CB3 Votes to Co-Sponsor Controversial Rezoning of LES Waterfront in Bid to Thwart Supertall Development

Posted on: October 19th, 2017 at 5:01 am by

Thanks to a confluence of election year politics and incessant grassroots organizing, development along the Lower East Side waterfront is firmly in the spotlight. It’s a rare moment when the voice of the people is being heard, albeit barely. There is definitely traction, but a race against the clock is afoot.

Nevertheless, Community Board 3 took one major step in that direction last night. The Land-Use subcommittee voted to approve a subsection of the ten-year-old Chinatown Working Group plan to rezone swaths of the Lower East Side. Effectively becoming so-called “co-applicants” in the process. Subdistrict D runs along the East River and includes the Two Bridges waterfront currently designated gold rush territory.

Seemingly threatened by the march of Marte (who was in attendance), Councilwoman Chin announced her endorsement before the presentation, and reminded the community of her intention to fight waterfront over-development. The incumbent, along with Borough President Gale Brewer, filed a “rare” zoning text amendment last week that would help protect the Two Bridges neighborhood from a wall of glass. If passed, it would require the three proposed developments be subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the seven-month public review that arms City Council with final say on whether to approve or disapprove a land use change.

(JDS Development (1,000 feet), Starrett Corp. (724 feet), and CIM/L+M (800-feet) are each planning as-of-right super-tall towers in the backyard of a low-income neighborhood.)

Led by local groups CAAAV, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and Tenants United Fighting for Lower East Side (TUFF-LES), the presentation seemingly drew the largest crowd to a CB3 meeting we’ve seen in quite some time. And in the process, rehashed the nuts-and-bolts components about the proposed rezoning for Subdistrict D. Namely:

  • Building heights would be limited to 350 feet.
  • Guarantee that at least 50% of units in new construction are affordable housing.
  • Developers would engage in a Certificate of No Harassment to protect tenants affected by construction.
  • Requirement for maximum open space development.
  • New development would stay within the scale and context of the surroundings.
  • That there be a public review process for any potential big-box stores or bars.

There was some trepidation on the part of the panel, though. Noting that, even with CB3 backing, the plan might not curb the incoming supertall projects. And that the fight for such a zoning change would lose the race against the developments. Trever Holland of TUFF-LES, however, appeared confident that now is the opportune time to strike, and that the developers might not be as far along as they suggest.

The CB3 stance as co-applicant was voted with the caveat that the approval was more in the spirit of the proposal, but that further dialogue and negotiation would be necessary. To that end, the three groups are willing to negotiate to push this thing through.

Local support is essential, as it’ll assist in the attainment of fee waivers when it comes to the zoning application process, which apparently costs $500K to initiate.

Next steps…

  • An 197-C Land Use Application must be submitted to and certified by the Department of City Planning.
  • The City Planning Commission must approve the application.
  • The City Council must vote in favor of the application.

Two Bridges waterfront


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