Hearings on 77 Commercial and Greenpoint Landing
by Andrew Shilling
Dec 11, 2013 | 765 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rendering of Greenpoint Landing.
Rendering of Greenpoint Landing.
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Residents stay nine hours to speak in opposition to the Greenpoint Landing proposal
Residents stay nine hours to speak in opposition to the Greenpoint Landing proposal
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Councilman Stephen Levin hosts the public hearing
Councilman Stephen Levin hosts the public hearing
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Developers of the industrial North Brooklyn property at 77 Commercial St., located along the Newtown Creek waterfront adjacent to the Pulaski Bridge, met at City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 5 for a final public hearing.

Meanwhile, a Greenpoint Landing planning subcommittee hearing was running simultaneously in the neighboring committee room.

77 Commercial Street

In the midst of a rapidly developing Greenpoint waterfront, a process enabled in the 2005 rezoning agreement, Clipper Equity LLC purchased the 220-ft-by-500-ft. site for $25 million, with plans to build a 475,000-square-foot multi-tower mixed-use complex.

Designs call for a six-story structure facing Commercial Street with two towers, 30 and 40 stories, separated by an eight-story structure.

As part of the request from the developers of 77 Commercial St., attorney Ed Wallace noted that the proposal involves the creation of an $8.2 million park along with a required 200 units of affordable housing.

“If we’re not permitted to build the full FAR (floor-area ratio), those two things are either reduced or probably eliminated,” Wallace explained.

Wallace and other representatives of the proposal vowed to the representatives at the Zoning Subcommittee that they had followed all of the necessary requirements and hoped for approval from the City Council.

“Since last May, we have done as much community outreach as possible in a short period of time,” he said.

Land use lawyer Nick Hopkins explained that the applicant for the property has stayed within the R6 zoning requirements and that the project should be a way for the city to realize the full potential of the waterfront.

“We’re seeking authorizations to allow flexibility in the design of the waterfront so that we can do a little bit of waterfront resiliency work,” Hopkins said.

Councilman Stephen Levin led the questioning at the hearing last week, as the issue lies in his district.

“The developer is currently zoned where they may build two 15 story towers as of right, with no affordable housing and no funding for the park,” Levin said. “What they are proposing today is a significant increase in density for what would be allowed for a single proposal.”

Levin and the zoning subcommittee suggested that the neighborhood may not be fully prepared for the influx of new residents as a result.

“I’m not sure that our community needs to accept residential development in order to finally get some open space and the affordable housing that we were promised eight years ago,” he said.

Levin explained that before the city votes on a plan for the property, they should continue to look into the environmental and community impact of the project.

“We are generally a neighborhood of three or four stories,” Levin told the panel of lawyers and developers. “We are in fact a welcoming community, we just don’t have the infrastructure to handle this.”

Dozens of residents from throughout the community made their way to City Hall for the hearing early Thursday morning. However, many residents were unable to testify as the public comment portion of the hearing was delayed several hours.

Stephanie Eisenberg, owner of a metal factory in nearby Williamsburg, was one of the residents who stayed nearly seven hours.

“I wish Brooklyn were more like the Bronx and stand up to this and just say no,” Eisenberg said. “It’s the exact opposite of what this community wants and why people originally came here in the first place.”

Levin questioned why there had been a discount to the $8 million air rights on the property, Carolee Fink, senior policy advisor for Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, explained that it may have been a result of the affordable housing on site.

“I’m not sure their appraisal took into consideration the discount of the affordable units,” Fink suggested at the hearing.

Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who has met with Levin and the city on a quarterly basis in an attempt to secure affordable housing in the neighborhood that had been promised in the 2005 rezoning, said she felt as though developers had not fully taken the impact of the surrounding community into account.

“A project like this needs to recognize the displacement of our residents,” Reyna said. “I am not aware of any of the applications recognizing, formally, the residents that would be displaced.”

Greenpoint Landing

A hearing on the nearby 22-acre Greenpoint Landing development proposal for 10 residential towers, stretching from the Greenpoint Pier to Box Street, was also deliberated over by a subcommittee headed by Levin.

The proposal is for a 5,500-unit development on a nearly half-mile stretch of waterfront property.

The developers have agreed to include 1,431 designated affordable housing units, 431 of which were added to surpass the 20 percent required by the 2005 rezoning for increased density.

“Once approved, the project will create substantial open space and access to the waterfront,” said a spokesperson for Greenpoint Landing Associates.

In addition, the proposal calls for a 120,000-square-foot and 640-seat pre-K through 8th grade public school to be built by the School Construction Authority (SCA) on the southwest corner of Franklin Avenue near DuPont Street.

“The SCA has received all comments on the site plan,” said Kendrick Ou, senior director for real estate services at the SCA. “We look forward to your subcommittee’s favorable approval.”

Levin noted that the community has previously dealt with environmental safety concerns surrounding the park and asked whether they had fulfilled an environmental study.

“We have a myriad of environmental hazards going back many years due to an industrial past in the neighborhood where you have state superfund sites, brownfields and a federal superfund site just blocks away,” Levin said.

Ou acknowledged that an environmental review process has in fact been completed.

“We are aware of the concerns that we have heard both in the past and also recently,” Ou responded. “It would be designed to include an active sub-slab depressurization system, as well as a soil vapor barrier to prevent the potential migration of petroleum or other organic vapors into the building.”

The development also calls for the addition of 2.5 acres of park space expected to open in 2016.

“We don’t have a design yet for the expansion of Newtown Barge Park,” said a representative of the Parks Department. “We do have $4.5 million in the budget right now to build out the park. There was a donation from Greenpoint Landing of $2.5 million, that would give us $7 million.”

The spokesperson added that the Parks Department hopes to have a conceptual design in the near future.

Union members attended the hearing in support of the work the proposal would provide, but several residents showed up in opposition of the health hazards.

Greenpoint resident Darren Lipmann spoke in opposition with concerns for the infrastructure, health and current transportation.

“These buildings are to be built next to a superfund site and the land and air are toxic and will negatively impact the area for years to come,” he said. “The increased population will put a strain on the infrastructure.

Greenpoint resident Kim Assan added that she saw two liquid plasticizer plumes less than 100 feet away from the proposed school site.

“I think it would be obvious that putting a school so close to a superfund site would be wrong morally and ethically, but the SCA doesn’t seem to think so,” Assan said.

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