Make No Mistake, CM Margaret Chin Wants Towers in Two Bridges [OP-ED]
The following editorial was written by community leader David Tieu, a member of the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors coalition, which is staunchly opposed to the incoming waterfront development.
With just a rubber stamp of City Planning approval, four mega-towers on the flood plain of the Lower East Side waterfront – each between 60 and 100 stories tall – could forever dwarf Lower Manhattan, and its residents will be displaced off the map. Real estate speculation and high rents will drive out one of the only working class communities left in Manhattan.
Yet, we are not powerless to stop these towers in Two Bridges. The City would technically be violating its own laws if it gives JDS Development Group, Starrett Corporation, and L+M the green light to build. Zoning Resolution Article 7 Chapter 8 states outright that any developments that change neighborhood character, block sunlight and air, create traffic congestion, or cause any adverse socio-economic impacts are not allowed in this area. These towers would violate each of these requirements; therefore they should not be built, plain and simple. Nevertheless, the de Blasio administration has ushered these towers through an approval process for months.
We call on the community to continue to demand, loud and clear, that the City enforce its own laws, to accept no compromises on our lives and our neighborhood. That is how we can protect our community. It is the only way.
During the public hearing hosted by the City Planning Commission in October, our community mobilized and provided hours of testimony urging the government to vote no. Yet, one voice stuck out against the others. Councilmember Margaret Chin even admitted the resolution would be violated, but then advocated for her tired zoning text amendment which would put the mega-towers through a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). Her intention? More than likely to help the de Blasio administration circumvent the Zoning Law so that these towers can be built. In fact, Chin plainly admitted that she will support the construction of the towers … if the developers agree to a few concessions, such as a few more affordable units that are not actually affordable to the community, some 32BJ jobs, and maybe a few trees to line our parks.
This is the “reasonable development” that Chin referred to in her statement at the hearing.
One can also scrutinize Chin’s own records to understand her motive. From the colossal NYU expansion plan, to the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area/Essex Crossing (otherwise known as Target and Trader Joe’s) and the Elizabeth Street Garden, the Councilmember has deftly used ULURP to steamroll neighborhoods, and distribute small concessions to those that are willing to accept them.
Our community is not interested in crumbs. These waterfront towers will put the nail in the coffin of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. All of us will be displaced if these towers are built, and the neighborhood will just become an extension of Wall Street.
That is why several community members are filing an ethics complaint against Councilmember Chin. We call on City Council to investigate Margaret Chin for wrongful conduct. By acknowledging the towers will violate the existing zoning, while still helping the process for approval continue, we argue that the Councilmember is willfully assisting illegal development. She recognizes a law is being broken, and then seemingly clamors for the chance to help the developers break it. Not only is she unfit to serve as our representative, she must be made an example of to demonstrate that New York City will not be sacrificed for profit. We call on City Council to enforce the law, and sanction Chin for advocating it to be broken.
Furthermore, the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors calls on all of Lower Manhattan to come together to stop these mega-towers, and hold our elected officials accountable to the law. In addition, the City should pass the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan in full. This plan would impose height restrictions throughout the entire community, protecting it from rampant high-rise luxury development.