City Council Recap: Greenpoint Landing ULURP

by GWAPP on

Last week, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions & Concessions met to discuss the Greenpoint Landing ULURP requests. There is a video of the meeting online. I’ve included timestamps on the recap (not a transcription) below, so you can jump through the video to the parts that interest you. Use the links below to jump to a section of this post:

Meeting begins (1:35:20)
GPL, DCP, HPD and SCA Present (1:40:30)
School Site (1:47:05)
Affordable Housing (1:57:10)
Transportation & Infrastructure (2:07:45)
Retail (2:19:19)
Open Space (2:22:25)
Public Testimony (2:29:18)


Meeting begins (1:35:20)
CM Levin is acting as chair. He reminds everyone what they’re there to discuss: the construction of a primary/intermediate school, 3.3 acres of open space and 431 units of affordable housing. [Author’s note: Here’s a summary of the requests on the GWAPP blog.] He emphasizes that disapproval of these actions will not stop the Greenpoint Landing project from going further, which is as of right from the 2005 Rezoning. And while Levin has his issues with the larger project, it’s “not going to be undone today.”

He adds that GP is an already overburdened community with transportation, environmental and infrastructure issues. “Not a day goes by where a senior citizen or a long-time resident doesn’t tell me or my staff that they’re facing rising rent or in worst cases eviction by a landlord looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of the neighborhood.”

GPL, DCP, HPD and SCA Present (1:40:30 – 1:47:00)
The regular players for Greenpoint Landing Associates, Department of City Planning, Housing Preservation & Development, and School Construction Authority, were there to provide the initial testimony and support for the ULURP actions, which involve:

Affordable Housing: Construction of 431 units of affordable housing on three parcels for 40-120% AMI. The proposed actions for the city-owned parcels would give apprx. 589,000 sq. ft (693 units) of development rights to GPL of which 431 would be affordable housing. The three parcels include a seven-story building and two six- to sixteen-story buildings.

Public School: Construction of an apprx. 120,000 sq ft (640-seat) public school on private space at Lot #1 (southwest corner of Franklin St. and Dupont St.)

Publicly accessible open space: GPL will donate $2.5 million to NYC Parks & Recreation. These funds will be used to create an additional 3.3 acres of open space connecting to Newtown Barge Park.

Additionally, there are some zoning text amendments to make the development more resilient to future flood events.

School Site (1:47:05 – 1:57:10)
Levin: The community has many concerns about pre-existing environmental impacts–superfund sites, brownfields, oil spill, etc.–in terms of the school’s location, have you done boring to determine if there are environmental issues? If there are, how will SCA address it? The community has concerns about sending there children there, day after day.

SCA: The DCP undertook an environmental review as part of the 2005 Rezoning. And yes, the SCA did an investigation of the site including testing of the site. We’re aware of the environmental concerns. As part of the design/construction, there will be am “active sub-slab depressurization system and a soil-vapor barrier to prevent the potential migration of petroleum associated or other organic vapors into the building while there is ongoing investigation.”

Levin: The results of your sampling has shown that there is petroleum and other organic compounds?

SCA: The investigation recommended the vapor barrier and depressurization system not so much for the site itself but due to surrounding areas and for future context. It’s a commonly recommended practice in the City.

Levin: We need to continue to work together, as these issues come up to me, I want to have a dialogue with GPL and SCA. It’s a source of concern for residents. In regards to programming, what does SCA have in mind? It’s planned to be a K-8 school now, is that set in stone?

SCA: Right now, the school would be constructed so that it can accommodate students from K to 8. DOE and Community Education Council determines who will use the school, closer to opening, but the building can serve a changing need for a population of K-8.

Levin; Would the SCA agree to have an ongoing task force in place to address issues of construction and school configuration that is open to the public and available for community input?

SCA: I think absolutely. We’d be happy to participate in that.

Levin: In regards to child care slots, in adherence with the 2005 Rezoning, GPL agreed to fund child care slots but there doesn’t seem to be a designated spot for a child care facility on the private development. Is SCA considering using space in the school?

