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Thread: Williamsburg and Greenpoint Redevelopment Plan

  1. #1

    Default Williamsburg and Greenpoint Redevelopment Plan

    New York Daily News -

    Burden of leadership


    Sunday, October 12th, 2003

    The skeptics didn't think anyone could do it - never mind a blue blood from Manhattan.

    No way could Amanda Burden, the wealthy daughter of Standard Oil heir Stanley Mortimer, cross the East River to Brooklyn and successfully push a redevelopment plan in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

    They could not have been more wrong.

    Burden, chairwoman of the city's planning commission, is leading a bid to rezone the industrial waterfront neighborhoods to catch up with the residential conversion of the area's aging manufacturing buildings, many of which are illegally occupied by artists and hipsters.

    In the process, the quintessential New York socialite has turned many hard-boiled community activists into admirers.

    "She has considered this her project from the day she took over," said Julie Lawrence, a member of the local community board rezoning task force. "She's a real doer, and when she commits herself, she puts her whole heart into it."

    Burden - appointed nearly two years ago by Mayor Bloomberg to the planning commission's top post - has earned kudos for taking on a project that had been ignored for years.

    She pushed through decade-old plans drawn up by the two communities and has fought against building a power plant on the East River. And Burden also convinced big and small business owners that a residential overhaul will preserve existing manufacturing districts.

    Burden is now in the midst of a year-long process to push through her fine-tuned zoning plan. It calls for building 7,000 apartments in low-rise buildings inside a 170-block area, and the construction of a series of 15- to 35-story residential buildings along the waterfront.

    The controversial high-rises will be constructed by developers, who will pay to convert the waterfront into a park.

    "It's a lasting legacy for people to really value," Burden said. "It's a chance ... to reclaim the waterfront."

    It also is a chance to create affordable housing and new parkland, she said.

    Those are two issues that have Burden's admirers worried that their classic immigrant neighborhoods - now topped only by church steeples - will soon resemble Battery Park City.

    Open space debate

    "Is there a way to make this work for development without these tall buildings?" asked Joe Vance, who wants the waterfront turned into a park. "We need to make sure we're getting enough open space, and right now it's not really enough."

    Burden blanched at the suggestion that a 2-mile stretch of park along the now-inaccessible waterfront isn't enough.

    "Forty-nine acres, oh my God!" she exclaimed. "That is fantastic new acres of new parkland which we hope we get!"

    A debate also is raging over affordable housing, and many say they don't believe the city has done enough in the plan to ensure vulnerable tenants won't be forced out by new construction and a hot real estate market.

    While city officials insist affordable housing will not be neglected, Christine Holowacz, who lives in Greenpoint and is a member of the task force, said the amount provided in the plan is insufficient.

    "The [city's] programs ... show 20% affordable housing," she said. "That is not high enough. We're talking 40%."

    It's too early to know if Burden will keep her favored status - but these Brooklynites have begun to recognize this city planner as a tough mediator.

    "This is New York City, nobody gives their best offer first," said Vance.

  2. #2
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    Williamsburg and Greenpoint rezoned into a veritable Gold Coast? Let's hope that this doesn't get pushed onto the back burner!

  3. #3
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    If the taller buildings are spaced out a bit, I don't see the problem...

  4. #4
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    Change, my friend, for these people is the problem.

    I hope in all this affordable housing talk, there's enough for MIDDLE class and artists in there. I don't want to see all low-income housing.

  5. #5

  6. #6


    August 1, 2004


    On the Waterfront in Brooklyn

    One of Mayor Bloomberg's great obsessions is promoting more housing, and one of the most intriguing projects he is championing is the rewriting of zoning codes on the city's waterfront areas to allow more residential construction. Some of his projects in Manhattan have gotten caught up in larger issues like downtown redevelopment or the ill-advised stadium on the West Side. But the situation in Brooklyn seems more promising. The mayor's plan is a smart one that deserves support, as long as what gets built includes a large number of housing units for low- and middle-income residents.

    Everybody understands the need. The city gained about a half million residents in the last decade but only 85,000 new houses and apartments. Studies show that almost half of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for shelter, putting them above the maximum that is generally considered affordable. About one-fourth pay more than half their income. City workers like firefighters and police officers, who are required to live in the city, can't find housing that they can afford on city salaries as working class neighborhoods are swallowed, block by block, by more affluent residents.

    It's a familiar situation, and right now it is threatening longtime residents of neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Williamsburg in North Brooklyn, which have for generations been home to working families - Polish, Italian and more recently Hispanic. The area has also become a destination for artists, and professionals in search of more space than they could afford across the river. It's the right target for more housing development, especially since it has a long waterfront that is currently underused, with empty warehouses and factories, including the Domino sugar plant, that are legacies of an industrial past.

