Community Workshop Follow-up: Let’s Discuss Greenpoint Waterfront Developments

by GWAPP on

As we continue to monitor the Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial St. developments and ULURP actions, we wanted to provide another overview of each project’s specific requests: what is being bought/sold/traded/donated/etc. between developer and the City, and what is being gained/lost from a community point of view. We want to follow up with you the reader, and the rest of the community, on what we as a neighborhood want to gain during the ULURP process. We ran out of time at the community workshop in June, but we really want the community to discuss the issues that matter most in regards to these specific ULURP actions and have some civil discourse on the changes coming to our beloved Greenpoint.

77 Commercial St. Overview
The developers of 77 Commercial St. are planning two high-rise towers, which they can build as-of-right up to 150 ft (15 stories) on their property, which is zoned as R6. The adjacent lot to their property is 65 Commercial St., a City-owned lot currently used by the MTA for offices and parking. The City committed to sell the development rights for 65 Commercial St. as part of the 2005 Greenpoint/Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning, and the owner of 77 Commercial has agreed to pay $8 million for those development rights.

Showing 65 and 77 Commercial St.

The City has indicated that it will allocate the $8 million to the development of Box St. Park on its property at 65 Commercial St. Currently, the City has $1 million in the budget to go towards Box St. Park. Before the park is developed, the City will need to relocate several MTA Emergency Response Units; do a public scoping report on what the community wants in terms of a park; and do environmental remediation in the lot to clean up potentially harmful materials.

In turn, the developer will receive 65 Commercial St.’s air rights and will be allowed to build an additional 15-25 stories on their property. This would bring the final height of the property up to 400 ft., which is consistent with R8 zoning. (The hi-rise portions of the Edge and Northside Piers on the Williamsburg waterfront are examples of the types of buildings allowed under R8 zoning). Architectural renderings of the development (see below) show a roughly 30-story tower and roughly 40-story tower. The developer will also be required to add 200 units of affordable housing into the building. Currently, there is no affordable housing planned for the 77 Commercial St. development.

77-Commercial-St-information

Greenpoint Landing Overview
Greenpoint Landing is a planned 22-acre, 10-tower development that will be located along the waterfront from Green St. up to but not including 65 Commercial St. Most of the project is allowable “as of right” due to the 2005 Rezoning, and only a small portion of it is going through the ULURP process this August. This smaller portion involves the City-owned land at the intersection of Dupont St. and Commercial St. (aka the sludge tank site). The City is selling this land to Greenpoint Landing’s owners, Park Tower Group, for an undisclosed/undetermined amount.

Click to enlarge map. Showing NBP Expansion and Greenpoint Landing areas. (PDF)

Because the City had already committed to dedicate the Dupont Street for affordable housing as part of the 2005 Rezoning, the Greenpoint Landing developers would be legally required to add 431 units of affordable housing to their development should the purchase be approved. (The developers are already required to develop 951 affordable units as part of the Waterfront Inclusionary Housing Program. As a result of the acquisition of the City-owned property, the developer will also be able to add 276 market-rate apartments to the project, which already has 3,811 market-rate units planned.) See map above to view the affordable housing locations.

In addition to payment for purchase of the City-owned property, the developers say they will provide the City $2.5 million for the expansion of Newtown Barge Park. This will complement the $4.5 million that is currently in the City’s capital funds for the park’s expansion.

Greenpoint Landing developers will also give a piece of land they already own at the corner of Dupont and Franklin Streets to the City as the future site of a public school. The school will be constructed by the City, and the developer will retain the residential development rights from the site for use elsewhere in the Greenpoint Landing project (a zoning text amendment would allow for the construction of the school and facilitate the transfer of the development). In other words, by giving this in-land parcel to the City to build a school, the developer can take that parcel’s development rights and “move” them to a different parcel, say for example, to a more desirable location along the waterfront.

Protest or Participate?
At the meetings concerning the ULURP actions requested by the major developments known as Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial Street, some have suggested that the community should reject participation in the ULURP process and, instead, fight the underlying rezoning (defined, along the waterfront, by the 2005 Waterfront Rezoning and the 2005 Points of Agreement.)

While almost no one, other than waterfront land owners, appears to like the rezoning–e.g. the 30-40 story towers and accompanying impact of thousands of new residents; plus, the city’s failure to deliver on the promises of the Rezoning’s few but desperately needed community benefits–the fight to un-do it will be difficult and long. And that fight may certainly be worthwhile, but in the meantime, the community’s ability to have any say whatsoever in these relatively smaller zoning actions and dispositions is connected to the relentless timeline and protocols of the upcoming ULURP process. If we don’t participate this summer/fall, the developers get what they want without any community input.

Community Requests & Priorities
NAG and GWAPP have a few priorities we intend to pursue through these ULURP actions; for example, we want to ensure that we get firm commitments from the City on all public open space, both that it gets built and when it gets built. We also want a guarantee for creation of all the planned affordable housing in both developments, as well as a guarantee that that affordable housing will be integrated with market-rate units. We’ll be discussing our list of priorities on the GWAPP.org site in more depth as we hear from the community and as the CB1 ULURP meeting approaches in August.