SCA: It’s the first I’ve heard of this idea. We’d have to look at it more closely. The building currently is planned for K-8, but would include two Pre-K classrooms.

Affordable Housing (1:57:10 – 2:07:45)
Levin: With regard to the Points of Agreement (POA) affordable units, would they be integrated units?

GPL: The conversation we’ve had with HPD regarding the POA units have found three sites within the larger GPL project. Building 1 is at Eagle & West St and is 98 units of affordable housing that is a stand alone individual building. The POA units would be integrated into the larger GPL project including a variety of building types. It might have stand alone affordable, but we expect the project to have other sorts of affordable housing like 80-20, where the affordable is distributed throughout the building.

Levin: For those units of 80-20, would they be all on one floor or distributed throughout the building?

GPL: There are requirements that mandate distribution through the building, it’s not 100% but close to that, and we would follow those rules.

Levin: So those are the non-POA units. Is there a commitment for GPL to explore a 202 program or a program with HPD for senior housing, and the needs of housing for senior citizens?

GPL: Absolutely, we’ll be looking at all of the programs available to the city. We understand there’s a particular need for senior citizen housing. Subject to funding, subject to programs, it’s something we’d want to explore.

Levin: Mr. Hammer, do I have your commitment to start working on a program?

HPD: We’ve had consultations on other programs for the 2nd and 3rd phases. There has been concerns for senior citizens, larger bedroom sizes, etc., that may be accommodated by city, state or federal programs depending on availability. We’re prepared to work with GPL to pursue those options.

Levin: Speaking to the issue of unit sizes, what’s being proposed?

GPL: The plan for the POA units: 25% studios, 25% 1-bedroom, 50% 2-bedrooms. The first POA building is following that breakdown, and that’s what we’d want for all the buildings. The other affordable units have a similar breakdown.

Levin: Regarding AMI levels…

GPL: We’re looking at units from 40% to 120% AMI, we thought it was consistent with the POA threshold. We heard from the Community Board for a desire for more units at the lower income levels and we’re prepared to work with HPD to see if it’s feasible.

HPD: The Community Board and Borough President had AMI recommendations, and we’ll try to facilitate income thresholds that this approval process leads us to.

GPL: The LAM project would be a mixture of 40% and 60% AMI.

Levin: Reading from the POA on page 9, letter D: “…These units will target the following income groups: 20% between 20-30% AMI, 40% between 30-60% AMI, 20% between 60-80% AMI and 20% between 80-125% AMI.” So 60% would be below 60% AMI. That would leave only 20% of the POA units being up to 125% AMI?

HPD: To the extent that the 431 units could reflect the POA breakdown, it’s been an honest attempt to establish thresholds similar to the POA. We don’t think the POA was an exact breakdown of every development in Greenpoint/Williamsburg. Concerns over the exact tiers–our ears are open.

Levin: So you’ve been actively hewing to these guidelines?

HPD: Yes, that’s been very important to us. We thought it was important to come close to meet those guidelines.

Transportation & Infrastructure (2:07:45 – 2:19:10)
Levin: We’re transportation starved. Some bus lines, one subway line not into Manhattan and it doesn’t adequately serve the needs of the community. We’re looking at an increase of thousands and thousands of new residents. What type of transportation mitigation is GPL looking at?

GPL: There’s a broader discussion of transportation generally. But GPL is looking at adjustments to facilitating train access; on-site we’ll have a shuttle bus service from site to other mass transit areas like the 7 line in Queens. We’ve identified a possible ferry service location at the site. There have been increased bus service. We want to work on trying to encourage and improve transit here.

Levin: There needs to be a broader discussion with all the transportation stakeholders on this. We have a very limited toolbox without significant capital upgrades and city support. The MTA basically admitted they don’t have the resources to overcome some of the problems. If things don’t change, in the future we’re going to be facing a real problem. Not just public transit but roadways. …Can you speak a little about the condition of West., Dupont and Commercial St. as they exist now? What do we think will be needed to make for reasonable upgrades to the sewers, roads–and is the city committed?

