A community development corporation has been causing a stir in Two Bridges by seeking and receiving financial support from the real estate developers behind controversial projects.
Victor Papa, who helped create the South Street East River Community Development Corporation, said the group raised $20,000 in its first year, and now is envisioning approaching local developers for assistance, including Starrett Corporation, L+M Development Partners and JDS Development Group. The developers are currently planning to build four towers with some 2,775 residential units — about 25 percent of which would be below market-rate.
The CDC’s asks do not sit well with a tenant group, which argues the community development corporation is lending a sense of legitimacy to proposals that lack broad, local support.
“Asking developers for money, there’s something wrong with that, especially when the community has been very vocal about how we feel about this,” said Trever Holland, president and cofounder of the Tenants United Fighting for Lower East Side, one of multiple advocacy groups concerned about new developments in Two Bridges. “All the energy should be placed into figuring out how we can do something about the proposed development.”
Papa said he and others launched the CDC with the goal of creating a unified plan for the waterfront, from Corlears Hook Park in the Lower East Side to Battery Park. Citing The Point in Hunts Point as a model, Papa said the CDC wanted to ensure locals had a say in cultural, educational and other programming offered as the waterfront evolves. The CDC also has been pushing for access to the Brooklyn Bridge beach.
Papa said the CDC was not treating developers any differently than local nonprofits and resident associations it worked with, except for taking into consideration that they have more money.
“Developers are opportunistically poised, for us anyway, to want to take some interest in it because they are going through the approval process for their projects, which, part of it, they have to convince the city that they’re going to give amenities,” Papa said. “A developer is a matter of life in every neighborhood in New York City. . . . And if they are there, they got to pay their way.”
Papa said the CDC had received direct donations from Edison Properties, which owns a storage facility in the area, and Starrett, which is currently seeking to build a 765-unit rental building at 259 Clinton St.
The city is currently studying how Starrett’s project, along with two other nearby proposals, could impact the area. One of the trio is L+M Development Partners’ plan for two towers, with some 1,350 rental units. The other is JDS Development’s proposal to build a 660-unit rental building above a senior housing complex owned by the Two Bridges Senior Apartments, L.P., which is affiliated with the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, where Papa is president. The senior apartment building’s owner is listed as co-developer on JDS Development’s paperwork, and Papa is included as its contact.
Papa said he did not recuse himself when the CDC adopted a position on the three projects because its stance was “harmless.”
The CDC’s formal position on the matter says it backs efforts to ensure local communities have an effective say in what is developed along the waterfront in their neighborhoods.
The local city councilwoman, Margaret Chin, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declined to comment on the CDC. Both have taken various steps to help Two Bridges groups and local elected officials have a greater say in the developments.