Two months ago, Lower East Siders got word of a second behemoth tower planned to go up just a block from the 80-story Extell tower already under construction at One "One Percent" Manhattan Square: a 77-story tower on Cherry Street will sit just behind the Extell building, and will rise at least 100 feet above the tower that's already caused local hysteria over sinking sidewalks and cracking walls at surrounding buildings. Last night, dozens of neighborhood residents packed the auditorium of P.S. 20 to protest the development, as well as the ongoing construction at One Manhattan Square, voicing fears that the towers will price them out of the neighborhood and damage the surrounding area.
The tower at 247 Cherry Street, spearheaded by JDS Development, will require the temporary relocation of a small senior center on Cherry Street. That center will eventually be housed in the tower, according to a JDS spokesperson, but its relocation is still of concern to LES residents, who are still mourning the loss of the affordable grocery store whose site is now the home of One Manhattan Square.
"First, they got rid of our supermarket," said Antonio Quelin, who lives at 82 Rutgers Slip, a building adjacent to the new tower's proposed site that is primarily made up of affordable housing. "Then [Extell] damaged the foundation of our building, causing it to shake, making it impossible for many residents to cause our windows and doors. Construction has caused shaking and vibrating, and the dust has worsened health for residents, especially those who cannot close their windows. Our so-called nonprofit landlords are not doing anything for us. They are now allowing another highrise to be constructed on top of a senior building by JDS."
By "so-called nonprofit landlords," Quelin was referring to is the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a nonprofit that, according to its website, "serves the community by creating affordable housing...and engaging residents in the public, political and planning processes that impact the community in which they live and work." TBNC helped broker the deal with JDS, as it currently owns the property where the new tower will rise, and TBNC president Victor Papa has presented the plan for the new tower as one of few options for the development of new affordable housing—150 of the 600 units planned for the tower will be affordable.
"They're making false projections, saying people will be able to afford these buildings," argued Ben Rothenberg at last night's meeting. "They're making these to make money—they don't care about the people who live here. They don't care what happens once the building goes up. We have a lot of problems from the land sinking into the water, the buildings getting cracks in them. It's affecting the health of current residents."
Also of concern is the fact that the Cherry Street tower will be even taller than Extell's, despite having fewer floors. In an article out today, Bowery Boogie suggests that developers misled residents by describing the building by its number of stories (77, compared to Extell's 80) rather than feet (over 950, compared to Extell's 850). However, a spokesperson from JDS Development said that they've been transparent throughout the process about the building's height in feet, and provide both metrics to make it easier for people to visualize.
"The project will bring much-needed affordable housing, more retail options, and new open space to the neighborhood, while allowing our not-for-profit partners to further their mission—from funding neighborhood amenities to providing after-school and daycare programs," a spokesperson for JDS said in a statement. "The developers have committed to making building-wide improvements and resiliency upgrades to TBNC's residence at 80 Rutgers Street in order to preserve it as a source of stable, affordable housing for seniors for years to come. We've engaged residents in nearby buildings in discussions about the project and will continue to consider the community's feedback as the process moves forward."
On top of that, there are more towers coming to the neighborhood: there are at least two more large-scale buildings in the works for the waterfront, one a block down from the Cherry Street development and one on Cherry Street bordering Clinton Street. In response to this increased development, Councilmember Margaret Chin has asked the city to treat such changes to the area as major modifications to the existing Two Bridges Large-Scale Development Plan, as doing so would trigger the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a laborious process that requires an environmental review, as well as review from the local community board, the borough president, and approval from the City Council. Chin's office hasn't yet received a response to that request.
The Extell tower, which is significantly closer to realization than its 77-story neighbor, recently released a promotional video rendering of what the completed tower will look like, showing it utterly dwarfing the Manhattan Bridge and surrounding buildings. It will be the tallest tower between the Financial District and Midtown by 2019; the Cherry Street tower, meanwhile, isn't expected to begin construction for at least another two years, giving area residents plenty of time to shout themselves hoarse at community board meetings to come.
"We're being treated as a cockroach to be exterminated so the rich and wealthy can move in," said Eileen Boras, a lifelong resident of the Lower East Side who also lives at 82 Rutgers Slip. "Where are the studies for upgrades to public transportation? Where are the independent environmental studies saying it's safe to build around and on top of us? The reality is, you're taking more away from us than you're offering...this isn't fair. We are average, working people. We want to stay in our area. We want to be able to afford our homes."
Additional reporting by Gabriela Del Valle.