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CITYLIMITS.ORG
LOWER EAST SIDE
EDITION

APRIL 24, 2017
The Future of NYC Neighborhoods WWW.ZONEIN.ORG

FEATURE
lic hearings on the Draft Scope of Work, a doc-

Two Bridges Development Frames ument outlining the methods used to conduct
the environmental review, the Environmental

Talk of Chinatown Rezoning
Impact Statement, a document detailing the
potential effects of the towers on gentrifica-
tion, schools, transit and other factors, as well
as a community board hearing.
Ultimately, the City Planning Commission
(CPC) can require the developers to imple-
ment mitigation strategies to combat harmful
impacts. Chin and Brewer have also succeed-
ed in pushing the first public hearing to May
to provide stakeholders with more time to
understand the issues, and requiring the de
Blasio administration to publish the Draft
Scope of Work in Spanish and Chinese.
Because the projects are within a zone cov-
ered by special permits, CPC is only allowed to
grant modifications if certain requirements are
met, such as that the added density will not
adversely affect access to light, air or create
traffic congestion.
Current residents of the area have already
expressed concerns about gentrification,
A city proposal to rezone only central Chinatown clashes with neighborhood groups who want a broader plan. shadows and blocked views, the effects of
Photo: Roman Kruglov construction on air quality and neighboring
BY ABIGAIL SAVITCH-LEW

F
overshadowed by another, ironically related buildings, taxed public infrastructure, and loss
or almost a decade, stakeholders in China- matter—a development boom of luxury towers on of parking.
town and the Lower East Side have struggled the Lower East Side waterfront, also known as Two But while some already see the projects
to pass a rezoning to protect the historic Bridges. The Chinatown Working Group’s plan, had as a win for developers at the expense of the
character of their neighborhoods and prevent it passed, would have instituted height caps and community, Victor Papa, president of the
the displacement of existing residents by rising stringent affordability requirements in this area. Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, which
rents. The Chinatown Working Group plan, which In addition to Extell Development Company’s co-developed much of the affordable housing
received endorsement from Community Board 3 79-story luxury condominium already rising on in the area, sees potential benefits, including
and other groups, did not get support from the South Street, there are plans for four more luxury new neighborhood amenities. His organiza-
Department of City Planning (DCP), which saw it as towers, all between 62- and 79-stories and within tion sold development right to JDS Develop-
too expansive and anti-growth. a two-block radius. The three developers of these ment Group in exchange for much-needed
This winter, however, community board 3 accept- four towers have voluntarily offered to rent a quar- funds for repairs and flood-proofing at a
ed DCP’s offer to discuss a potential “Chinatown” ter of units at below-market rates, likely with the senior building.
rezoning—with the support of Councilmember help of the recently renewed 421-a tax credit. And what of the long awaited neigh-
Margaret Chin, who sees the compromise as a way Last year, Chin also pressed the city to require a borhood rezoning? In time, it’s likely that
to move forward. Though no one has defined the full public review process for the planned towers. the community board will take the lead on
borders of the potential rezoning, the announce- Instead, DCP brokered an agreement with the de- bringing together stakeholders to discuss a
ment infuriated members of an alliance called the velopers to participate in an extended engagement rezoning plan for Chinatown. Deciding how
Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East process. The developers are holding four extra com- to define the borders of Chinatown may be
Side, who say their leaders are pitting Chinatown’s munity meetings, while a task force of stakeholders contentious, with some stakeholders likely
interest against those of the Black and Latino Lower lead by Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer to push for borders that include parts of the
East Side. will seek to represent community concerns. Lower East Side waterfront that have not yet
Yet in recent months that discussion has been The process will also include the customary pub- been grabbed for development.

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| A Publication of City Limits | zonein.org | zone@citylimits.org | 844-ZONE-NYC | @CityLimitsNews
EXPLAINER

Key Background: The Past and the Process
2008: Chinatown Working 2013: The Working Group pres- 2015: The de Blasio admin- 2016: City Planning proposes
Group, a coalition of LES orga- ents its comprehensive vision istration expresses concerns rezoning only a yet-to-be defined
nizations, begins developing a for the area to the Department about the scope of the Work- “Chinatown Core.” Community
neighborhood rezoning plan. of City Planning. ing Group plan. Board 3 gives qualified support
to the process.

