De Blasio’s Housing Policy Unravels as NIMBYs Attack Partially Affordable Developments on the Lower East Side

247 Cherry Street and 252 South Street, image from JDS247 Cherry Street and 252 South Street, image from JDS

As Mayor de Blasio’s initiatives to create affordable housing continue to fail, bright spots for advocates of a better and more inclusive New York City are few and far between. In the Two Bridges area of the Lower East Side, JDS, Extell, CIM, L+M, and the Starrett Group are planning five new towers with 700 affordable units. NIMBYs don’t care. Despite all that affordable housing, red herrings went flying at a community meeting last night, and the echo chamber of outrage reverberated all the way onto the internet.

The collection of towers will include over 3,000 units, with retail spreading across the base of each project. That means anything demolished will be more than replaced. Local NIMBYs already seem to have forgotten the frivolity of their previous fight regarding displacement of retail options, when they attacked Extell for closing a supermarket in order to build 252 South Street. Per Curbed’s report on last night’s meeting, residents are now concerned over the closure of a deli.

While uninformed citizens may be partially justified in their anger, local politicians have used it to secure permanent voting blocks and clog the city’s development process with so much paperwork and overhead as to make change nearly impossible. That’s especially true in the various fiefdoms of public housing that sprang up during the Robert Moses area. This includes the entirety of the neighborhood surrounding the proposed new towers. These residents are not vulnerable to change or movement of any sort. Nevertheless, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attended the meeting to mollify dissent between disaffected neighbors and the developers.

Intentions speak louder than alleged actions, and by placing herself at the forefront of the fight for nothingness, Brewer continues to make herself a martyr for a cause that has no clarity. In recent years, she has blockaded new schools and apartment towers on the Upper West Side while favoring the subsidization of a luxury bookstore on 57th Street, in an apparent misunderstanding of how the free market works and what the government can subsidize. Now, she once again supports a nonsensical position that will prevent new housing, affordable and otherwise, from being built.

From a political perspective, her martyrdom is sensible: the public housing projects are completely safe from development, so it isn’t like constituents are going to be let down. And the blocks and blocks of public and middle-income housing created by Robert Moses are a surefire way to keep the voters locked into the same neighborhoods for life. They cannot risk the luxury of moving elsewhere, lest they lose their “affordable” housing and get stuck at the back of the line in a system that does little to help anyone not already in it.

Ultimately, the city’s local Democrats have used misinformation to mobilize their constituencies against their own interests. While Gale Brewer has advocated for affordability and equality, her actions have resulted in lost opportunities for New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds.

The dissonance between elected officials’ words and actions is especially evident when examining the behavior of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose actions point to a troubling future for affordability in New York City. The mayor refused to cooperate with Governor Cuomo, who essentially left the 421-a tax break for dead. Things have mostly been in free-fall since then, and the Mayor’s “affordability” initiatives are about to become even more controversial.

With over 60,000 homeless New Yorkers and de Blasio’s promised affordable housing nowhere in sight, the city is going to force developers to begin accepting homeless people ahead of qualified applicants for affordable housing, giving them outright priority. Housing the homeless is a good thing but forcing cohabitation between market-rate tenants and the homeless is a deranged effort that’s only going to make things worse, especially when those qualified affordable housing applicants are passed over in the process.

This brings us back to last night’s meeting for new towers on the Lower East Side. The city is in the middle of overall affordability crisis, and new units anywhere will help alleviate the lack of housing everywhere. But NIMBYs still whined and moaned about how nine seniors who will have to be relocated for over 3,000 new apartments. Meanwhile the government officials who nominally represent their interests sat by and watched, happy to feed on the anger and misinformation, and eager to ensure that their constituents remain precisely where they are.

