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05.29.2013
The Titans Cometh
Mammoth mixed-use developments get underway on Greenpoint, Brooklyn waterfront.
Greenpoint Landing.
Courtesy Handel Architects

Plans for the development of the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, waterfront have been simmering on the backburner since the 2005 rezoning that opened previously industrial land to mixed-use purposes and increased allowable building heights. Now, the heat’s been turned up. On May 6, before a crowd of local residents, developers unveiled two significant projects set to rise along the edge of Newtown Creek: the colossal Greenpoint Landing project and the development at 77 Commercial Street.

Park Tower Group, the developer of Greenpoint Landing, detailed their plans to build more than twenty towers on a 22-acre site. Most of the 30- to 40-story buildings, comprising 5,500 apartments, will be market rate with nearly 1,500-units reserved for affordable housing.

“Greenpoint Landing will reconnect this vibrant neighborhood to the waterfront, said Gary E. Handel, president of Handel Architects, which is designing the project. “Urban design, architecture, and landscape [led by James Corner Field Operation] all share a common goal, which is to make a development that links into existing neighborhood fabric, brings it down to the waterfront, and then ties into the beautiful necklace of parks that is arising on the Brooklyn waterfront.”

Greenpoint Landing.
Courtesy Handel Architects
 

While the bulk of the development is residential, it will also include retail, a public school for Pre K through 8th grade, and more than a mile of promenades along the water. Handel plans on using materials, such as brick, stone, concrete, and metal, which draw upon “the industrial heritage of the site.”

A number of community members, however, expressed their concern about the integration of affordable housing in the development. Others questioned whether the already limited transit in the area could handle a growing population of commuters, and how these developments would withstand rising sea levels and flooding.

“The sense that I got from that meeting is that people are upset or discontent with aspects of the 2005 rezoning and they want to be able to voice that,” said Councilman Stephen Levin. “The fact of the matter is the zoning went through in 2005. That was eight years ago. Greenpoint Landing has a significant as of right footprint. If folks want to have an impact and work on convincing the developer to adopt or enter into conversation about these issues, they have to be organized.”

Regardless of objections from the community, Park Tower is moving full speed ahead. They will enter a 6-month Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) this June and begin construction by end of 2013 or beginning of 2014.

Also in attendance were representatives of developers David Bistricer and Joseph Chetrit, who disclosed the latest developments with the long-awaited Box Street Park and a Cetra/Ruddy-designed residential building at 77 Commercial Street. Last year, the developers bought a site on the waterfront for $25 million and recently struck a deal with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to pay $8 million for development rights of the adjacent parking lot, which currently houses the MTA’s Access-A-Ride buses. The city will allocate that money for the construction of the 3-acre park. The developers will then be able to transfer air rights to 77 Commercial Street, significantly expanding the development. The next step is finding an appropriate location for the MTA parking lot.

This isn’t the first time that money has been earmarked for this park. Levin said that several years ago the city put aside $14 million or $15 million in the budget for the project, but it was later rescinded.

“I am hopeful that by the end of the Bloomberg administration we’ll start to see this [park construction] happen,” said Levin. “We’ve put a lot of work in this. We have had a lot of success in re-engaging with the administration. There is really no excuse for this not to happen.”

Nicole Anderson