    The city's development plan involves rezoning the waterfront to allow for the construction of high-rise apartments on a new esplanade. Forty-nine acres in the area would become much-needed parks. The mixed-use, low-rise flavor of inland blocks would be retained. The vision seems great, but the city needs to make sure it isn't limited to wealthy newcomers. At least 20 percent of the units ought to be reserved for low- or moderate-income families.

    One solution, proposed by Councilman David Yassky, would give development rights only to builders who commit to including moderately priced units. Developers might be inspired to build more and the city would gain without having to pay extra subsidies that could further strain the budget. Mr. Yassky's idea could work, and could be applied to other areas marked for similar rezoning, including projects in Long Island City and Jamaica in Queens and Hunts Point and Port Morris in the Bronx. The city is considering a less ambitious version of the proposal, and the administration and Mr. Yassky may eventually have to compromise on how many lower-priced units would be required.

    Mayor Bloomberg's focus on housing is commendable, and he has already put together the most ambitious city plan in two decades, which aims ultimately to build or rehabilitate 65,000 units within financial reach of working class families. So far, work is under way on 10,000 of those, half of them new, the city says. But the city government, strapped for cash and limited in its ability to borrow money, can only do so much. The need far outstrips the government's resources, particularly given the sunset of the Mitchell-Lama program, which used to keep a ceiling on housing costs for thousands in the city. The waterfront projects offer a real opportunity to enlist the crucial help of private builders, so that in New York the term affordable housing doesn't become an oxymoron.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  7. #7

  8. #8


    An ongoing WTB vision for Greenpoint:

    kostabi world tower brooklyn, new york

    Architect: Eli Attia

    Client: Mark Kostabi

    Kostabi World Tower
    by Mark Kostabi

    I intend to construct a monumental building devoted entirely to art, a mixed-use structure comprising art studios, galleries, museums, apartments, printing workshops, sculpture foundries, schools, offices for creative firms, hotels, libraries, bookstores, theaters, and restaurants: a self-sufficient vertical art city.

    It will also be the world's tallest building.

    The structure has been designed by world-renowned architect Eli Attia and will emerge from a park designed by San Diego-based environmental artists Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison.

    The most indispensable element of the project is the height, which will confirm the importance of art to the entire world. At the moment, New York is the cultural capital of the world. But this pre-eminence does not rest here by divine right. It will continue only through innovation and through new opportunity. While Soho still enjoys vitality through the abundance of its galleries and studios, economic conditions have forced an increasing number of artists and art-related activities to disperse. In one building I will create a prime location for working, producing, learning, living, visiting, shopping and simply enjoying.

    Eli Attia has developed plans for a majestic spire tapering from a 4.64 acre footprint and rising towards an unprecedented 2,000 foot height. The building will be a highly versatile structural cage equivalent to 160 stories. The tower will taper upward from the ground at an accelerating rate providing a wide range of floor sizes: from 202,000 square feet at the base to 10,000 square feet at the top. The total floor area will be over two million square feet.

    Current plans call for the building to rise from a 30 acre site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Mindful of the ecological significance of constructing the world's tallest building, I have engaged artists Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison to create the park from which the skyscraper will rise. The Harrisons, known internationally for environmental recon-struction, have a particular interest in the relationship of the site to the East River. On it they intend to establish an eco-system, "part wetland and brook, part forest and meadow that reflects the eco-system once present and the probable eco-system that will emerge as global warming takes place."

    There was a time when the creation of a tall building was a celebrated public event. People were excited - they gathered to observe the progress of construction. The pride and imagination of New Yorkers have been captured in the past by their tallest buildings: the Singer Tower (1906), the Metropolitan Life Tower (1908); the Woolworth Building (1913), the Chrysler Building (1929), and the Empire State Building (1931). The Kostabi World Tower will revive this tradition of greatness.

    This building will be finished in the Twentieth Century and will reassert the glory of its predecessors - but it will open and lead into the Twenty-First Century with its inspiring design and state-of-the-art structural engineering. Thus it will reflect something of both centuries for a single purpose - the support and recognition of art as a significant part of our human existence.

    In the words of Louis H. Sullivan (who designed some of the most prominent and enduring buildings in America), it "must be tall, every inch of it tall. The force and power of altitude must be in it, the glory and pride of exaltation must be in it. It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exaltation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line."

  9. #9
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    Ongoing? I thought it was dead, actually never serious.