259 Clinton Street

259 Clinton Street. Rendering by Perkins Eastman

Whether the towers set to rise next to Extell’s are approved or not remains to be seen, but in this instance, they’ll offer big benefits with few downsides. In fact, JDS’ 247 Cherry Street will cantilever over an existing building, in an effort to minimize impact to residents and preserve the area’s urban fabric. Starrett’s tower and the twins by CIM and L+M may be slightly less stunning in terms of design, but their presence will nevertheless be beneficial, in terms of adding both retail and housing to a neighborhood that needs them.

The next meeting for Two Bridges is in January. YIMBY is hopeful that opposition may be tempered beforehand, but New York City’s elected officials are unlikely to halt maintenance on the fountain of ignorance that keeps them in office, which means additional complications are likely.

Subscribe to the YIMBY newsletter for weekly updates on New York’s top projects

Subscribe to YIMBY’s daily e-mail

Follow YIMBYgram for real-time photo updates
Like YIMBY on Facebook
Follow YIMBY’s Twitter for the latest in YIMBYnews

TFC Horizon

32 Comments on "De Blasio’s Housing Policy Unravels as NIMBYs Attack Partially Affordable Developments on the Lower East Side"

  1. Another proof of falling Bill de Blasio policy, NYC must be stop support their liberals on all elections, they should be labeled no less than socialist. THE ENEMIES OF FREE MARKET SYSTEM!!!

    • Ah Yes, another Trunmp voter, bless his little heart and mind.
      In attempting Government by & for ALL tthe people, competing interest battle,
      The rich against the have-nots, the powerful against the weak.
      tt seems that New York Nimby only believes that it’s intersts should prevail.
      You claim that “elected officials are unlikely to halt maintenance on the
      fountain of ignorance that keeps them in office” (how poetic),
      but only when your guys and gals are not in power.
      NIMBY? New York City is the collective back yard of all of us, rich and poor.
      Don’t quench our democratic voice.

      • Sorry, I meant Trump. Have you heard of the guy? Or is it Drumpf?

        • Your unwarranted smugness is why liberals lost, Trump won, and your party and ideology are dead in the water. You smug cow.

          • Trump has a traditional conservative/Republican ideology?

            New to me, and the rest of those living in reality.

    • De Blasio has been relatively favorable towards the real estate interests of the city. Housing is a major component of his movement.

  2. Your use of NIMBY is blatantly racist. Why can’t you just report proposed projects without using words that pit people against each other in an inflammatory manner? I expect more from your website. Why not skip the name-calling and stick to facts. By constantly identifying people that have a differing opinion, and perhaps for a good reason, you are projecting a bias and attempting to shame people.

    Have you thought that perhaps an affordable project or housing with attached supportive services might be placed in an impoverished community that already contains a high percentage of such housing? Perhaps a community is segregated which means that people are being intentionally steered into an area which may result in despair and lost opportunity.

    I would like to suggest to you to stop generalizing people and look at the facts before you respond with name-calling. I am asking that your site become more professional

    • How is that racist? Can we agree to stop screaming “racist!” every time someone has a viewpoint different than yours? Using the race card in of itself is racist assuming racial motives with absolutely no proof. Cut it out or continue to lose more elections.

  3. You sound just as hysterical as those opposing these developments Nikolai. No assessment of these projects is complete without knowing the value of the tax breaks, whether EB-5 will be used (effectively another subsidy) and who the condos will be marketed to (foreign, absentee hot money?). I’d love to see some cost/benefit analysis.

  4. Oh goody, another glass box. Cheap imported glazed wallpaper continues its plague on our city and the environment.

  5. Zeneida Disla | December 16, 2016 at 6:58 pm |

    What is wrong with Luxury tenants living in the same buildings as people who were formerly homeless? Your article implies two problematic beliefs. One, that all homeless people are living on the street,with no shoes, stinking of excrement, with lice hearing voices telling them to maim strangers. Many homeless people work every day or are looking for work and cannot find housing they can afford. The second problematic implication is that affordable housing as it is set up today does not have many flaws. What people don’t want to lose when these kinds of developments come to their neighborhood is their neighborhood! They want to be able to shop for affordable items, they want to feel welcome in their towns (what is NYC if not a collection of towns?!!) These developers that throw a few crumbs of housing into the current stock benefit from great tax breaks so the City can get a low percentage of affordable units. Why shouldn’t the City tey to find a better path to this problem? Why continue to propogate a second failed system like public housing that destroyed stable communities and divided citizens by race and class.

