Greenpoint Landing ULURP: Community Testimony #2

by GWAPP on

REMINDER: The next community meeting on this action will take place at CB1′s Land Use Committee TONIGHT, Aug. 27, at 6:30pm at the Dupont Street Senior Housing (80 Dupont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222; Between Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue. Please use the Eagle Street entrance.)

Earlier this month, there was a well-attended Community Board 1 ULURP subcommittee meeting regarding Greenpoint Landing’s variance requests. You can read a recap of the event or watch an edited video of the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, community residents who had signed up were allowed two minutes to speak. GWAPP & NAG presented a joint testimony. Below is the testimony of Greenpoint resident, Darren Lipman:

Hi my name is Darren Lipman. I am going on my 15th year as a Greenpoint resident. I would like to thank my community board and elected officials for reading my comments.

Ten thousand new people and a wall of 40 story towers surrounding our waterfront is not good
growth for our our community. Before I go into my ULURP comments for Greenpoint landing I would like to discuss a few issues affecting the sites of the proposed developments.

Toxic Land, Air & Water
Three of the towers for Greenpoint landing are planned to be built on the Newtown Creek. The Newtown Creek is an EPA registered Superfund site and one of the MOST toxic waterways in the United States. The history of how it became so toxic is interesting. Layer after layer of different toxins were added generation by generation of polluters. Riverkeeper reports the creek leaks VOCs, contains PCBs and heavy metals, all of which are dangerous to human health.

The Greenpoint landing Newtown Creek towers will bring with them many adults and children who will be living next to and possibly inhaling these toxins. Building by the creek, or even recreational activity on the the creek before it is cleaned up must not happen. The EPA is currently studying how to clean up the creek. Let’s pause building by the creek until it is cleaned up and tested safe. In the meantime I recommend building the West Street towers.

Flood Zone
All of Greenpoint Landing is being built on a flood zone. During Sandy I witnessed all of Greenpoint Landing’s lots under water. When the water receded the area reeked of oil, one of the many toxins possibly left behind from the creek’s water. The stench was enough give me a headache.

I am aware the buildings are to be built on elevated mounds, but I don’t think the issue of how the toxic water would affect human health was covered in any environmental impact statement. I am requesting a study be done to see how flood water will affect the residents of Greenpoint before anything new is built.

Another issue to do with the flooding is the effect of flood waters displaced by the new buildings which are built on mounds. I personally believe buildings that are on higher ground from GP Landing that would not have flooded will now flood due to the water displaced by the new buildings. I envision the flood water traveling up the public walkways that connect the esplanade to Commercial Street, and this will flood my and other higher ground buildings. I can’t find a study which proves my theory wrong. Personal property is at stake here, and this issue must be addressed before we allow any construction.

Native American Artifacts
The Newtown Creek is culturally significant to the many Native American tribes that settled in the area over 11,000 years ago, tribes such as the Mespeatches, Canarsie and the Rockaway. Many Native American artifacts have been found along the banks of Newtown Creek throughout the years. Quoting Bob Singleton of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, “archeological digs near the creek over the last century have unearthed a wealth of artifacts.” (Source)

Before we blindly dig up this precious land with bulldozers and cart soil and artifacts to the landfill to be lost forever, I recommend we take time to do an archaeological dig. NYC has many prestigious institutions to support a dig such as this, for instance the Department of Art History and Archeology at Columbia University and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Greenpoint Landing
Greenpoint Landing is only donating 2.5 Million for Newtown Barge Park, North Greenpoint’s only active park. I believe this to be a very low amount for the size and scope of this project. I recommend they donate a minimum of 10 Million. This money could be used to build a split level park at Newtown Barge Park. For instance, a basement basketball court with a baseball field above it at ground level. This would double north Greenpoint’s active space.

My understanding is some towers will have separate entrances for the affordable units. I find this discriminatory, treating those tenants like second class citizens. Please build with a single entrance for all the residents.

Greenpoint has one of the lowest ratios of people to parkland in the city. Regarding the proposed school and lot, a better way to use this lot is as an open space. The school can be integrated into the ground floor of one of the towers, and must be for all children of the community, not solely for those that reside in Greenpoint Landing.

Regarding the standalone affordable housing building, let’s not segregate the affordable units in a separate building with no view or amenities. Mixed affordable housing creates community. These affordable units should be integrated into the many towers. Vote to block the separated building and create open space on the affordable housing lot instead.

Infrastructure
Overloaded public transportation such as the long waits for the L train during morning rush will become the new reality for G and 7 subway riders. New bus service will not solve the problem as the bus will only take even more residents to overcrowded subways. This is failed urban planning and the new development must be stopped until the MTA can handle the new increased traffic load. According to the EAS report Greenpoint landing will take us over the threshold limit for transportation. Add in other projects in the area and we are going to have real problems.

Roads and sidewalks in Williamsburg are currently overburdened as the infrastructure can not handle the increased traffic. Narrow sidewalks make walking on Bedford and other avenues difficult as people are elbow to elbow. Changes to Kent Ave make cutting through Williamsburg slow and arduous for drivers. Before we build in Greenpoint let’s not make the same mistakes that were made in Williamsburg. We must do a transportation study and create a good plan. As an example, adding a bike lane to the Pulaski bridge to free up the shared bike lane for pedestrians.

Greenpoint Landing is not only adding ten thousand people to Greenpoint, so is next door Long Island City’s Hunters Point South project. Twenty thousand new people in such a small area is a very large number of people to add without a thorough study to see the impact on sewage, water, transportation electric, gas etc. Let’s hold off building until a comprehensive study and plan are made.

The Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning Final Environmental Impact statement had severely underestimated the number of new people. It only mentions 16,778 net new residents (Chapter 5 page 1) for both Greenpoint and Williamsburg. If Greenpoint Landing alone brings in ten thousand new residents this does not include Domino, Edge, 77 Commercial, Northside piers and the many other projects. The numbers swell to much more than the 16,778. This completely invalidates the Environmental impact statement of 2005. This study MUST be revised, before we allow any building.

Ensure wide enough sidewalks so there is room for all the new residents to comfortably use the sidewalk.

Financial Issues
Greenpoint Landing is not good growth for our community for the following reasons:

  • These new buildings will not be contributing to our tax base for 25 years as they have 421a tax abatements.
  • All the units will be free market accept the affordable units. This means there are no controls on what the landlords can change or how they increase rents. Rent inflation in Greenpoint will be rampant.
  • Taxpayers will be on the hook for large grants and tax credits for the remediations of the probable brownfields the towers are to be built on.
  • Thousands of dollars have been spent on lobbying efforts by both Greenpoint Landing Associate, LLC and Park Tower group. I believe this influence is not allowing unbiased deliberation by our politicians on these projects.
  • Flood insurance is to spike in 2014 which undoubtedly will be passed on to the renters.

Click to view full details, 5 pages (PDF).

Construction Issues
The current plan as it stands today is to virtually build a new city of ten thousand residents in an
area of a few blocks. There is currently in progress one major building project located at 1133 Manhattan Avenue. 1133 has been very disruptive to the Commercial St. residents. Noise, building shaking, reduced street parking, lack of sidewalks and endless trucks clogging up the street area daily nuisance for the residents. For the safety and quiet enjoyment of the residents, I request that we create a schedule of when each of the future buildings can be built. I propose that we only allow one building to be built at a time around the Commercial Street area. It is also my feeling that the contractors will find it impossible to build while multiple simultaneous large scale buildings are being constructed as they will constantly be getting in each other’s way.

The current buildings foundations located in the Commercial Street area are not built on bedrock. The current soil condition allows for building vibration to travel through the soil. As 1133 Manhattan was laying their pilings, the adjacent buildings in the area experienced severe shaking. Building with caisson as opposed to pilings will cut down such severe shaking. I propose that each building of Greenpoint landing drill caissons.

Considering the already reduced parking due to the construction site at 1133 Manhattan Avenue, more building projects on Commercial and West streets will only result in even less available parking. To avoid exacerbating the situation, I request a moratorium on film shoots in north Greenpoint until all Commercial Street construction is completed.

Buildings
This part of Greenpoint is and was an Industrial Business area which was a hub for jobs. I recommend that Greenpoint landing build office space as opposed to retail space to encourage higher paying job growth. Retail space will only add unneeded low wage jobs.

These buildings may be here for a long time depending on flood conditions. With the scarcity of energy and resources becoming a real problem in our time, I request that these buildings be constructed as platinum-leed certified buildings.

A 40 story building is an extremely tall building for a residential neighborhood. To illustrate this point we only need to look at the residential neighborhoods in Manhattan. Many Manhattan neighborhoods tend to be not be taller than 10 stories. Examples include the East Village, West Village, Gramercy Park and Chelsea. I recommend that Greenpoint Landing buildings be no more than 10 stories.

Greenpoint is currently a neighborhood of one to six stories. The Greenpoint Landing buildings will be about 10 times larger than most of the current buildings. These towers will overshadow the entire neighborhood and become an eyesore for everyone. The buildings will block the city views for every single resident eastward from Greenpoint to higher elevation Bushwick. Again, I recommend that Greenpoint Landing build no higher than 10 story buildings.

Unlike Williamsburg, which is built on a hill, Greenpoint is flat which will make the buildings much more disruptive to the visual balance of the neighborhood. Again, I recommend that Greenpoint Landing build no higher than 10 stories.

New luxury housing will only make the neighborhood less affordable by driving up rents throughout the rest of Greenpoint, forcing businesses to raise prices, raising property taxes and displacing even more low and middle income people out of the city. Greenpoint Landing should not be built as luxury housing but as middle income housing across the board.

These buildings are going to cast long shadows on the neighbors to the East of them. This means that neighbors who want to have solar panels won’t be able to produce as much electricity. This type of thing is not allowed in California, and that should be applied here. See California’s solar right law.

I recommend as a protocol building with permeable pavers, adding green roofs and bioswales.

Zoning
The 2005 environmental Impact statement is missing public Health comments which is another reason to redo the statement.

Newtown Creek is not part of the riverfront and has no business allowing 40 story buildings. This was a “mistake” that needs to be fixed. There is no other example of any inland waterway that is zoned R8, including the Gowanus canal.

Affordable Tenants
Affordable tenants should not be treated like second class citizens and should have full access to all the amenities available to market rate tenants.

I propose all affordable units be set aside for Greenpoint residents that qualify.

Thank you for reading. I know that together we can make a better Greenpoint for us and future generations.

To make your voice heard, contact your local representatives, including:

Community Board No. 1, Brooklyn:
Phone: 718-389-0009. Email: bk01@cb.nyc.gov

Councilman Stephen Levin:
Phone: 718-875-5200. Email: slevin@council.nyc.gov

State Assemblyman Joe Lentol:
Phone: 718-383-7474, Email: lentolj@assembly.state.ny.us

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.
  • James Sheehan commented:

    I’m voting for a politician that supports such concerns.

    Reply

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