It is important to note that what the community can ask for during the ULURP process is broad; requests do not necessarily need to be limited to the elements under consideration in the specific ULURP actions. Also, requests can be made to both the developer(s) and to the City.

For example, community requests made in past ULURP negotiations have included:

  • Specific types of affordable housing, including senior housing;
  • Specific levels of housing affordability (though lower levels could mean less affordable housing overall), as well as distribution of unit sizes;
  • Mitigation of traffic impacts, including a comprehensive transportation study for Community District 1;
  • Extension of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint Anti-Harassment Zone and support of local organizations that help tenants to stay in their homes;
  • School type (elementary/middle/high) and zone (who goes there);
  • Types of park uses (active/passive, etc.);
  • Smaller retail footprints to encourage location of small, local businesses;
  • Support for the creation of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Take Action
Share your requests and priorities with us in the comments or send them directly to info@gwapp.org! We’ll be compiling requests and priorities on the GWAPP.org site as we hear from the community so that we might be able to arrive at a general consensus on what the community wants, needs, demands as the the CB1 ULURP meeting approaches in August. A unified voice is the strongest voice. So share your requests and priorities with us in the comments or send them directly to info@gwapp.org NOW!

GWAPP

GWAPP

The Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks & Planning, Inc. ("GWAPP") is a not-for-profit group, 501(c)(3), comprised of individuals, community organizations, religious institutions, and concerned citizens from the Greenpoint-Williamsburg communities dedicated to the development of parks and public access on the Greenpoint waterfront.
  • Willis commented:

    i think the 77 commercial ULURP request is pretty outrageous and should be fought/opposed by the community. the project would effectively triple in size. affordable housing sounds great and all, but residents are residents and i think limiting the increase in population (and towers blocking the waterfront) for this area should be a priority at this point. i also don’t think we should expect private entities to pay for public amenities – in relation to the $8 million for park development. if people really want the park then pressure elected officials, don’t let the developers trade you for it.

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  • Mikki commented:

    I’d add requests for pedestrian safety elements like plazas with seating and bigger sidewalks. One of the things that is extremely difficult in Wmsburg these days with all of our new residents is that the sidewalks are very very crowded and the Greenway (which is deceptively named–it’s a bikeway) has brought in tons of whizzing cyclists who harass pedestrians, go the wrong way down one way streets, dont stop at lights, don’t signal turns, etc. Serious quality of life issue. (Especially if you are disabled)

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  • JC commented:

    What is proposed for “Greenpoint Landing” and 77 Commercial street are not only outrageous, but criminal.
    Forget about splitting hairs over a dozen more stories here and there. These are TOWERS folks. A ten TOWER development! Basically a barbaric wall, an iron curtain of sorts, walling off all long time Greenpoint residents from the views and sky and water, that have been one of their only consolations for living in a superfund site area for so long. Casting the Neighborhood in darkness and shadow, overcrowding these tiny streets (15 K new people!) where there is no infrastructure to support this. And 77 Commercial the same. Fifteen stories is ridiculous. If they really care about the character and being authentic to the neighborhood, nothing would be higher than five stories, period. There is so much ugly politics and dirty money involved in both of these schemes, and the fact that with the 2005 rezoning laws that these were let through is criminal, with the whole bait and switch/waving the “affordable housing” mantra and “park” around like they’re doing us a favor. Greenpoint is and always has been a neighborhood, a community. We don’t need a community shipped in.
    Unless this is the new GITMO, and we’re the animals in the cage, while the folks on the hill climb their ivory towers. (Don’t kid yourselves, these towers will crumble.) They should cut their losses now and go to another State. Stop ruining NEW YORK people! NO MORE DEVELOPMENTS!! Keep Greenpoint green! All of Commercial street should be a beautiful (passive) park, with a Nature center, perhaps a Native American Education Center, something educational, something beautiful and healthy. Commercial Street could be an inspiring 20 acre park. Developers could make their true luxury buildings from Green Street to Clay, but not higher than five stories, and they must have below ground parking. If you don’t think you’ll be affected by this because you don’t live in Northern Greenpoint, you could! The once breathtaking view of the city panorama you have known from some dozen PUBLIC points would now be obscured by these hideous TOWERS. Even Manhattanites will be appalled. Not to mention your fight for space on the subway. SPEAK OUT August 13th! We can’t let this happen.

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  • Kate commented:

    I want to know more about how they will address the risks of unleashing a host of contaminants into the environment once they start all that digging. I mean, shouldn’t the dev company have some obligation to clean the area BEFORE they start building homes and schools on top of it? Because, cancer??

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  • NAG and GWAPP Deliver Testimony on Greenpoint Landing Development – Neighbors Allied for Good Growth commented:

    […] housing and park space.)  Read more about what is, and is not, involved in this review process on GWAPP’s blog).  NAG and GWAPP submitted the following joint […]

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  • Peter Ehrman commented:

    I commend GWAP and NAG for their strategic reasoned response to the issues. Engaging to affect the outcome is critical. Disengaging in the expectation of reversing the new zoning is suicide, because i have yet to hear anyone offer a strategy to reverse the zoning that has any chance of success.

    Thank you GWAP and NAG

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