Appeals court overturns court decision blocking city’s plans for Two Bridges high-rise project.

shop architects two bridges project
Rendering of the controversial Two Bridges project. SHoP Architects

AAn appeals court has overturned a court decision blocking the city’s controversial plan to add three high-rises to the Two Bridges project, the New York Post reports.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the City Council and local residents had filed suit last year to stop the erection of the towers that would range between 60 and 80 stories high and would add nearly 3,000 units — 25 percent of which would be affordable housing apartments — to the Lower East Side neighborhood.

Justice Arthur Engoron had sided with Brewer and the Council last year, determining that the project would have to go through a public review process and the judge vacated the City Planning Commission’s prior approval of the plans.

But, on Aug. 28 the Appellate Division, First Department three-judge panel unanimously overturned that ruling and said the original approval of the plans by the CPC should stand and no additional public review is legally required.

The CPC had approved applications to build three luxury developments (by JDS Development Group, CIM Group and L+M Development Partners, and Starrett Development) in the traditionally low-rise, low-income neighborhood, Curbed New York reported in Aug. 2019.

“Although the proposed towers are more than twice the height of surrounding buildings, it is undisputed that they do not violate any applicable zoning regulation,” Judge Ellen Gesmer says in the recent written decision.

Gesmer said she was “mindful” of the fact that residents had “limited input” in the project and its potential environmental effects but said Brewer and the Council could have taken other steps to intervene earlier including through legislation or a referendum, the published report said.

“Having failed to do so, petitioners cannot seek a remedy in the courts,” the decision reads.

“New York is more than ready for 700 new affordable homes, new and improved open spaces, an ADA-accessible subway station and $12.5 million in improvements to NYCHA,” City Corporation Counsel James Johnson, whose office represented the CPC, the Department of City Planning and the Department of Buildings, said in a statement. “This ruling now makes it possible.”

“The Planning Commission was on firm legal ground as it moved these important projects forward … The Court reached the right result and New Yorkers will reap the benefits sooner because of it.”

James Yolles a spokesman for the project’s developers said: “We applaud the court’s decision, which makes clear that these projects were lawfully approved and comply with zoning that’s been in place for more than 30 years.”

Yolles highlighted that the project brings myriad benefits to the neighborhood including: “infusions” of affordable housing; $40 million in upgrades to the East Broadway subway station to make it accessible for the disabled; $12.5 million in repairs to the nearby NYCHA complex; and $15 million in upgrades to three neighborhood parks.

In a joint statement, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Margaret Chin and Brewer said they are “disappointed” with the decision and are “evaluating our options.”

“We believed that the community needed a seat at the table for a proposal which would add close to 3,000 units of majority luxury housing within a three block radius in a historically affordable and diverse waterfront neighborhood, and will pierce through a low-income senior building.”


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