Staten Island is not exactly known as New York City’s most sustainable borough, but the largest development in the island’s history is soon to get underway, replacing part of a former naval base with the first project in the city to take part in the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED for Neighborhoods program.
Yesterday, city officials announced a deal with New Jersey developer Ironstate Development to create a seven-acre, 800-unit housing complex at the former Homeport Naval Base on Staten Island’s north shore. As the latest step in more than a decade of slowly churning redevelopment plans for the area, the project aims at reconnecting locals with the waterfront and encouraging smart growth in an area not known for it.
“We often refer to the north shore of Staten Island as the Gold Coast,” State Senator Diane Savino said at a press conference announcing the deal. “If that’s the case, then Homeport is the crown jewel.”
Once home to Cornelius Vanderbilt’s first ferry service, the north shore neighborhood of Stapleton fell by the wayside after the opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the 1960s cut it off from much of the rest of the island. President Ronald Reagan tried to reverse the trend by proposing the Homeport Naval Base, a complex with one 1,410-foot pier to serve a small number of naval ships. Homeport opened in 1990, though it was closed four years later by the Clinton administration. In 1995, ownership reverted to the city, which has grappled with plans for the site ever since.
The Bloomberg administration launched a task force in 2004 charged with reviving the area, after Giuliani-era efforts had stalled, which led to a 2006 rezoning. The following year, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released three RFPs, one each for residential, hotel, and recreational complexes. Officials said there had been good interest in the 35-acre area as recently as last year, with projects pending up until the financial markets collapsed. “That’s the problem with these rezonings, they take time,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at the press conference. “But now we’re ready to move forward with a great developer.”
Meanwhile, the city’s Econcomic Development Corporation has worked with WRT, Marpillero Pollak Architects, and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects on waterfront open space and infrastructure improvements for the redevelopment area. Along with today’s announcement of Ironstate’s involvement, the agency announced a $33 million commitment to the first phase of those improvements. (These had first been announced in 2004, with a budget of $66 million, but due to the staged nature of the project and budget constraints, the improvements will be completed in phases.)
Ironstate president David Barry said he intends to break ground on its $150 million project by 2011, after necessary infrastructure work and the relocation of some of Homeport’s current tenants, including parking and storage for city agencies and some county courts. The Hoboken-based developer has numerous projects there as well as in Jersey City, Bayonne, and the Jersey Shore, many of which reuse industrial sites not unlike Homeport, which is Ironstate’s first New York City project.
Final designs, by Central Jersey–based Minno & Wasko, are still being developed, but the roughly 800 rental apartments will rise in two contextual blocks no taller than the currently allowed 60 feet. There will be 30,000 feet of ground-floor retail, aimed at creating a more urban feel and capitalizing on the waterfront appeal. In addition to LEED for Neighborhoods, the buildings themselves will pursue green standards. With rental stock on Staten Island limited, the developers hope to attract younger tenants and retain those who have fled the island in the past. One of the key selling points is a nearby subway station only three stops from the Staten Island ferry.