For more than half a century, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council’s programs, projects, and activities have nurtured the unique character of the Lower East Side by building bridges among its diverse communities.
Two Bridges Neighborhood Council was founded in 1955, in the working-class neighborhood of Manhattan bordered by the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the East River. At that timewere high and gang violence was common, as the area was becoming one of the city’s first racially integrated neighborhoods. Two Bridges was created to resolve racial conflicts and to serve as a channel for communication among settlement houses, churches, and community leaders.
Community planning became a focus of Two Bridges starting in the 1960s, when AT&T was planning to demolish a large block of residential houses on Madison Street to make way for a huge telephone switching station. The demolition would have forced hundreds of low-income families from their homes. Two Bridges hired its first social worker, organized the community, and worked out a plan to save the houses by moving the switching station to a commercial, non-residential location.
By the early 1970s, the mission of Two Bridges evolved to focus on both neighborhood preservation and the creation of affordable housing. In partnership with Settlement Housing Fund, Two Bridges co-sponsored the redevelopment of the Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area, formerly a district of tenements and dilapidated commercial buildings along the East River Waterfront between the Manhattan Bridge and Corlear’s Hook, starting in 1972.
Between 1972 and 1997, when the last building in the urban renewal area was completed, Two Bridges succeeded in creating nearly 1,500 units of low- and moderate-income housing, much of which will remain permanently affordable. Two Bridges continues to seek opportunities to develop more affordable housing at a time when it is more essential than ever.
Additionally, through an extensive array of programs and strategic partnerships, Two Bridges continues to support and promote a vibrant residential, business, and cultural life of the section of Lower Manhattan corresponding roughly to the boundaries of Community Board 3, and the eastern sections of Community Board 2. This service area encompasses many neighborhoods, across the Lower East Side, including Two Bridges, Chinatown, Little Italy, Nolita, the East Village, the Bowery Corridor and the East River Waterfront.