GPL: West St. terminates at the end of Eagle St. and Commercial St. dead ends at Dupont St. Right now, West and Commercial don’t connect. The city is in the midst of making improvements to West, and then Commercial in the future. We’ve talked to the city about the importance of connecting those streets, and continue to have them.

Levin: Right now, what are the resources?

GPL: Our understanding is DOT has programs for it, and we’ll continue to discuss with the city making the connection.

DCP: DOT has projects for West. Eagle and Commercial are part of the Brooklyn Greenway. I know they address some of the concerns of storm water and surfacing. The West St. connection is planned to be part of the project.

Levin: There are no water mains under West St. now?

DCP: I’m unfamiliar with that.

Levin: As the project gets underway, is the city committed to doing whatever infrastructure upgrades necessary to handle 4,000 units?

DCP: The 4,000 units are under the 2005 Rezoning. The small increase in units from these requested actions were found to have little environmental impact. The city will maintain the high level of service to the area.

Levin: Can someone from the city make a commitment for an interagency task force or discussion (including DEP, DOT, GPL, DCP) to deal with these infrastructure issues? Last thing I want to see is GPL do a street repaving and the city tears it up to lay down sewage infrastructure.

DCP: We can absolutely get back to you on that.

Retail (2:19:19 – 2:22:20)
Levin: This is an entrepreneurial/small business/mom-and-pop community and we fear it becoming bland or generic. Can we limit the size of retail space to limit big box stores?

GPL: The zoning allows for one-story of retail along Commercial and West streets. And Green streets. About 100ft deep and 250ft long. The intention is that the retail helps define the project–Brooklyn based, local retailers, they want to work with the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce to determine uses of the space. There are no plans for large department or big box stores. It might be nice to have a nice supermarket (about 10-15,000ft.). Our goals are the same, I don’t know if a restriction is the way to achieve that goal.

Open Space (2:22:25 – 2:28:20)
Levin: What’s the plan for Newtown Barge Park?

GPL: Our Parks rep is no longer here.

Levin: On a different topic of open space, is there a plan for a school yard or an outdoor area for play for the school children?

SCA: Open space would have to be provided at an upper level–a terrace or a rooftop, not a street level school yard. It’s also been considered to work with the Parks Dept. to use the park right across from the school site.

Levin: The park would be available for recess?

SCA: It’d have to be discussed withe Parks Dept. It’s not uncommon for Parks and DOE to partner to make space available to school students. That’s a long discussion. One of our goals is to provide as much on-site recreational area.

Levin: Are there resources to do that?

SCA: It depends, it’ll be worked out in the design process. At the Gehry building, there is a terrace level play area.

Levin: Okay, Parks department is here. What is being envisioned for Newtown Barge Park? Long-term goals?

Parks: We don’t have a design yet for the expansion, we envision incorporating the current park into the larger space.

Levin: What’s the process? Are there resources to build the whole park?

Parks: We have $4.5 million now. GPL is donating another $2.5 million. We have consultants on board now looking at the site. We’ve been working with the community and Community Board to determine community needs.

Levin: Active-passive?

Parks: All to be decided. We envision working with the community to decide that.

Levin: Will the design fit the budget or will the budget fit the design?

Parks: The design will fit the budget.

Levin: A greater budget would yield…

Parks: A more enhanced park, correct.

Public Testimony (2:29:18 – 3:21:30)
I’m not going to write out the testimonies for and against the requested actions. I strongly encourage you to watch them and hear what your neighbors, fellow residents and others involved in the project have to say about Greenpoint Landing.

To CM Levin’s credit, everyone who spoke was given the opportunity to continue speaking past the two minute bell considering how long and patiently everyone had waited. Unfortunately due to the meeting’s delay, ten people were unable to give testimony–eight against, two neither for nor against. Four people spoke in opposition and eight people spoke in favor.

If anyone who provided testimony (for or against) would like to share their testimony on the blog, please e-mail info@gwapp.org and we’d be happy to post it.

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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