Residents to Sue City Over Two Bridges Developments

Winn telling said at the town hall that AADELF will file the lawsuit before February. (Photo by Rong Xiaoqing via Sing Tao Daily)

The Department of City Planning’s recent approval of three high rise luxury residential buildings in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Lower East Side triggered a new round of outcry from the residents. At a town hall meeting held on Dec. 12, activists and residents vowed to keeping fighting. A lawyer from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) said the organization will file a lawsuit against the city on behalf of residents by February.

City Planning voted to approve the projects on Dec. 5. Although not a surprise, residents were still outraged because their previous protests seemed to fall on deaf ears. They blamed the city for violating its own law to green light the luxury buildings without going through the legally required Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development Permit process. While the city considers the projects as “minor modification” that is exempted from a full land use review, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council member Margaret Chin have issued a joint statement noting that buildings in this scale – each is more than 60 floors with 3,000 units all together – cannot be called “minor modification.” In addition, there is no legal basis for the exemption of “minor modification.”

Brewer, Chin and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson filed a lawsuit against the city on Dec. 7 to require the projects go through a full review, including The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), in which the Borough President and the Council have a say. But the residents say they need their own lawsuit because what they want is different from what elected officials seek.

A few hundreds residents and advocates showed up at the town hall, which was held in the auditorium at P.S. 2. City Comptroller Scott Stringer and State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou sent representatives, and Public Advocate candidates Tony Herbert, David Eisenbach and Ben Yee also presented. But residents couldn’t wait to highlight the absence of a major public official, Mayor de Blasio, who was invited. “Where is the Mayor?” they chanted together.

Audrey Winn, a lawyer from AADELF, said that the court had declined to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the construction as the City Council requested on Dec. 7. But the work won’t get the right permit to start until the next court date in February based on an agreement between the Council and City Planning. AADELF will file a lawsuit against the city for its violation of land use codes and Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development Permit before February. She encouraged residents to keep protesting. “The more people stand up, the more likely the lawsuit will lead to a result in our favor,” said Winn.

David Tieu, a housing activist who helped organize the town hall, said that the lawsuit of the Council and Borough President is only to request the city to go through ULURP. It is a small victory for the residents. But ULURP itself won’t do much more than get residents some crumbs through the negotiation. “We don’t want crumbs. We don’t want the buildings to be built in our neighborhood, period,” Tieu said. He added, that’s the reason the residents decided to file their own lawsuit.

Tony Queylin, a resident who have been living in neighborhood for 19 years said that a few years ago, when the first high-rise building in the neighborhood was built on the waterfront, he sometimes felt his building shaking at night. Fissures developed in his wall. He couldn’t open the door or the windows because of dust. His water pipe leaked. On the street, there were a lot of potholes. And the Con Ed pipes nearby even exploded more than once.

Queylin said the Two-Bridges is one of the best neighborhoods for low-income New Yorkers. But the high-rise luxury buildings will change it all and push out the original residents. He called on all residents to fight against the projects in whatever way they can. “If you do nothing, they will win,” said Queylin.

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