A City Council member representing the Lower East Side has moved one step closer to curtailing the planned skyscrapers in her neighborhood. The City Council unanimously approved a text amendment filed by Margaret Chin, Intro 1685, that would allow local residents and elected officials to get involved earlier than they do now, when new projects are proposed in their neighborhood. The bill essentially seeks to reduce the preapplication period for developers. During this time developers meet privately with city planning officials to hash out their projects, but Chin’s bill would look to get the public involved right from the start.
The bill has been opposed by both the Department of City Planning and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), but Chin insisted at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that her colleagues should not bow down to the pressures of the real estate industry.
“We must give our communities a proper chance,” She said at the meeting. “If the real estate board is threatened, then good, it is not our job to represent real estate developers. This will help protect our communities.”
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Bills to curtail lower East side skyscrapers
A state justice in Manhattan ruled that the latest mega projects on the Lower East Side, could not continue as planned, issuing a stinging rebuke to developers who have wanted to build three luxury waterfront apartment towers with some affordable units, one of which would stand over 1,000 feet. The buildings, between the Manhattan and Williamsburg on the East River, would add nearly 3,000 apartments and soar above a part of the city dotted with low-rise walk-ups and buildings that have been home to waves of immigrants. The justice, Arthur F. Engoron of State Supreme Court, overruled a city agency’s approval of the project in 2016, ordering the developers to essentially start over and go through the city’s lengthy and arduous public review process. The justice’s searing opinion echoed what many opponents have said about similar super-tall buildings in Manhattan: They overwhelm the neighborhood, disrupt the character of the area and displace less wealthy residents. “The irreparable harm here is twofold,” Justice Engoron wrote in his opinion. “First, a community will be drastically altered without having had its proper say. Second, and arguably more important, allowing this project to proceed without the City Council’s imprimatur would distort the City’s carefully crafted system of checks and balances.”
The story of New York City over the past decades has been of constant redevelopment, spurred by city investments, eager developers and low crime. Residential towers have sprouted around Central Park, Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens, among other areas. But those projects, including Two Bridges, have been increasingly met with intense resistance. Critics have blamed developers for exacerbating gentrification, increasing the cost of housing and building palatial penthouses for the uber-wealthy, some of whom do not even live in them. Developers and urban planning specialists have countered that New York has been a city in constant churn and that remaking neighborhoods is crucial to the city’s economic vitality and its place as a global capital. On the Lower East Side, however, neighborhood groups say that Two Bridges will displace residents and raise property taxes beyond what people can afford. Francisca Benítez, who had spoken out against the development, said on Friday that she worried that the judge’s ruling was only a temporary setback.
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