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July 22, 2019

NYC Council Speaker Johnson threatens lawsuit over commission approval of Lower East Side mega-tower project

December 6, 2018
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asks Margaret Garnett, DOI nominee, a question from during a confirmation for DOI Commissioner in City Council Chambers Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 in Manhattan New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News) (Barry Williams / for New York Daily News)

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he’d file a lawsuit to try to stop the development of three residential towers near the Brooklyn Bridge after the City Planning Commission approved the project Wednesday.

The three towers would bring about 3,000 units of housing to the neighborhood, 700 of them affordable. But critics — including local City Councilwoman Margaret Chin — have knocked the towers as out of scale with the Two Bridges neighborhood, which they’ve argued will be burdened by the new development.

In many large scale developments, the local council person would get a final say through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which requires a council vote. But City Planning determined the as-of-right project is a “minor modification” because it complied with zoning in the area, meaning it won’t trigger ULURP despite its massive size.

“We look forward to seeing the Department of City Planning in court. Our suit will be filed this week,” Johnson said on Twitter. “DCP has made an embarrassment of this process. We aren’t taking it laying down.”

The opponents — including Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — argue a ULURP should be required under the Two Bridges Large-Scale Residential Development Permit that sets the rules for the area, even if it were a minor modification.

“The CPC’s vote today reflects this Administration’s complete dismissal of the community’s concerns and, frankly, the law as written,” Chin said. “The approval of these massive new developments will fundamentally change the nature of the Two Bridges neighborhood.”

Borough President Gale Brewer said the neighborhood deserves the same oversight process other parts of the city get when there’s a major development proposed.

“The fix is in, and Mayor de Blasio’s administration has shown they will do whatever it takes – including ignoring the law – to give these developers what they want and approve these three enormous, illegal developments in Two Bridges without a full review or a real negotiation,” she said.

The commission, which was appointed by the mayor, argues the approvals were legal and that the development will bring benefits to the neighborhood.

“The actions we’ve taken related to this development are on firm legal ground, and subjecting it to ULURP would have gone beyond DCP’s statutory authority. These projects will provide this important Manhattan community with 700 new affordable homes, new and improved open spaces, an ADA-accessible subway station and $12.5 million in improvements to NYCHA,” Planning Commission spokeswoman Melissa Grace said.

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