Court dismisses Lower East Side lawsuit

Residents and community groups unsuccessfully challenged the City’s 111-block rezoning. In May 2008, the Department of City Planning proposed a 111-block rezoning in the East Village and Lower East Side neighborhoods of Manhattan. The rezoning sought to preserve the area’s low- and mid-rise character by applying contextual zoning districts establishing maximum building heights and channeling new construction to areas suitable for development. The proposal included applying the City’s Inclusionary Housing Program provisions to certain zoning districts to promote the development of affordable housing.

The City Planning Commission prepared a final environmental impact statement, which concluded that the rezoning would not result in any significant adverse socioeconomic impacts, and the City Council approved the rezoning. 5 CityLand 165 (Dec. 2008).

A group of organizations and residents living and working within the rezoning area challenged the FEIS. The residents claimed that the FEIS failed to account for the significant socioeconomic differences of the neighborhoods within the rezoning area and that the rezoning would disproportionately impact the area’s low-income communities of color. The residents argued that the blocks rezoned to allow for taller and bulkier buildings would lead to an increase in luxury development in areas predominantly populated by people of color, who were more vulnerable to displacement.

Justice Walter J. Tolub denied the petition, ruling the residents did not present any evidence demonstrating the City failed to take a “hard look” at potential adverse impacts. The residents disagreed with the City’s methodologies and conclusions, but according to Justice Tolub, the FEIS followed the City’s guidelines and was supported with a reasoned analysis.

Chinese Staff & Workers Assn. v. Bloomberg, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 29521 (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Dec. 24, 2009) (Tolub, J.) (Attorneys: Stanley Mark, for petitioners; Michael A. Cardozo, Carrie Noteboom, for Bloomberg).

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