  10. #10


    Ongoing? I thought it was dead, actually never serious.
    I wrote vision, not proposal. Visions are by their very nature ongoing.

  11. #11
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    Oh, ok. I e-mailed Kostabi to find out what happened.

  12. #12


    December 27, 2004

    In New York's Housing Quest, a Vision for a Versatile Brooklyn Waterfront


    Williamsburg and Greenpoint have had a renaissance in recent years, but some sections near the waterfront have not kept pace.

    Schaefer Landing, now under construction along Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will have luxury condominiums along with less expensive units.

    Looking to address a critical shortage of housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, city officials are planning to let developers put up larger buildings along the long-neglected north Brooklyn waterfront in return for setting aside up to a quarter of the apartments as lower-cost units.

    The concept, called inclusionary zoning, will face a crucial test as part of a plan that seeks to develop up to 10,300 units, most of them in one of the city's few sweeping tracts of underutilized land, two miles of the East River waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The coastline is currently dotted with chunks of concrete, hulking factory shells and storage lots, but its stunning views of Manhattan and proximity to trendy residential areas have made it a prized trophy for developers.

    Under an enormous rezoning plan, now under public review, more than 350 acres would be turned into a lively mix of light industry, commerce and housing in low and midsize buildings, with residential towers, an aquatics center, parks and a landscaped public esplanade overlooking the river.

    In recent rezoning efforts, the Bloomberg administration has come under intense pressure to include lower-cost housing in areas where it allows new development, and community groups have accused it of lagging on this front. To spur the construction of such housing, city officials have now embraced the idea of offering developers permission to build more units than would normally be allowed under zoning regulations if they set aside 15 to 25 percent of the housing for people of limited income.

    The city has flirted with inclusionary zoning in the past, creating a narrow incentive program in the late 1980's for the highest-density neighborhoods in Manhattan, but officials in the Bloomberg administration dismissed that program as ineffective because it yielded only 600 or so lower-cost apartments. More effective, they say, is a program that offers subsidies to developers of rental apartment complexes that set aside 20 percent of the units for tenants with limited incomes. But because developers have recently shunned rental projects, that program appears to be yielding diminishing returns.

    Now, as housing officials try to meet Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's goal of creating roughly 13,000 new housing units each year, city officials are promoting inclusionary zoning as a new and potentially powerful tool to ensure that some of those units go to low- and moderate-income families. The city has already included a similar incentive program in its rezoning proposal for the Far West Side of Manhattan, now before the City Council, and plans to apply the concept to the redevelopment of parts of Chelsea.

    But the proposal for north Brooklyn is in some ways the most ambitious, and it could have sweeping consequences.

    "It's not like there's been a huge amount of development outside of Manhattan," said Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Noting the demand for market-rate housing even in once-depressed areas like the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn, he said, "It's time for us to look at our policies and think differently. And Greenpoint-Williamsburg is a perfect example."

    New York is far from alone in using inclusionary zoning programs to increase development of lower-cost housing. Hundreds of cities, including Boston, San Francisco and San Diego, have adopted such programs, and many others, including Los Angeles, are debating their merits. But the city's plan would be among the most aggressive in the nation, yielding a higher percentage of apartments whose cost would be permanently lower than market rate, officials say.

    Still, some community leaders and housing advocates are skeptical that the plan will succeed because it would be voluntary for developers, and suggest that the city should be going even further.

    "It's a good second step in that it recognizes that we need to use the rezoning to guarantee that some of the housing will be affordable," said Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development and a co-author of a study on inclusionary zoning. "The concern is that it won't do enough of what it's intended to do."

    What the overall zoning plan is intended to do is create a new community, practically from whole cloth, on the crumbling edge of the East River while preserving and amplifying the diverse mix of commerce, industry and residences that has made the area increasingly attractive to developers and others, city planning officials said.

    "This is an opportunity to reclaim this waterfront for parks, open space and provide badly needed housing, including affordable housing," said Amanda M. Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, whose staff studied the area for 18 months and worked with community leaders in developing the rezoning proposal.

    "It's just amazing - it's been derelict for decades, totally cut off from the community," she continued. She added that the plan would provide public access to a new waterfront promenade, which would be built by the developers of the new residences.

    Indeed, the proposal, which comes as the city is working to revive its neglected waterfronts, is one in a long line of ideas for revitalizing the former manufacturing hub.

    Over the years, property owners have tried to develop everything from housing complexes and big-box stores to waste transfer stations and power plants, but many were stymied by economic downturns or community opposition. At one point, city officials even suggested that the pornography displaced from Times Square relocate to marginal neighborhoods like Greenpoint, said Kenneth K. Fisher, who represented the area in the City Council in the 1990's.

