Community based organizations, residents, and small businesses of the Lower East Side and Chinatown rallied Tuesday to demand that Mayor de Blasio stop Extell from constructing an ultra-luxury skyscraper for the 1% on the Lower East Side waterfront. The tower could potentially rise 700 feet and be twice as high as any surrounding development. Despite recent news that Extell is bringing the tower down from 72 to 56-stories, the community is still opposed. Allowing the tower to be built will result in the mass displacement of low-income families of color and ultimately destroy Chinatown and the Lower East Side. We are demanding that the Mayor support a community based rezoning plan with anti-displacement and anti-harassment provisions to protect the local neighborhood, and especially public housing, which is being privatized.
“The local community fears that allowing the tower to be built as proposed will exacerbate the neighborhood’s already ongoing gentrification, result in the displacement of low-income families of color, and ultimately destroy the existing unique character of Chinatown and the Lower East Side” says Ginger Lopez, Community Organizer at Good Old Lower East Side.
The Extell tower is being built on a former publicly-owned lot (the Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area) that housed a Pathmark, the only affordable supermarket serving the surrounding low-income community. Since the Pathmark was closed in 2012, residents have struggled to find quality affordable groceries. Many are forced to travel as far as New Jersey to meet this need. Furthermore, the Extell tower will be built in the middle of several NYCHA and publicly subsidized low and moderate income developments. Many fear that the Extell tower will accelerate the privatization of the surrounding public housing.
The tower is yet another example of how the City is robbing the poor to feed the rich and making low-income people of color second-class citizens in our own neighborhoods” says, David Tieu, organizer at NMASS. Furthermore these policies create economic segregation while damaging the history and diversity of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. “In fact, these same policies are affecting neighborhoods all over the city from Jamaica, East New York, the Bronx and Staten Island and we stand with all those communities in their fight as it is all one fight” says, Naved Husain, Lead Organizer at CAAAV. The Extell tower may potentially be subsidized by tens of millions of dollars in public financing including 421A tax abatements, Housing Finance Agency Bonds and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which will be used towards building a much smaller and separate “poor door” building next to the luxury tower. Rather than helping to solve the affordable housing crisis in the city, these subsidies are contributing to the destruction of existing affordable housing by encouraging and subsidizing luxury development.
“We oppose this racist tower that will displace thousands of people of color. Already public housing is being sold off to the rich. Our community says no to racism and no to the Extell development” said Wendy Cheung from Chinese Staff & Workers Association.
The Chinatown Working Group, a community-based planning process convened by the City in 2008, is in the process of finalizing a rezoning plan for the entire Chinatown and Lower East Side neighborhood in order to protect the existing community from displacement and prevent luxury development. Part of the plan calls for a rezoning of the East River waterfront, where the Extell tower is to be built, in order to prevent out-of-scale luxury development. The plan also requires that developers build at least 55% low-income housing on new developments along the East River waterfront. Approximately 10,000 residents, workers, and small business owners signed petitions supporting the plan. Although Mayor de Blasio’s administration has paid lip service to community involvement in the development process, a recent letter from the Department of City Planning expressed that this plan was rejected by the administration because it focused too much on the “preservation of affordable housing”. Members of the community call on Mayor de Blasio to pass this plan to protect the community from displacement and prevent future luxury development like Extell’s tower from being built in the community.
The community organizations urge more residents and to come forward to say no to Extell and join monthly rallies at its site. Residents can call for more information.
 Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Chinatown Tenants Union, Chinese Staff and Workers Association (CSWA), CAAAV-Organizing Asian Communities, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Mujeres Y Hombres Luchadoras, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS)
NYCHA developments include: Smith Houses, Two Bridges, Rutgers Houses, LaGuardia Houses, Vladeck Houses, and Seward Park Extension. Publicly subsidized developments include: Land’s End I, Land’s End II, Two Bridges Houses, Two Bridges Townhouses, Two Bridges Senior Apartments, and Two Bridges Tower.