Judge puts a stop to Two Bridges developments — for now

There are three lawsuits trying to block the four buildings
June 06, 2019 12:15PM

From left: Judge Arthur Engoron, JDS Development's Michael Stern, L&M's Ron Moelis, Josh Siegel of Starrett with a rendering of Two Bridges (Credit: Twitter and Curbed NY)

From left: Judge Arthur Engoron, JDS Development’s Michael Stern, L&M’s Ron Moelis, Josh Siegel of Starrett with a rendering of Two Bridges (Credit: Twitter and Curbed NY)

The controversial Two Bridges developments have been hit with another delay.

New York County Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron on Wednesday continued a temporary halt against the projects planned by JDS Development Group, L+M Development Partners, CIM Group and Starrett Development, to construct the four residential towers in the Lower East Side, Gothamist reported.

The City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, as well as various community groups, filed three lawsuits in the past several months to prevent the projects from going forward. A group of protestors in opposition of the huge skyscrapers were at the courthouse on Wednesday, as the judge held a hearing on the three cases.

“These are huge towers. I’ve lived in the city my whole life. You can’t just do this because the zoning allows it. I just can’t believe this is the case,” Engoron said, according to Gothamist.

The judge said his final word on the matter would come in August.

Two Bridges resident Grace Mak heralded the judge’s words, according to the New York Post.

“We were totally absolutely relieved because the developers didn’t think we had a winning chance,” Mak told the outlet.

A spokesperson for the developers told The Real Deal in an emailed statement that they were confident the lawsuits will be dismissed.

“The judge’s decision to extend the TRO for two months does not impact the projects because construction was not planned to start imminently,” the spokesperson wrote. “Contrary to the plaintiffs’ arguments, the right to build is based on zoning laws — not personal policy preferences about building size.”

The developers’ spokesperson also noted that amid a housing crisis in the city, the projects will deliver about 700 units of permanently affordable housing and $40 million in upgrades to the East Broadway subway station, among other benefits.

A representative for the city’s Law Department told Gothamist that they were disappointed with the ruling.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s preliminary findings,” the spokesperson said. “The approvals made by the City were appropriate and we will continue to defend against the claims challenging these important projects.”

The city gave the OK to the four developers to construct the rental buildings — which would bring 2,775 apartments to the area — at 247 Cherry Street, 260 South Street and 259 Clinton Street. The City Council followed up with a complaint against the Department of City Planning, the City Planning Commission and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, claiming that the executive branch circumvented the council’s authority on land-use decisions.

A petition filed in March by several neighborhood groups and individual residents called on a judge to rule the approval as illegal because the proposed modifications to the project go against the zoning resolution for large-scale residential projects. The agencies that approved Two Bridges also did not take other matters into account when rendering their decision, such as the impact of gentrification, the petition states. [Gothamist, New York Post] — Mary Diduch