A growing number of New York neighborhoods have thwarted or stalled redevelopment efforts — and more fights are brewing.
They are invoked by protesters across New York City, regarded as the front lines in a battle against what some communities see as misguided plans to create more housing.
In recent months, the three neighborhoods have thwarted or stalled both private and public efforts to develop thousands of new apartments, the majority of which would be too expensive for local residents, and have energized like-minded campaigns all over the city.
A Legal Precedent
In Two Bridges, a mostly low-income immigrant community south of Manhattan’s Chinatown, community groups won a huge victory when a State Supreme Court justice this summer halted development of three mixed-use skyscrapers, ranging in height from 730 feet to 1,008 feet, within about three blocks of one another. The lawsuit, brought by the City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, resulted in a hold on development until the projects undergo a lengthy public process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
The towers, proposed by four developers, would create 2,775 units, of which 694 would be offered below market rate to renters of different incomes. The developers would also improve infrastructure for nearby public housing and upgrade the local subway stop. They plan to appeal the decision.
But opponents are skeptical of the community benefits, and some have alternative proposals for the sites. Many are still angry that the city permitted the luxury condo skyscraper One Manhattan Square to be built nearby, without a more thorough public review.
“We always viewed the lawsuit as a delay tactic,” said Melanie Wang, an organizer with CAAAV, a community group for a largely low-income Chinese membership. While the towers are postponed, she hopes the group can pass its own rezoning plan for Two Bridges, which would require half of all new units built to be affordable, among other guidelines.
Paula Segal, a lawyer with TakeRoot Justice who is representing some of the community groups in one of three lawsuits opposing the plans and on a community-led rezoning application, believes their victory sets a citywide precedent. The hope is that more developers of large-scale residential projects will have to go through the full public review process.
“The developers are on notice that if they don’t work with communities to come up with plans that work with everybody, we’ll see them in court,” said Ms. Segal. She has already identified several other properties with the same zoning designation as the Two Bridges sites, where a similar argument for greater public review could be applied.
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