Today:
.

The neighborhood is waiting to learn more
about the Chinatown Core study. Mean-
while, a separate process has begun to
review plans for massive skyscrapers in the
Two Bridges area. These require modifica-
tions to existing regulations and an envi-
ronmental review. A draft scope of work for
that review has been issued.

THE PROCESS

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TAKE ACTION! CONTACTS AND RESOURCES
KEY CONTACTS CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARGARET CHIN MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
SEND WRITTEN COMMENTS ON THE TWO chin@council.nyc.gov We want to hear from you about your plans for,
BRIDGES DRAFT SCOPE OF WORK District Office: 212-587-3159 comments on or questions about the future of your
Legislative Office: 212-788-7259 neighborhood.
Environmental Assessment and Review Division
Department of City Planning, MANHATTAN COMMUNITY BOARD 3 VISIT our website to comment on stories and get
Attn: Robert Dobruskin info@cb3manhattan.org more info: zonein.org
120 Broadway 31st Floor 212-533-5300 CALL us toll-free at 844-ZONE-NYC to leave a
New York, NY 10271 voice comment
RDOBRUS@planning.nyc.gov UPCOMING EVENTS EMAIL us at zone@citylimits.org with criticisms,
212-720-3423 PUBLIC HEARING ON TWO BRIDGES DRAFT comments, story ideas or questions
SCOPE OF WORK MAIL us at City Limits, 394 Broadway, 5th floor,
These will be accepted until June 8 at 5 pm. Manhattan Municipal Building, Mezzanine level, 1 New York, NY 10013 and tell us what’s on your mind.
Centre Street, Thursday May 25, 2 pm and 6 pm

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| A Publication of City Limits | zonein.org | zone@citylimits.org | 844-ZONE-NYC | @CityLimitsNews
EXPLAINER

Plans, projects and proposals on the LES WHAT IS
ZONING?
Zoning is a set of laws that
govern how large buildings
The Chinatown Working Group has can be, how they are built
proposed comprehensive rezoning and what they are used for.
across several sections of the Lower Every square inch in New
East Side. York City is zoned.

Property owners within a
zone can undertake some
The de Blasio administration has kinds of devleopment “as of
objected to the CWG plan as too right,” meaning no change
large and proposed instead a zoning in the zoning is needed.
study of the “Chinatown Core,” This is the case with the
whose borders are not yet defined. planned towers in Two
Bridges that have generat-
ed controversy and spurred
a unique review process.
Meanwhile, a development boom in
the Two Bridges area has triggered A rezoning is when the
a unique review process, with many city changes the zoning
residents expressing worry about rules for a particular area
the impact of those towers. to permit larger buildings,
or to require that any new
buildings be smaller than
currently allowed, or to
change the type of build-
ings permitted on each
parcel. Some rezonings do
a combination of these.

The de Blasio administra-
tion is planning to rezone
a dozen or more city neigh-
borhoods to permit denser
development — and, City
Hall says, create more af-
fordable housing. Some
community groups have
called for rezonings, and
others have resisted.

The administraton is con-
sidering a rezoning of cen-
tral Chinatown. They plan a
From a coded City Planning map of the area.
zoning study first.
4A/4B 5 6A
247 CHERRY 260 SOUTH 259 CLINTON Community groups, say-
ing they want to control
STREET STREET STREET development and fend off
gentrification and displace-
JDS Developers. 79 stories Two Bridges Associates, Starrett Development. ment, want a larger area
on stilts atop existing LP. One 69 story tower and 62 stories. of the Lower East Side re-
senior housing. one 62 story tower. zoned.

