Waterfront Revitalization and Open Space

GWAPP is dedicated to fostering the creation of parks and residential and commercial development on North Brooklyn’s East River waterfront. We believe that this process will help balance the environmental burdens that have been typically associated with this area of Brooklyn. GWAPP recognizes, however, that waterfront revitalization must be balanced with the need to retain community character and to protect members of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community that may be adversely affected by development.

Greenpoint and Williamsburg 197-a Plans

During the 1960s and 1970s there was a growing movement across New York City for local residents to have more control over what happens in their neighborhoods. Out of those grassroots movements emerged Section 197-a, which was adopted by the City Council and made part the City Charter in 1989. The 197-a law made it possible for individual communities to craft their own unique blueprints for development based on input from residents and community groups. While 197-a plans focus primarily on recommendations for zoning and land use—including residential, commercial and manufacturing—they can include many other related directives, such as increasing affordable housing stock, developing new parks and ensuring job retention. According to the Department of City Planning, 13 197-a plans have been adopted city-wide.

Building on many years of research, planning and collaboration by concerned North Brooklyn residents and community groups, and by Community Board #1, in 2002 the 197-a plans for Greenpoint and Williamsburg were passed by the City Planning Commission and adopted by the City Council. These detailed plans focus on rezoning the East River waterfront from its longtime use by heavy industry to a mix of low-rise buildings for residential, commercial and light manufacturing uses. The 197-a plans also include additional waterfront access, increased open space, enhanced community facilities, environmental remediation, historic preservation and improved transportation with a focus on sustainable transit such as walking and cycling. In addition, the Greenpoint plan recommends reclamation and cleanup of Newtown Creek.

GWAPP/TPL Open Space Plan

Image from the GWAPP/TPL Open Space Plan (See ‘Related Documents’ on this page.)

While the 197-a plan process is a vital tool for community planning, because the plans are only advisory, serving as a guideline for neighborhood development, city agencies are not required to follow their recommendations. In May 2005, the city approved significant zoning changes to North Brooklyn’s waterfront and some upland areas. GWAPP was a key partner in the rezoning, striving to retain many of the proposals from the 197-a plans. One of GWAPP’s central goals is to assure that the amenities that were promised in the 2005 rezoning—especially parks and open space—are implemented.

2005 Rezoning of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Waterfront

Once thriving with water-related industry, the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront fell into neglect and was sought after by solid waste companies and power plant developers, becoming one of the most under served communities in New York City in terms of green space and waterfront access. As a result, North Brooklyn residents spent years developing 197-a plans (see above) and advocating for the rezoning of the waterfront. In 2003, the Department of City Planning proposed a major rezoning of the neighborhoods, which afforded the opportunity to transform the waterfront to mixed use and open space, in addition to private developments.

As many issues relating to the rezoning were core to GWAPP’s mission, we were involved on several levels. In preparation for the rezoning, which lasted from 2003 to May of 2005, when it was officially adopted by the city, GWAPP and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) conducted an open space study for the Greenpoint/Williamsburg East River waterfront. The goal of the study and advocacy effort (Open Space Initiative) was to generate the information, insight, creativity and visual representations needed to promote and provide meaningful open space and park amenities along North Brooklyn’s East River coastline in conjunction with the rezoning.

GWAPP/TPL Open Space Plan

Image from the GWAPP/TPL Open Space Plan (See ‘Related Documents’ on this page.)

GWAPP and TPL were assisted by an expert team of planning and design consultants. Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates (PPSA) served as lead project planners along with Fox and Fowle Architects (F&F) as the project urban designer and RG Roesch (RGR) as the project landscape architect. PPSA functioned as the project director, supervising the other two firms in close communication with TPL and GWAPP. GWAPP, TPL and Open Space Initiative consultants worked with the Community Board #1 Rezoning Task Force, which included seven GWAPP board members and was charged with representing the community to get the best plan possible for our neighborhoods. GWAPP was also a member of the North Brooklyn Alliance, a new entity devoted to disseminating information about the rezoning to residents of Community Board #1.

Nearly every parcel of property on the waterfront is now owned by private developers who have already built or are planning to build their projects. GWAPP and TPL are dedicated to facilitating the creation of new parks and open space on our waterfront. Since the rezoning, GWAPP has been working to ensure the community gets what it was promised, and will continue to help with the planning of the new parks and open space.

Proposed Buildings on the Greenpoint Waterfront

1. Developer: Park Tower Group. Architect: Gary Handel. 2.Developer: Jonathan Bernstein. Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli. 3.Developer: Joshua Guttman. Architect: Karl Fischer.

Related Documents (Open Space Initiative)


Related Documents (Rezoning)


What’s Happening Now?

Learn more about waterfront rezoning and other open space initiatives on our Issues page.