PROGRESS REPORT: Community’s role is key in shaping major projects

On the move: Jamie Rogers with his bicycle outside the C.B. 3 office on E. Fourth St. Photo by Tequila Minsky

On the move: Jamie Rogers with his bicycle outside the C.B. 3 office on E. Fourth St. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY JAMIE ROGERS | In the last year, the neighborhoods that make up Community District 3 — the Lower East Side, Chinatown and the East Village — have been affected by one thing in common: development.

In 2017 Manhattan, that barely seems like news. Development continues to surge — tearing down, digging into, building up — in every corner of the island. The Villager has well chronicled that story, and its effects, countless times. The stories of development in Community District 3 in 2017 highlight the tensions development brings, the wide range of consequences it causes and, even in the face of large and powerful forces, the potential positive impacts that we can have when we work together as a community to help guide it.

For the first time in more than 40 years, buildings rise out of the old parking lots along Delancey St. in what will become “Essex Crossing” (formerly the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA). On this 6-acre site, the community will soon have an affordable grocery story, a revitalized Essex Street Market, a new park, more than 500 permanently affordable units of housing, and land reserved for a much-needed modern middle school. This development was the product of compromise among a diverse group of stakeholders, our local politicians and Community Board 3. It is an example of what can be achieved when we are unified and strive to build consensus.

Meanwhile, immediately to the south, residents of our Two Bridges neighborhood are working hard to keep their voices heard in discussions over the development of residential towers more than three times higher than any of the existing buildings — some as tall as 1,000 feet. The residents and C.B. 3 are preparing to give feedback on the environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., regarding these primarily market-rate developments, and the Department of City Planning will review the E.I.S. in the coming months. This is our main chance to express the community’s concerns over resident and business displacement by nearby increasing rents, plus the need for improved transportation, as well as more schools and parks, and other impacts caused by these developments.

Building on years of neighborhood planning done by the Chinatown Working Group, C.B. 3 is preparing for how to re-engage with the city to develop comprehensive contextual zoning that will protect Chinatown and preserve its character, its affordable housing and its immigrant business community.

Along our waterfront, from the Brooklyn Bridge up to E. 25th St., residents have been working with the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency to think through the design of a new, more resilient, more accessible and more engaging East River Park that will protect our neighborhood from storm surges.

Finally, in the north of our district, the community prepares for the downsizing of our closest hospital — Mount Sinai Beth Israel — a facility originally founded to serve immigrant Lower East Siders. The community will gain a new, smaller hospital facility, but we will lose many services.

Rogers is chairperson, Community Board 3

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