The planning of Chinatown and the Lower East Side has faced contentious disputes between community organizations and city administrations for years. In 2013, after 5 years of meetings and convenings among more than 50 community groups, the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) released a plan for Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods with high protections for residents against displacement and dispossession. It recommended upzoning some areas while placing height limits in others, establishing high affordable housing standards and creating a special district with a variety of anti-displacement strategies.
Since 2017, Hester Street has worked with community partners CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) toward the implementation of CWG’s recommendations specifically in the Two Bridges area in response to a series of proposed high rise developments that threaten to change the character of the neighborhood and exacerbate displacement. Hester Street has also developed, in conjunction with other technical assistance providers, a community-initiated rezoning proposal that updates and operationalizes the CWG’s plan in an effort to change the rules of how new development in Two Bridges can move forward. This proposal limits the heights of new developments and requires the inclusion of substantial amounts of affordable housing that would match the neighborhood’s median income. The team’s efforts have led to the creation of a viable rezoning proposal that follows community-identified values and priorities.