  6. Andrew Porter | December 16, 2016 at 7:00 pm |

    These enormous towers are so out of place here, and yet apparently all development is good. And if you tear down all the local food stores, where will people buy their food? Not everyone uses Fresh Direct. Reed is right: you set up a straw man, then delight in knocking it down.

    • The the FUCK are you talking about. These are mixed use towers going up on vacant lots.

    • There will be a new supermarket eventually, the towers include sidewalk retail space. The entire area is out of place in lower Manhattan with its tower-in-the park design. This is a positive proposal.

  7. I don’t live in this neighborhood, so I read this article hoping to gain some understanding of what is going on. Unfortunately, all I got was a fact-free blast of opinion. I don’t have an axe to grind here, and you might be right or you might be not be, but I have absolutely no way of knowing because all that you did was to virtually yell at those you disagreed with without providing any information, context or content. If you want people to listen to you, my advice is to treat them like adults and give them a reason to take you seriously. As a long time subscriber to your blog, I really expect better of you.

  8. Unravel a difficulty although it’s not all of the troubles, please help homeless get better life than they are.

  9. Re the 60,000 homeless currently in NYC, I have always wondered why the real estate developer community has just sat by as this crisis has deepened, instead of joining forces and offering to help. Billionaires all, with monies to last generations, they could easily afford to build and fund supportive housing facilities in the five boroughs. Their expertise would go a long way too to quickly build some of the badly-needed units. An initiative by developers in this area, announced with much fanfare, could be a publicity triumph, casting them in a much different light — i.e., a softer, more humane, and generous one. Of course, I am sure that YIMBY would agree that these facilities should be built in the developers backyards too, not just in the far reaches of the outer boroughs so as not to be seen and heard.

  10. Helmut Schmidt | December 17, 2016 at 9:48 pm |

    All hail the God Emperor Lord Trump! May he bring swift and righteous justice upon the parasitical usurious class that keeps the huddled masses in squalor and uses the government to subsidize their lavish lifestyle!

    BUILD BUILD BUILD! Build new bridges! New subways! New trains! New housing in all our cities! New factories to replace slave labor camps in China! BUILD THE WALL! Do so to drive up the cost of labor so that our citizens may prosper once again, and deprive the usurious rent seeking class of desperate third world peasants who are exploited for peanuts.

  11. I would rather look at and live in the newly built glass boxes than those butt ugly brick beasts called middle-income housing built during the Robert Moses Reign. Those brick chicken coops should have be razed a long time ago. Perhaps if they rebuilt and stacked them with setbacks they we be more appealing…until something is done to them they will be pimples on the cities face.

  12. “…while favoring the subsidization of a luxury bookstore on 57th Street, in an apparent misunderstanding of how the free market works and what the government can subsidize.”

    You really ought to hire someone to do basic fact-checking if you can’t be bothered to do it, Nikolai.

    We’ve been over this: Rizzoli Bookstore was not really a “luxury bookstore.” It was a general interest bookshop that catered to a diverse clientele made up primarily of locals, students, architects, artists, and international visitors. And it did not need “subsidizing” from the city. It managed to operate successfully at that location for nearly thirty years and was doing fine until Vornado decided to develop the site.

    Brewer did support landmark designation for the building, as did the community board and New York’s leading civic groups, based on its historic and architectural merit. Now, if you don’t believe in the concept of landmark protection for our city’s built heritage, that’s your right. But to mischaracterize the motives of those who fought to save these buildings is sloppy reporting. No doubt you’ll love whatever soulless glass tower rises on 57th Street, but for the many who actually frequented the bookstore, its loss was a blow to the city.

