Another lawsuit looks to stop Two Bridges developments

Residents weaponize state’s new “green amendment” to challenge projects

From left: Councilmember Christopher Marte, Gary Barnett, JDS Development’s Michael Stern, Joseph Chetrit and a rendering of Two Bridges (Getty)
From left: Councilmember Christopher Marte, Gary Barnett, JDS Development’s Michael Stern, Joseph Chetrit and a rendering of Two Bridges (Getty)

The legal fight over the development of multiple towers in Two Bridges appeared to be over, but its opponents are now attempting to use a newly enshrined constitutional right to block the projects.

Councilmember Christopher Marte and residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown filed a lawsuit against the city and four developers on Friday, The City reported. The lawsuit argues construction of three high-rise towers in the area will create further environmental and health issues for those already contending with effects from 9/11.

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Part of the lawsuit’s argument is that the developments violate the so-called green amendment, passed by a ballot referendum last year. The constitutional right gives New York state residents the right to clean air and a healthful environment.

This is the first known time the constitutional right has been cited in such a lawsuit. Critics had warned that it would be used to block development.

The plaintiffs’ stated goal is to have the city update the environmental impact statement for the project. The document was completed in 2018, but the lawsuit argues it needs to be updated in light of the amendment and the pandemic.

The developers named in the lawsuit are shell companies. The addresses in question, however, link the litigation to a who’s who of major New York real estate players.

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JDS Development Group has spent years looking to build a 79-story apartment tower at 247 Cherry Street, which could contain 660 units.

In April, Joseph Chetrit purchased the site at 260 South Street for $78 million from CIM Group and L+M Development Partners. Madison Realty Capital provided $70 million to finance the acquisition. Chetrit was previously reported as looking to team with JDS on the purchase, but a partnership never materialized.

The previous developers filed plans for a two-tower, 73-story project. Chetrit is eyeing a complex with slightly shorter towers, but 1,300 units.

And last month, Extell Development moved to buy the development site at 259 Clinton Street for nearly $100 million. The site can be developed into a 61-story tower with up to 765 apartments.

The projects had been the subject of a long, unsuccessful legal fight by opponents in the neighborhood and on the City Council.

Starrett Corporation, Michael Stern’s JDS Development, the CIM Group and L+M Development Partners venture planned four towers among them. They defeated a challenge that claimed City Council approval was needed for development to proceed. The de Blasio administration sided with developers in the case, backing up a city agency’s decision that no rezoning was needed.

— Holden Walter-Warner