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Landlords Battling Over Development Group’s Plans to Build LES Megatower



Plans for a megatower on the lower east side are being stymied by landlords who control a small building by a crucial court decision that prevent the tall structure from overlooking the smaller edifice.

Gary Spindler and Roy Schoenberg are fighting in Manhattan state Supreme Court to keep Michael Stern’s JDS Development Group from building an incredibly tall edifice roughly 1,000 foot-tall apartment tower above their empty 1-story building they lease at 325 Cherry Street.

The court refused an attempt by JDS to dismiss the suit and while the case in ongoing the opinion by Judge Andrea Masley has sided with Shoenberg and Spindler stating that they have the right to prevent a merger of their site with a neighboring property that JDS is scheming to do to build to provide its base for the megatower.

Judge Masley’s decision has not amounted to a final decision in the case but possibly mean that JDS’ development plans can eventually be thwarted. The case has been going on since August 2016. Both Schoenberg and Spindler have accused JDS of “hijacking’ air rights that they we’re in contract to buy. According to the complaint, both Schoenberg and Spindler signed a contract to purchase the Cherry Street location from two nonprofits, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and the Settlement Housing Fund back in 2012 with the idea of building affordable housing. The organizations canceled the contract and sold the rights to JDS instead.

The attorney for the landlords, Raymond Hannigan from the law firm of Herrick Feinstein LLP remarked that “the court addressed the facts and legal issues and ruled very clearly Spindler and Schoenberg are a party of interest.”

Despite the setback, JDS is going ahead with a plan and is due to go before the City Planning Commission on October 17 as part of the approval process. Several years back, JDS presented a synopsis of a 800 page document which promised, if the tower were built, neighborhood improvements like a new elevator at the East Broadway Subway Station and the renovation of three local parks. Despite this, residents were less than impressed responding that this wasn’t sufficient for what was to come with the tower: reduced light, more traffic and overcrowded schools.

This is a particularly unusual case with regard to building a large tower because it is located in a unique development area what is commonly referred to the Two Bridges neighborhood because it is located between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge. As such, JDS only needs the CPC’s thumbs up instead of full environmental review to secure the requisite zoning adjustments.

If Schoenberg and Spindler are able to hold of JDS, it isn’t clear what will happen down the road to the property. Winning the case may be just a way of delaying the inevitable. Eventually it might come down to a single person: Margaret Chin. Councilwoman Chin has pressed to put in regulatory changes that would require the project to go through a full review process, giving her full power to approve or disapprove the project.

By: Michael Rosenthal

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