City Planning Commission to Vote on Controversial Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Towers this Month [Updated]

Posted on: January 8th, 2020 at 5:00 am by

In early-December, the City Planning Commission convened a public hearing on the controversial development proposed for the fire-scorched Beth Hamedrash Hagadol site at Norfolk and Broome Streets. No vote followed.

As previously reported, the project (aka GO Broome) is a two-towered joint venture between the Chinese-American Planning Council nonprofit and the Gotham Organization. Together, the co-developers seek a rezoning to legalize the block-long beast at 60 Norfolk – composed of 16- and 30-story towers – directly across from Essex Crossing. This size and heft are apparently not permissible under the current zoning designation (R-8). In fact, it’s approximately two-and-a-half times bigger than zoning allows. So the developers seek a variance (R-9) that would essentially legalize the oversized project at Broome and Norfolk Streets.

Photo: Gotham Organization

The LES Against Upzoning grassroots group was in attendance at the public hearing and shared the following summation of the proceedings:

The vote was delayed until January 21 because the planning commission had many questions, some of which the developer could not answer. No actual residents testified in favor of the development – the only people who spoke for it were other Not For Profit executives, union reps, and a few folks who go to Chinese Planning Council or utilize their services.

Several of the commissioners were surprised and unhappy that no one from the large team that the developer and Chinese-American Panning Council brought with them could tell the commission the median income (AMI) of the Lower East Side, especially since so much of what the GoBroome team is asking for is literally based on AMI. Several commissioners were also unhappy that GoBroome couldn’t answer the simple question of what could be built without the unprecedented number of sidewalk, height, width, distance, and bulk waivers they are asking for.

We also shared photos with the planning commission showing how Norfolk Street on this spot is now only about 8 to 9 feet wide, with trucks parked on the sidewalk next to stacks of garbage, further demonstrating the requested scale of this project is absurd given the size of surrounding streets.

Overall, it was a surprisingly poor and unprepared showing by GoBroome.

UPDATE: per developers’ PR, “The vote was not delayed. The vote has always been scheduled for January as it follows the DEIS hearing process (the vote must be within 50 days of the meeting, and is set by DCP).”

If the vote ultimately carries at City Planning Commission later this month, it’s on to City Council, then the Mayor.

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