Greenpoint Landing ULURP: Community Testimony #3

by GWAPP on

REMINDER: The next community meeting on this action will take place at CB1’s Combined Public Hearing & Board Meeting on Monday, September 9 at the Swinging 60s Senior Center, 211 Ainslie St., Brooklyn. The meeting starts at 6:30pm.

In August, there was a well-attended Community Board 1 ULURP subcommittee meeting regarding 77 Commercial St.’s variance requests and Parks issues. 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. You can also view his CB1 testimony re: Greenpoint Landing here.

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.

77 Commercial
I request that we build the project at 77 Commercial as of right at 15 stories or lower in order to cut down on the overcrowding of Greenpoint. I understand the developer may choose not to offer affordable housing units. I also understand the eight million dollars won’t be given to build the park at 65 Commercial St. This is what is best for our community.

I would like to point out a misnomer that has been going around that we will not get the park at 65 Commercial St. without the air rights sale money from the developers of 77 Commercial. This is not true; the park will come but it may take longer to be developed.

Affordable tenants become captive to their units as they can not afford to move to a free market unit and affordable housing is hard to come by. Now imagine yourself captive in unsafe living conditions as the building you live in has fallen apart due to an absentee landlord. This is what is going to happen as the owner of 77 is a habitual slumlord. For this reason the Clipper Group should not be allowed to make affordable units, period. Another reason to keep the towers as of right 15 stories.

I believe that 77, built as of right (15 stories) will still build affordable units in order to get their 421a tax abatement. The threats not to build affordable are meant to push us to approve their ULURP. The dual towers at 77 create more visual disruption than a single tower. I request they build as single tower.

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. As an overwhelming percentage of affordable housing tenants are minorities, creating separate entrances for the affordable units is blatant discrimination.

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 Environmental Assessment Statement 77 Commercial Street’s Development 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.

Total planned projects in the area, are expected to bring 2,530 thousand new residents to Greenpoint. Long Island City is planning to add at least another 10 thousand. 3540 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, hospital 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.

EAS projected population is 59% higher than the 2005 EIS estimate. EAS used 2010 census numbers to determine population growths. An updated study must reflect current numbers.

A NY Building Congress report shows the city will be unable to sustain current investment in critical infrastructure due to growing debt burden. Ensure wide enough sidewalks so there is room for all the new residents to comfortably use the
sidewalk.

Park
I request we build a passive park at 65 Commercial Street for the following reasons:

Regarding the new box St park otherwise known as 65 Commercial St. Let’s make it a passive park, a park with trees that you can picnic in, not an athletic field. The fact is the Greenpoint Williamsburg area has very little passive park space and many athletic fields. We have two huge athletic fields in Mccarren park and new full size soccer field at Bushwick inlet. Plus nearby Long island city has two full size fields.

I have a petition for a passive park at Box Street Park. I stood near the park and told people what I am telling you. Of the people that stopped and talked to me, an overwhelming 98% of the people signed it. That shows you how badly we need passive park.

There is currently talk of moving the Newtown barge park athletic facility to Box St. Park. This is a terrible idea. Newtown barge parks facilities should be maintained as it’s proximity to the new school will allow quick and safe access for recess, gym and free time for the students.

Other reasons for a passive park:

  • North Greenpoint has very little passive park space at this time.
  • Greenpoint already has one the lowest rankings for open space per capita in the city.
  • An active park already exists up the street at Newtown Barge park.
  • Greenpoint/ Williamsburg already have 3 full size sports fields.
  • 98% of people polled want a passive park at 65 Box Street, see my petition.
  • Elderly and the very young in North Greenpoint don’t have a park to sit in.
  • I’ve witnessed that there is daily availability on the two soccer fields in LIC. A deal can be made to allow our residents to use their underutilized fields. These fields are very close to North Greenpoint.
  • If children are not getting enough play time we should reserve our existing fields for school time practice as is currently done at the Gantry Plaza field in Long Island City.

From the plans I noticed the esplanade which is 46’ wide only has a 10’ wide walkway. It is obvious the developers want to take up our public walkway to provide privacy gardens for their residents. The walkways are meant for the public and should be the entire 46’ with only small patches for garden area.

77 Commercial St. is very deep and should relinquish more land for the esplanade. For example, Gantry Plaza has much wider esplanades (park space) than what is slated for Greenpoint, their walkways alone are about 40’, and the same goes for the esplanade area on the Dumbo waterfront. Please make our esplanade wider.

I also feel that we have not addressed in any study what will happen to our esplanade as sea levels rise. We should understand that impact before we build.

We must add more parkland to Greenpoint as we are heading for dead last in the ratio of people to park land citywide. We currently have one the lowest rankings of open space per capita at .06 per acre per 1,000 residents. The city guideline is 2.5, and the average for the city is 3.5 acres per 1,000 residents (2005 study).

Promised park land in Williamsburg has not materialized. Why should we expect differently in Greenpoint? Either defer the construction until promised parks are in place, or establish a timetable for delivery of all community amenities promised in 2005 rezoning including Bushwick inlet, Newtown Barge Park and 65 Commercial Street, with penalties imposed upon developers if not met.

The city must restore the 7.5 million earmarked in the 2005 WRA for expansion and rebuilding of Newtown Creek Barge Park.

Park and hours, let’s ensure that park hours and esplanade hours of access are the same for the tower residents as they are for the rest of the community.

Financial Issues
77 Commercial St. 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.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on lobbying efforts by Clipper Equities and Chetrit 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.

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 Ave. 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 are a 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 77 Commercial St. 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 77 Commercial St. build office space as opposed to retail space to encourage higher paying job growth. Retail space will only add unneeded low wage jobs.

This 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 the building be constructed as platinum leed certified building.

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 77 Commercial Street be no more than 10 stories.

Greenpoint is currently a neighborhood of one to six stories. The 77 Commercial St. buildings will be about 10 times larger than most of the current buildings at 40 stories. 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 77 Commercial St. 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 77 Commerialt St. 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. 77 Commercial St. should not be built as luxury housing but as middle income housing across the board.

This building is 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.

We should not allow separate management for affordable verses market rate units. Equal consideration should be given to maintenance, repair, capital improvements and other services to both affordable and free market units.

I propose all affordable units be set aside for Greenpoint residents that qualify, not open to a citywide housing lottery.

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.

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