Recap: CB1 ULURP Meeting on Greenpoint Landing

by Heather Van De Mark on

Chairman Chris Olechowski kicked off the meeting by saying how all these projects are going to be a radical change to the neighborhood, but that this meeting was to discuss the specific ULURP actions being requested.

Greenpoint Landing ULURP Application Overview
In brief, there’s is a joint application between Greenpoint Landing Associates (GLA), Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Department of City Planning (DCP) for some variances/text amendments that would include:

  • City selling Lot 32 (219 West Street) to GLA,
  • GLA donating $2.5 million for the Newtown Barge Playground expansion,
  • GLA donating the land at Lot 6 (Dupont and Franklin Sts.) to become a 640-seat public school,
  • GLA constructing 431 units of affordable housing.

For more specific and background information on the application, please view: Community Workshop Follow-up: Let’s Discuss Greenpoint Waterfront Development and Community Workshop Intro.: Need to Know Terms, People and Agencies.

Applicant Presentations
Each of the applicants gave a brief presentation:

1. From the point of view of DCP, this project is advantageous because the 2005 rezoning promised an increase of affordable housing and an increase in open space. This application is the “most efficient way to achieve these goals.”

2. HPD presented on the affordable housing aspect of the application which would add 431 affordable housing units to Greenpoint Landing (which already has 951 affordable units slated for construction.) These units would be built in three locations, the first phase of 98 units would begin construction in winter 2014. [Author’s note: An ambitious plan considering, of the 1,345 promised units in the 2005 Rezoning and Points of Agreement, less than 20 have been built eight years later.]

The affordable housing units would be funded by HPD and City Housing Authority (CHA) from bonds and capital funds. The marketing for the units would also be overseen by HPD and Housing Preservation Corporation (HPC). 50% of the units would be given priority status for CB1 residents. The units would be studios, 1-bedrooms and 2-bedrooms and cater to 40% – 120% Annual Median Income (AMI), see the chart below for AMI breakdown.

3. GLA presented showing many renderings of the beautiful waterfront esplanades and open spaces the community would be gaining. The areas shown included: a dog run, passive lawn, picnic areas, terraced walkway (which would help with storm surges), kayak launch/water access, and a repaired Green St. pier. The presenter said the architecture of the new buildings would fit with Greenpoint’s industrial character, and that retail space on the first floor would showcase local vendors and artists.

Community Comments & Questions
After the initial presentations, the board opened the floor for questions/comments from the community. As those who attended know, the conversation got passionate and raucous. There was yelling and cursing and speaking out of turn and resounding applause. As a result, I don’t have every comment, but I do think I have the gist of most people’s concerns.

I think one of the most frustrating parts of the evening’s public session was that the community has so many questions, and the City and developers either don’t have the answers or were purposely vague and obtuse.

General
What’s the sale price for Lot 32? Response: It’s still in negotiation and will be sold at market value. [Author’s note: The city is also trying to sell the air rights to 65 Commercial St for $8 million. In the 2005 Points of Agreement, they estimated those air rights could be worth up to $12 million. Let’s hope the city’s negotiating powers are better this time around.]

Infrastructure
Greenpoint doesn’t have the current infrastructure to support the coming changes, this includes: fire, police, sewer, electrical grid, and transportation. Response: There is supposed to be improved access to the subway, improved ferry service, and a new city bus line coming to the neighborhood. The tower’s residents will also have a shuttle service to the #7 subway connection at Court Sq. in Queens.

Environment
What’s going to happen during the next hurricane since all of the development is in Zone A? Won’t the new development push storm water into previously un-flooded areas of the neighborhood? Response: They are doing big and small things to mediate storms including addressing elevation changes in the open space and developments to rise gradually until they are above the revised flood plan; using permeable materials for the soil to prevent above ground flooding; and creating a storm capture on site to clean and release runoff.

The original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is too old and should not be used as a baseline for future projects, and is too old and must be redone to adequately reflect the current neighborhood.

Affordable Housing
The AMI is too high and does not accurately reflect Greenpoint’s AMI. Strong community request to lower the approved AMI levels.

After a lot of badgering, the developer disclosed that monthly rents for the affordable housing units would range from $715 to $2,000. [Author’s note: Other sources have listed monthly rents ranging from $715 – $3,000. The prices were rattled off very quickly amid a lot of chatter, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of anyone’s numbers.]

What demographics are being sought for these affordable housing units?

The locations of the affordable housing act are segregated and in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act. Response: HPD/CHA follows appropriate policies. In addition, 5% of units will go towards mobility impaired, 2% to visual/hearing impaired and 5% to city employees.

Why no 3-bedroom units? Limiting the unit sizes suggests that the developer is looking for a transient population, not people who are growing families and remaining in the neighborhood.

Why aren’t the units better integrated with the whole project? Response: The other 951 affordable housing units will be integrated with the market rate units.

Will affordable housing tenants receive the same amenities as the tower residents? Response: The waterfront is open to the public.

The units are being proposed at 40-120% AMI when the Rezoning agreement was for 0%-80% AMI. Why the increase? Can you shift or lower the percentages? Can you disclose the attempts to shift/lower the percentages?

Lifelong Greenpointers
Lifelong residents feel like they are getting priced out and being insulted. As one audience member put it, “We were here before anyone wanted to be here. We all have family members who died of cancer.”

Where do you recommend locals go once they’re priced out?

Proposed PSIS School
The second part of the meeting included a presentation by the NYC School Construction Authority in regards to the proposed school at Dupont and Franklin Street. With approvals happening in a timely manner, they plan for occupancy by September 2018. It would be a primary/intermediate school (PSIS) for 650 students in grades PreK-8th. (The school would be built to the higher IS standards in case DOE changed the school’s use.) The school would be 6-stories and include gym/auditorium combination, rooftop playground, public cafeteria and science/music classrooms. The building would be ADA compliant, have A/C, be a green building,

Community Comments & Questions
After the school presentation, the community again got to raise their concerns:

What happens to kids at PS1?

If there are currently 436 empty seats in local schools, why do we need a new one? How much input did you get from the superintendent of district 14 on the district’s real needs? Response: School are funded through capital funds, and based on studies of demographic trends, the neighborhood has a need for a PSIS.

Does City Planning have an educated guess on the number of seats needed for 6,000 new apartments? Response: There is a formula to determine seats needed based around projected housing units.

Public Session
At the end of the meeting, residents who signed up were allowed two minutes to talk about anything they wanted. We’ll be posting those public testimonies on the GWAPP site in the coming days. If you spoke and would like yours included, please e-mail info@gwapp.org. If you didn’t speak, but have something to say, also e-mail us! This site is meant to act as a platform for our community to talk to each other and voice their opinions.

Dewey (GWAPP) and Lacey (NAG) presented a joint testimony to the audience and CB1 ULURP subcommittee. Read the full testimony here.

The evening ended with Rich Mazur (a GWAPP board member), below, telling the audience his story. How he was once naive to think community planning like 197a would work but now he knows better. He talks about how CPC has no vision and that neighborhoods are disappearing, and that soon we’ll all be “homogenized, sanitized and pasteurized.”

The whole evening was spirited and passionate if not somewhat defeating, as we all know, “money talks whether we like it or not.”

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.

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