  13. Editors: Nikolai, your previous articles aren’t driving enough traffic. Make them less fact-based and mention NIMBY a lot. Also rag on local poors and frame their dumb concerns as baseless complaints and not legitimate anxieties.
    Nikolai: Done, not only will I gloss over the stupid concerns of lifelong area residents and power hungry elected officials, I will manage to tie unrelated stories about homeless people into the article.

  14. FrustratedinNY | December 19, 2016 at 10:56 am |

    Seriously. Demolish the “Radiant City” public housing boxes that destroyed the Lower East Side and Two Bridges area. Rebuild the city and the urbanism that Moses destroyed. This area can be a mixed-income, functioning neighborhood once again instead of a parking lot with interspersed towers.

    • You could retrofit the grounds without destroying all of the tower-in-the-park developments. There’s a lot of poor land use.

  15. What a condescending piece of writing this is. Why not replace NIMBY with “residents” who actually live in the area and ride the buses and subways? Not everyone is on welfare down here. The scope and scale of these projects all coming in a similar time-frame are beyond the pale. Homeless people won’t qualify for the most part for these low income units. Clearly this publication is just a shill for the greedy real estate speculators.

  16. I’m actually a resident of Two Bridges and it’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of NYC. Residents who have lived here and built their families ARE NOT MIDDLE INCOME. You need to be more sensitive to the people who actually live here and the effects that such an influx of market rate tenants will have on driving prices and living expenses up for the vast majority of low income residents. Our concerns are legitimate. There will be 3000 people moving into the neighborhood that will put a strain on the infrastructure and with 6 buildings going up within a one block of each other, it can affect the foundation and structural integrity of the neighboring buildings making it unsafe for all. Most people understand that development is inevitable but we want the developers to be held responsible for impact their developments will cause for all who live in the area.

    • Low income housing projects concentrate poverty and ensure that the residents of the community can never move up in society. Mixed income developments and mixed income communities are vastly superior to this antiquated old idea of just pushing all the poor people into certain sections of the city.

  17. I was was brought to this page via the Lo-Down. A bit waste of time. The article is bloviation on steroids. No wonder the real estate developers are disdained with shills like you fulminating.

  18. The opposition to this is clearly politically motivated, but the towers are also hideous trash.

    This kind of development should only proceed in this area as a starter for a complete tear-down and rebuild of the Moses blocks. Build a few lower-height towers, then you can cycle the residents from each public building into them while they tear-down and re-build then in an urbanist manner that matches the rest of NYC. Without question total density can be increased in this area, improving all services in the process. The E. Broadway subway station is a few streets away and if you’re building enough density in this area to warrant a new line I’m sure the neighbors across the river will be quite happy to support you in pushing for such an expansion – maybe as a spur from the planned “Second Avenue Subway” at Chatham Square.

    The bottom line is that this neighborhood acreage is massively underused. The idea that we should preserve a corner of the city as a low-density subsidized housing quarter exclusively for multiple generations of under-achievers is absurd. You can keep the public housing arrangement, but you can’t solely dictate the future of the neighborhood or city as a whole. This kind of development and total rethinking of those housing blocks is what will keep the city accessible for YOUR CHILDREN, you selfish twats.

    • Agreed, though it probably isn’t necessary to destroy every tower-in-the-park development. You could retrofit many of them, extending the footprint to the sidewalk. The biggest challenge of course is money and politics. Most of those buildings are NYCHA, so they must be reallocated. I would like to see mixed income.

  19. Jerry Hanlon | January 3, 2017 at 11:44 pm |

    Your article is so loaded down that even someone who might agree with you laughs at the blizzard of lies.

  20. Lynn Ellsworth | January 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm |

    This website is financed by the real estate industry, what kind of reporting do people expect?

Comments are closed.