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The Right to Light
Community Groups Revive Lawsuit Against Towers Using New State Constitutional Provision
The four new residential towers proposed for the Two Bridges neighborhood would contain more than 2,700 apartments. The tower at left is already largely complete, while the four to the right are nearing the start of construction.The towers are described by City Hall as “minor modifications” to nearby (and much smaller) existing structures.
A years-long saga of legal battles aiming to thwart the planned development of a cluster of super-tall residential towers proposed for the Two Bridges neighborhood of East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan has taken a new twist, with a lawsuit that relies upon a provision of the New York State Constitution that was approved by voters last November, and formally enacted in January of this year.
That amendment adds 15 words to Article I, Section 19, of the New York Bill of Rights: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” This makes New York third among the 50 states (after Pennsylvania and Montana) to enshrine an explicit right to a clean environment in its constitution. Because it is less than a year old, this provision has not yet been considered or applied by New York courts. Both critics and supporters of the new clause note that its broad wording gives judges nearly unlimited discretion in how to interpret the meaning of the text.
At issue in this case is the City’s approval of the controversial projects, which include a total of four new towers, reaching as high as 1,000 feet. Opponents of the plan now argue that years of construction will degrade the air quality of their community, while the new erected spires will cast much of the streetscape in deep shadows in the decades to come. The Two Bridges projects are slated to bring more than 2,700 new apartments (700 set aside as affordable units) to the community.
A schematic from the Municipal Art Society illustrates the impact that the scale of the proposed new developments will have on the existing community of low-rise buildings.
“These 60- to 80-story proposed towers, approved by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, will violate current neighborhood residents’ rights to clean air and water protected by the New York State Constitution,” says Zishun Ning, a member of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, who adds, “their construction will negatively impact the health and safety of the residents, many of whom are people of color having suffered from respiratory issues caused by [the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001]. By bringing in thousands of market-rate units, the mega-towers will increase real estate taxes and rents in the surrounding communities, furthering the displacement of tenants and small businesses who are already struggling due to the pandemic.”
Opponents of the Two Bridges project rallied in Zuccotti Park on September 27 to petition the City Planning Commission to revise course on the projects.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Friday, follows years of litigation focused on the approval granted by the City Planning Commission (CPC) to a streamlined review that allowed all three of the controversial projects to avoid the full legal scrutiny of the City’s “uniform land use review procedure” (ULURP), and instead move ahead under a less-rigorous standard of review, limited to an environmental impact statement. This was made possible by the CPC’s determination, in December, 2018, that the addition of four new skyscrapers to the community situated between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges (which would more than triple the number of households in the area) qualified as a “minor modification” to existing zoning for the neighborhood. This position by the CPC (which was controlled by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio) preempted the legal authority of the City Council to review, and possibly veto, these projects.
An Attractive Tract
Marte Pushes for New Park and Public Space Alongside the Brooklyn Bridge
City Council member Christopher Marte is throwing his support behind a plan to create a new, dozen-acre linear park in Lower Manhattan, plus a new library and museum, on the north and south sides of the Brooklyn Bridge. All of the land in question is already publicly owned, with much of it legally mapped as park space. But the vast majority of this expanse has been closed to public access for more than a decade, mostly to allow for its use as an equipment storage area for various City agencies, and partly in response to security concerns in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Read more…
Scimitar on Subway
Sword Attack at World Trade Center Station Causes Stampede
Amid fears of rising crime, a man with a sword attacked a subway rider on Thursday morning, at the Chambers Street station of the A train. Read more…
A Report Card on Resiliency
A Decade After Sandy, Comptroller Says Downtown Is Farther Ahead Than Other Communities, But Still Lagging
A report from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander released late last week says that resiliency plans for Lower Manhattan are farther along than the rest of the City, but still less than halfway to completion. Read more…
Tuesday, October 25
6 River Terrace
Easy-to-follow Latin dance choreography. Come prepared for enthusiastic instruction, a little strength training and a lot of fun. Free.
Rockefeller Park House
Using clocks, opponents will play 5 minute games. An instructor will be on hand to offer pointers and tips to improve your game. Free.
St. Paul’s Chapel
Hear Sasha Berliner on vibes and percussion. Free.
Play the popular strategy game while getting pointers and advice from an expert. For ages 5 and up (adults welcome). Free/
For ages 6-10. Practice the basics of passing, receiving, and game strategy with exercises and drills for all levels. Free.
Manhattan Borough President’s Office, 1 Centre Street, 19th floor
Open to all.
China Institute, 40 Rector Street
Constructed over a millennium from the fourth to fourteenth centuries CE near Dunhuang, an ancient border town along the Silk Road in northwest China, the Mogao Caves comprise the largest, most continuously created, and best-preserved treasure trove of Buddhist art in the world. Learn more at this presentation.
Rector Park East
Each week a model will strike short and long poses for participants to draw. An educator will offer constructive critique. Drawing materials provided. Free.
St. Paul’s Chapel
Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, BWV 40; Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, BWV 64; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80; Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?, BWV 89. The Choir of Trinity Wall Street; Trinity Baroque Orchestra; Avi Stein, conductor. Free.
Rector Park East
Join artists of all skill levels to create with drawing materials, pastels and watercolors. An educator will offer. Materials provided. Free.
World Trade Center Oculus Plaza
Bring your own mat. Free.
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall St
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
World Trade Center Oculus Greenmarket
Tuesdays, 8am-5pm (ending this month)
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South Street, between Fulton & John Streets
Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturdays, 11:30am-5pm
Today in History
Pablo Picasso, 1901–02, Femme au café (Absinthe Drinker), oil on canvas, 73 × 54 cm, Hermitage Museum. Today is Picasso’s birthday.
1415 – In the Hundred Years’ War, Henry V of England and his infantry and archers defeat the French cavalry in the Battle of Agincourt on Saint Crispin’s Day.
1780 – John Hancock becomes the first Governor of Massachusetts
1812 – In the War of 1812, the American frigate USS United States, commanded by Stephen Decatur, captures the British frigate HMS Macedonian.
1944 – Heinrich Himmler orders a crackdown on the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely organized youth culture in Nazi Germany that had assisted army deserters and others to hide from the Third Reich.
1962 – In the Cuban Missile Crisis, Adlai Stevenson shows photos at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council proving that Soviet missiles are installed in Cuba.
2021 – Sudan’s military takes control of the country, dissolving the power-sharing government and declaring a state of emergency
1881 – Pablo Picasso, painter and sculptor (d. 1973)
1975 – Zadie Smith, novelist
1400 – Geoffrey Chaucer, philosopher, poet, and author (b. 1343)
1980 – Virgil Fox, organist and educator (b. 1912)
1993 – Vincent Price, actor (b. 1911)
2014 – Jack Bruce, Scottish-English singer-songwriter and bass player (b. 1943)
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