Clash Over Tower in Two Bridges

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Residents fear a 790-unit luxury tower will upend a historic slice of the L.E.S.


  • Trever Holland, one of the Two Bridges residents concerned about Extell's new tower

Residents of the Two Bridges housing complex on the Lower East Side sit down with developers this week to air their concerns about a 68-story luxury building slated for construction in their neighborhood.

Extell Development bought the former Pathmark Supermarket site at 250 South Street for $150 million and plans to build 790 units of market-rate housing. The project has raised a host of gentrification-related issues, including concerns about where residents in the area will be able to buy affordable groceries, now that Pathmark is out of the picture.

Once Pathmark closed, other nearby supermarkets raised their prices, prompting complaints from the neighborhood. Some residents say they now are forced to go as far as East Harlem to get the same quality of food at the same price.

Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, created the NeighborFood grocery guide last year for residents to help them find smaller affordable stores around the area.

But affordable food is only one of the concerns residents cite about changes in a neighborhood that has proudly embraced its status as an often-popular, if gritty, magnet for immigrants, first from Europe, then Latin America, and now China. In 2003, the Two Bridges Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Now, residents fear the loss of other affordable retailers and services, as the neighborhood moves upscale, and the erosion of the area’s historic feel.

Because the Extell property is deemed an as-of-right development, residents have no guarantee that their suggestions will be considered. “We know they’re as of right and we understand that, but there still can be some political pressure placed on these developers because they’re getting tax breaks to build this,” said resident Trever Holland.

Other residents said the development of 250 South Street, combined with plans announced for a separate, affordable-housing tower next door, at 239 Cherry Street, will strain transit infrastructure in the area, which already is limited to the F train and the M15 bus.

Many of the residents are hoping to voice their concerns through the various community organizations they are part of, in addition to their shared group, TUFF-LES, or Tenants Fighting For Lower East Side.

Resident Vayalateena Jones said it is hard to make one problem a priority when developments are happening so quickly.

“How do you pick one? It’s all happening at the same time so It’s like while we’re organizing and this is happening and you need to have a voice right now,” she said.

Jones says although working as a group is beneficial, residents voicing their opinions individually adds power to the cause. Jones also explained that community organizations sometimes have trouble getting attention for their causes, at a time when so many similar projects are popping up around the city.

“We are a resident group so we’re not a group that’s seeking funding as much as we’re seeking to keep our apartments,” she said.

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