Does the Bloomberg administration want ferries zipping back and forth across the East River so badly that it is willing to sacrifice a piece of Greenpoint waterfront to achieve it?
That is how local Councilman Steve Levin sees it. In July, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released an RFP for “a new pier structure that will allow for vessel moorage and provide local residents with safe and enjoyable access to the East River waterfront.” The pier, which will not accommodate ferries, but will possibly host recreational or education boats, is to be located at Java Street. It is adjacent to another pier already planned for India Street that will serve ferries, as had been outlined in the area’s 2005 waterfront rezoning.
Levin and a handful of community groups argue that the Java Street dock serves no clear purpose except to enrich developer Jonathan Bernstein, whose property lies upland from the proposed piers. Bernstein stands to benefit from the air rights another pier would add to the two Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed luxury towers
Further complicating the matter is Levin’s contention that a provision was made in the RFP that required any applicant to acquire permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to build the pier. According to Metal, the Economic Development Corporation helped Bernstein acquire the necessary permits prior to releasing its RFP. Not only would this show favoritism, but because the RFP’s purpose is to sell the land, Bernstein could not technically have received the permits because only those already in possession of the property in question are able to apply to the Army Corps for such permits.
“They want that ferry pier so badly, they would do anything to get it,” Metal said of the Economic Development Corporation. A spokesperson for the corporation suggested that nobody but Bernstein would be interested in the project. Assuming this is true, why the need for preferential treatment? The spokesperson would not say. After the RFP closed in early August, Levin requested the city rescind it. So far no action has been taken, nor has a winner been announced.
George Fontas, a Bernstein spokesman, defended the project on the grounds that it had community support, as Greenpointers were clamoring for waterfront access. Neither he nor the city could produce any groups or individuals saying they favored the pier, though, while a number of prominent groups, such as Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks & Planning, have spoken out against it. “The project hasn’t even gone through the public review process yet,” Fontas said. “It’ll be hard for anybody to see the project as a whole, and to judge it, until it does.”
Mundane as these details may seem, they have drawn intense scrutiny from the community because many feel developers have continually tried to subvert the 2005 rezoning that was painstakingly crafted. “2005 was arduous enough,” said Heather Roslund, an architect and chair of the Community Board 1 land-use committee. “Now, not one single developer wants to follow these rules.”
“This is just the next step on the ladder to insanity.”