than 1,000 feet. Together, the buildings would bring nearly 3,000 residential units to the neighborhood.

Some longtime residents say that is way more than the area can accommodate.

"Putting four buildings, including one super-tall on top of a senior building, we don't feel it's proper city planning," said Trever Holland, who lives next door to the proposed 1,000-foot tower. "We feel it will destroy the neighborhood when you're more than doubling the number of people who live in one neighborhood."

Holland was among the dozens of people who testified before New York City's Planning Commission last week to express concerns about the development.

Three different developers would build the buildings—proposed for 247 Cherry Street, 260 South Street (which would have two towers), and 259 Clinton Street. The towers would set aside 25 percent of the units as affordable housing.

In a joint statement, the developers, JDS, Starrett Development and L + M Development Partners and the CIM Group said, in part: "The three proposed projects will deliver approximately 700 much-needed units of permanently affordable housing, representing one of the largest infusions of affordable housing in Manhattan in decades... At the same time, the proposed developments include investments that will provide genuine and lasting benefits for current residents."

Among the pledged investments are expansion of a local subway station and added public space.

A main concern of opponents of the plan is that the developers didn't need to apply for rezoning for the proposed sites, and so were not required to go through the public review process known as the uniform land use review procedure, or ULURP.

"Community Board, the Manhattan Borough President, the City Council—we have no say in this whole thing, and that's why we're fighting back," said Councilmember Margaret Chin, who represents the area.

Chin is asking the City Planning Commission to approve a text amendment that would require the developers to apply for a special permit and go through the ULURP process. A spokesperson for the Commission said that amendment has to go through several stages before getting a public review.

"We're not saying no development, just not this monstrosity," Chin said. "This will give us chance to talk and really review."

Members of the public have until Monday, October 29, to submit written comments to the City Planning Commission about the project.

It is not clear when the Commission will hold the final review and issue a decision on whether or not the project can move forward in its current iteration.