GWAPP & NAG: Greenpoint Landing ULURP Testimony

by GWAPP on

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In case you’re unable to attend tonight’s CB1 ULURP meeting re: Greenpoint Landing, we’re publishing our official testimoney/statement here on the website for you to read. You can also download it (PDF). We’ll have a full recap of the meeting on the site ASAP.
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Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) and Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) Testimony on Proposed Greenpoint Landing Development – Brooklyn Community Board 1, 8.13.13

Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) is a community-based organization that has been advocating for waterfront access, reduction of environmental hazards, and policy that promotes a healthy, mixed-use community in North Brooklyn since 1994. The Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) is a community activist organization dedicated to education and outreach on issues affecting the environment, waterfront and neighborhoods of North Brooklyn. Together we have been working to educate the community about this development and solicit comments from local residents. What follows are our comments based on our experience working in North Brooklyn and feedback from our neighbors.

Eight years after the City rezoned the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront, the reality of high-rise development in Greenpoint is almost here. While the actions proposed in the Greenpoint Landing ULURP applications are relatively small, they present an opportunity to assess the follow-through on promises made in the 2005 rezoning and other actions.

One thing that we have learned from those past actions is that commitment and follow-through matter. Through many rezonings, the City has made promises that remain unfulfilled. Promises for open space, promises for affordable housing, promises for mitigation of transportation impacts, and many more.

The 2005 rezoning promised almost 40 acres of new parks, esplanades and other open space for Greenpoint and Williamsburg. To date, just 20% (8 acres) of that promised open space has been built and none of the new parks promised for Greenpoint have been built (Transmitter Park and the Manhattan Avenue street end park are welcome additions to Greenpoint, but both are commitments that pre-date the 2005 rezoning).

Of the 1,345 affordable housing units promised by the City through the 2005 rezoning and subsequent agreements, fewer than 20 have been built. This application will increase that number, and will bring much-needed affordable units through the inclusionary zoning bonus, but there needs to be an enforceable timeline to front load the construction of any “City” units promised as part of this action.

The actions proposed as part of the Greenpoint Landing applications are relatively small, and many of them are related to the fulfillment of past promises still unmet. Regardless of the actions taken on this application, Greenpoint sits on the edge of a major wave of waterfront development that promises to bring thousands of new residents into our community. Now is the time for the City and the developers to take meaningful steps towards meeting past commitments. And–having learned our lesson from past rezonings–no new actions should be approved without enforceable commitments from both the City and the developer.

Since we lose any chance to propose changes if we simply vote against the Greenpoint Landing project, GWAPP & NAG recommend approval with modifications, including the following:

Affordable Housing
The planned units, particularly the 431 units promised by the City in the 2005 rezoning, must be guaranteed through a restrictive declaration on the property, which would ensure their creation by not only this developer, but any future developer, should the property change hands. In addition, the units must be guaranteed to be affordable in perpetuity, and their development must be prioritized – certificates of occupancy for the market rate units should be tied to the development of the 431 units on a pro rata basis.

We are pleased to see that the affordable housing mix proposed makes 50% of the units available to those making 60% AMI or less. However, we encourage the developer to revisit the affordable housing mix with North Brooklyn residents’ needs in mind. According to ANHD’s Real Affordability Report, the median income of Community District 1 residents is about 60% of AMI, meaning about 50% of the planned affordable units remain unaffordable to the average CD1 resident. CD1 also has a large population of seniors who need affordable homes, so we encourage the developer to look into adding senior-specific affordable housing options.

Transportation
Greenpoint Landing will add thousands of new residents to the relatively inaccessible Greenpoint waterfront – most of them as of right, regardless of what actions are taken on this application. Unlike Williamsburg, Greenpoint does not have a direct public transit connection to Manhattan. Its primary transit link, the G train, is notoriously limited in service. Our neighborhood retains legacy truck routes and serves as an ad hoc bypass for the BQE. Given the lack of viable public transportation options, we can reasonably expect that many of the thousands of new residents at Greenpoint Landing and other waterfront developments will rely on cars as a primary means of transportation.

CB1, NAG, GWAPP and others have repeatedly advocated for a comprehensive transportation study for North Brooklyn. This was a glaring need at the time of the 2005 rezoning, and it is even more so today. For an administration with such an impressive and progressive record on transportation issues, the lack of a comprehensive plan for a neighborhood undergoing such a radical shift from manufacturing to residential use is puzzling.

Such a study was promised as part of the 2010 Domino rezoning, but has yet to be delivered. The time is now–the City must present an enforceable timeline for instituting a comprehensive district-wide transportation study before any new discretionary land-use actions are undertaken.

Schools
As part of these actions, the developers of Greenpoint Landing will be donating a parcel of land at Franklin Street and Dupont Street to the City for the construction of a new public school. The City has not determined whether the school–to be constructed by the School Construction Authority at a future date–will be elementary, middle or some combination of the two. With all of the new residents projected to come to Greenpoint–at Greenpoint Landing and the many other developments projected to the south–new schools will be needed. Whatever school is built here, it should serve the broader Greenpoint or (in the case of a middle school) North Brooklyn community, not just the residents of the new waterfront developments. Greenpoint parents should have a defined role in what type of school is placed at this location.

Open Space and Environmental Impacts
Developers are now poised to build on every privately-held piece of property from the Pulaski Bridge, around the mouth of the Newtown Creek to the high-rises already walling off the riverfront in Williamsburg. Will there be any open space for the 40 or 50 thousand new residents joining the chronically underserved population already here? Will these new buildings and their residents simply add to the environmental degradation that over 150 years of industrial abuse have heaped on our land and our waterways? Through this process, we are offered a very narrow window through which to try to insert some small tokens of sensible and responsible city planning in these crazily outsized plans.

Related to these issues, we recommend the following modifications:

  • The City must guarantee and create a timetable (with penalties) for delivery of ALL community amenities promised in the 2005 Waterfront Rezoning Agreement, including the park space at Bushwick Inlet, Newtown Barge Park and 65 Commercial Street.
  • The City must reveal the price that the developer is paying for Lot 32 and not toss it in the City’s General Fund but earmark that revenue exclusively for the development of park space in Greenpoint.
  • The City must restore the $7.5m promised (in the 2005 WRA) for the expansion and re-building of Newtown Creek Barge Park.
  • The developer must contribute $10m (not the $2.5m proposed by the City) to the build-out of the Newtown Creek Barge Park.
  • The major impact from this site will be the addition of 4K units/10K residents (25% of current Greenpoint population) to the dry weather sanitary flow at the NC WPCP. We ask that the site design go beyond stormwater management and offset this new combined flow via additional stormwater management, cutting-edge water conservation within the buildings, and on-site treatment.
  • The development must be Platinum LEED-Certified.
  • The development must demonstrate how proposed design will not increase impact from floodwaters on neighboring properties and infrastructure.
  • If dog ownership is allowed in the development, an adequately sized and functional dog run must be included on the development’s property.

Thank you for your time.

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.
  • Chris commented:

    Dear GWAPP and NAG –

    Excellent and through response. Outside of the developer contribution to the park (there doesn’t seem to be a nexus / rough proportionality between $2.5m and $10m) this is extremely well thought out and indicative of the issues that the development presents to the area.

    I will be echoing much of this in my building’s comments ( I am on the board of my building ) to the Councilmember, as well as to the SCA.

    Best,
    Chris

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  • Unzoning the Rezoning – Neighbors Allied for Good Growth commented:

    […] already commented on what we think about these latest zoning actions (here and here), but we wanted to say a few words too about the current talk about undoing the 2005 […]

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