MORE AT ZONEIN.ORG

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| A Publication of City Limits | zonein.org | zone@citylimits.org | 844-ZONE-NYC | @CityLimitsNews
OPINION

Neighborhood View: The Rezoning that LES Workers Really Need

The fate of neighborhood culture in Chinatown is deeply linked to what occurs in the broader Lower East Side, the authors say. Photo: EventPlannerNYC

BY CATHY DANG AND MELANIE WANG businesses, and Community Boards 1, 2, and will also experience even deeper gentrification.

C
hinatown and the Lower East Side are 3 gathered to form the Chinatown Work- The CWG plan wasn’t initially taken seriously
neighborhoods of historic significance ing Group. With the support of the Pratt by the administration because we have limited
where residents and workers orga- Institute, our goal was to design a compre- land and air space for development. The ad-
nized for unions, rent strikes and takeovers hensive, community-led rezoning plan. After ministration is prioritizing upzonings that will
of vacant buildings, and where liberation years of studies, long meetings and debates, create market-rate and “affordable housing,”
struggles were led by the Red Guard Party, we were able to find unity and agreement but due to minimum income restrictions, that
Young Lords and Black Panther Party. Our on a much-needed plan for the residents affordable housing won’t actually be affordable
neighborhoods survived Hurricane Sandy and small business owners who have been for working-class and poor people, like many of
and built resiliency in the recovery process. fighting to stay in Chinatown and the LES. the Chinatown residents who make up CAAAV’s
This is where immigrants find means of Initially, the Department of City Planning organizing base.
survival, familial language, culture, food, (DCP) disregarded the entire plan, but with There is an assumption that wealth is an answer
and a sense of community. Chinatown pushback from the community, DCP is now to our housing crisis. Instead, we must recognize
and the LES aren’t just “hip and upcoming” considering the Chinatown Core. However, that wealth and exploitation are actually the root
neighborhoods for gentrifiers. These are our communities will not settle for just the of our crisis. An influx of wealth would perma-
neighborhoods with rich and vibrant history rezoning of the Core. nently change the fabric of the Chinatown and
that serve a present-day purpose to work- DCP claims our neighborhood plan is too LES community.
ing-class Jewish and Chinese immigrants, expansive. But the CWG plan covers 103 Chinatown Tenants Union members are fight-
Latinos and African-Americans. blocks, which isn’t that much bigger from ing for anti-harassment protections, a historic
In Community Board 3, we’ve experi- other current plans like East Harlem, which district, small business protections, restrictions on
enced grave losses of cultural institutions, is 95 blocks, and is smaller than some earlier hotel development, and height caps outlined in
residents, housing, and community centers. ones. the CWG plan for the waterfront and Chinatown.
Chinatown and the LES once had the second There is an assumption that rent-regulat- CAAAV’s members deserve more, and the working
largest rent-regulated housing stock in Man- ed apartments will remain rent-regulated people of New York deserve better.
hattan. Today, we suffer loss after loss. As and market forces would not deregulate the In this Trump era, isn’t it clear that our collective
luxury hotels and high-end retail has arrived, units. There is also an assumption that zon- humanity is more vital than profits and getting
rent-regulated units and Asian residents ing Chinatown as a historic neighborhood— re-elected? In a time when our communities are
have been driven out. For over a decade at protecting the character of the buildings—is feeling the repression of mass deportations and
CAAAV, our Chinatown Tenants Union (CTU) sufficient in protecting the people who live the loss of social safety nets, the local adminis-
has been organizing tenants. CTU fights in them. These assumptions are hollow. We tration can take a bold stand by respecting and
landlord after landlord, but we have realized know firsthand that developers and land- implementing community-led rezoning plans that
that rezoning is a tool to proactively protect lords will use all their wealth and power to protect our homes and livelihoods.
the community. manipulate the laws to earn greater profits.
In 2008, CAAAV and nearly 60 tenant And we know that if we don’t protect the LES - Cathy Dang is the executive director and Mel-
associations, organizations, landlords and waterfront from development, Chinatown anie Wang the CTU Tenant Organizer at CAAAV.

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| A Publication of City Limits | zonein.org | zone@citylimits.org | 844-ZONE-NYC | @CityLimitsNews