    To planners looking at zoning maps, he added, the area appeared perfect for all manner of unpleasant uses because it was zoned for heavy manufacturing, and therefore supposedly devoid of people.

    But on the ground, things were very different, with homes and industry coexisting for a century. So even as manufacturing and waterfront activity declined throughout the city, some light industry, like custom furnishings, specialty food production or musical equipment manufacturing, thrived. And in the past 15 years, the neighborhoods have enjoyed a residential and commercial renaissance as people were drawn to the area in part for its ethnic mix and its proximity to Manhattan.

    The zoning proposal would permanently legalize many of the lofts in old manufacturing buildings that have been claimed as housing, would limit height levels for new construction in low- and mid-rise residential areas, and would preserve manufacturing in some industrial areas on the East River, along Bushwick Inlet and along Newtown Creek. The proposal would also surround low-density residential areas with mixed-use zones allowing for both residences and the kinds of creative industries that have helped rekindle the vitality of the area.

    But the most striking changes would occur at the waterfront, with 150- to 350-foot residential towers creating a varied skyline over a promenade interspersed with several new parks, one of them marked for swimming and beach volleyball competitions in the city's Olympic bid. And it is there that the city is planning to use the rezoning in largely new and untested ways: the elaborate low-cost housing program and the requirement that developers create the public esplanade at their own expense.

    It is the first time that the city has made building public waterfront access a condition of development on such a large scale, Ms. Burden said. "It imposes a lot of costs on the development, but we think it's absolutely essential," she said.

    Under the current proposal for north Brooklyn, developers on the waterfront would be able to build about 18 percent more square footage in exchange for setting aside 15 to 25 percent of the dwellings for people with limited incomes. Depending on the dimensions of the project, that would translate into roughly 8 to 10 extra stories, and potentially hundreds of apartments. Developers would be free to choose from a range of income limits, providing apartments only for low-income residents or for a mix of low- and moderate-income residents.

    The program would also give developers a choice in how to meet the affordability requirements, either by building low-cost dwellings within their market-rate complexes, or putting them in different locations. They could opt instead to preserve existing lower-cost housing in the area by buying a building and maintaining the monthly charges. A similar, less ambitious program has been proposed for the inland areas, where there would be lower height limits.

    City officials estimate that the rezoning will yield up to 10,300 new apartments overall, with 1,600 to 2,500 being affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. Of those, officials expect 900 to 1,500 to result from the waterfront developments, 500 to 750 from publicly owned sites and 185 from new inland construction.

    The inclusionary proposal is unusual in several ways. It differs from the city's old program and the one proposed for the Far West Side of Manhattan in that developers who take advantage of it would also be eligible for other subsidy programs. And, in a departure from many other programs across the country, the lower-cost apartments would remain that way permanently.

    Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said that some of his members have said they would take advantage of the program. Part of its attractiveness, he said, is that the city would allow developers to take advantage of other subsidies in addition to getting the right to build more apartments.

    But some critics say that such "double dipping" will leave less money available for inexpensive housing elsewhere in the city.

    They also say that the base height proposed by the city under the new zoning is already so high that the bonus formula does not necessarily guarantee a developer a more attractive package. Imposing a mandatory or more restrictive program might lower the value of the land, these critics contend, but since many of the current property owners paid so little for it, the rezoning, which would automatically increase the value of the land by increasing the size of what could be built on it, would still give them an astronomical profit.

    As the proposal - which the community board voted against and which is currently before Borough President Marty Markowitz - goes through the city's elaborate public review process, several of the details may change, city officials said. The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on it in March before it goes to the City Council for final approval.

    "We've got a big housing shortage in New York, period," said Mr. Donovan, the commissioner of housing preservation and development. "There's been a lot of concern about density, and I understand that," he continued, adding that the new housing policy had helped build support for the rezoning.

    "What we've done, I think, through this policy is to say to the community, 'You want affordable housing, you now have a stake in density, too,' " he added. "The higher we're able to go to a reasonable level, the more affordable housing you're going to get."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  13. #13


    "What we've done, I think, through this policy is to say to the community, 'You want affordable housing, you now have a stake in density, too,' " he added. "The higher we're able to go to a reasonable level, the more affordable housing you're going to get."

    Lets hope! ::Crosses fingers::

  14. #14


    If the community board voted against this how much of a chance does it have to approval? Not much?

  15. #15
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    CBs are typically "suggestions" so who knows.

    This has to get passed, it's a no-brainer.

    I did think that we were talking 20K units for some reason. Am I just way off, or has the density been lowered quite a bit?

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