City Council Sues City Over Two Bridges Towers Approval

LOWER EAST SIDE, NY — Two days after the City Planning Commission approved four towers to rise in Two Bridges, the City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer followed through on their vow to sue city officials to stop the plan from moving forward.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Brewer filed the joint lawsuit Friday to force a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, of the high-rise developments proposed by four developers.

The suit targets the Department of City Planning and its director, the City Planning Commission and its chair and the Department of Buildings to halt construction on the project until the proposal goes through “the public review process it legally requires,” according to the City Council.  

“The Council is taking legal action to correct mistakes made by the City in trying to rush through a massive multi-site development without the public review process that projects of this size legally require,” said Johnson.

“We expect projects which produce almost 3,000 units of new housing to go through the public review process mandated by the City Charter so we can assess the appropriateness of these developments.” 

The controversial “minor modification” does not require the massive developments planned by JDS Development Group, CIM Group, L+M Development Partners and Starrett Development to go through ULURP. The towers — one set to soar more than 1,000 feet high — will bring some 2,700 new units all together and 690 apartments earmarked as affordable.

The City Planning Commission approved the project in a 10-to-3 vote on Wednesday.

The Two Bridges area, which used to be an Urban Renewal Area, allows for greater flexibility on land-use regulations when it comes to building residential projects that span multiple property lots because it was designated a Large-Scale Residential Development (LSRD) area in 1972. 

Friday’s lawsuit claims city planners usurped the City Council’s authority by approving the project and argues that the project is in violation of the LSRD special permit.

“Conveniently, DCP has improperly designated these modifications as “minor”, which would exempt these projects from the entirety of the ULURP process and deprive the Council of its oversight and regulatory role over these projects and the Borough President of her role to review and make recommendations,” the suit states. 

“Projects of this magnitude are required to undergo the full battery of hearings and oversight that ULURP provides.”

The Mayor’s office and the Department of City Planning did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called the Department of City Planning’s process and standards for reviewing the project “made up.”

“I don’t like suing the mayor or his agencies, but if that’s what it takes to get the residents of Two Bridges the full review and real negotiation they’re entitled to under the law, then I’m all in,” Brewer said in a statement.