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|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] City Is Backing Makeover for Decaying Brooklyn Waterfront
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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] City Is Backing Makeover for Decaying Brooklyn Waterfront
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 18:27:25 +0100
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19)
May 3, 2005
City Is Backing Makeover for Decaying Brooklyn Waterfront
By DIANE CARDWELL
City officials agreed yesterday to let developers turn the decaying north
Brooklyn waterfront, with its relics of Brooklyn's industrial past, into a
neighborhood of residential towers with a parklike esplanade along the East
The plan, which rivals the ambition and scope of the creation of Battery
Park City, would rezone a 175-block area of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, two
neighborhoods that have surged in popularity because of their proximity to
Manhattan but whose development has been curtailed because much of the area
is now restricted to industrial use.
The area has become perhaps the most emblematic of Brooklyn's resurgence
over the last few decades, as young people seeking an alternative to
Manhattan have flocked to its once desolate streets, remaking Williamsburg
into a hub of nightlife, art galleries and restaurants just one subway stop
away from Manhattan.
That has propelled the local housing market, and led to intense pressure to
develop acres of abandoned or underutilized properties near the East River
that boast stunning views of Manhattan.
The rezoning, which was approved unanimously by a key City Council
committee, would transform the long-crumbling waterfront into a residential
neighborhood complete with 40-story luxury apartment buildings, shops and
manicured recreation areas. As envisioned by city planners, the rezoning
would help realize decades-long efforts to capitalize on one of New York's
most ignored assets, its miles of neglected waterfront, while also
protecting a neighborhood that has long been considered a repository for
unpopular projects like power plants, waste transfer stations and porn
"This rezoning will ensure that the reuse of this priceless but long
derelict waterfront will be for the purposes of housing and recreation and
not for such inappropriate uses as waste transfer stations and power
plants," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters at a late afternoon news
The plan, which is expected to be approved by the full City Council next
week, imposes some novel requirements for developers seeking to build the
housing. In order to build to the maximum height of roughly 30 or 40
stories, they must keep at least 20 percent of the homes affordable to low-
and middle-income New Yorkers, making it among the most ambitious such
programs in the nation, city officials say. And the developers must build
the waterfront esplanade, which will eventually be turned over for
management to the city's Parks Department.
The rezoning in north Brooklyn is coming together as the city moves
aggressively to spruce up its aging waterfronts, many of which have been in
decline for more than a generation as New York's ports lost their
prominence. Earlier this year, the city approved the rezoning of a huge
swath of the Far West Side of Manhattan for office space and housing and has
finally begun putting in place a plan to support a mix of uses, including a
cruise ship terminal, on the Red Hook waterfront in Brooklyn.
But the north Brooklyn plan, whose final version came after intense
negotiations between the City Council and Bloomberg administration
officials, could yield one of the most extreme transformations of a
neighborhood in decades. Inland from the water, the plan seeks to preserve
the low-rise scale of the areas, where four- and six-story apartment
buildings predominate, as well as the mix of light industry and residences.
To that end, the plan will designate a 22-block area near the Bushwick
Inlet, just beyond the East River waterfront, as an Industrial Business
Zone, which brings with it special protections and benefits for businesses
operating or moving there, and create a $4 million fund to preserve
manufacturing jobs in the neighborhood.
The plan also creates 54 acres of parkland, including a 28-acre park with an
Olympic-quality aquatic center on the river. The waterfront, though, will
see the most striking change, and is the scene of the city's broadest test
of inclusionary zoning, which allows developers to build larger buildings in
exchange for setting aside some of the apartments as lower-cost units.
To take advantage of this bonus, developers on the waterfront must put aside
20 to 25 percent of their apartments for low- to moderate-income New
Yorkers. In the city's calculations, for a family of four, low income is
defined as earning up to $50,250 per year, and moderate income is defined as
$50,250 to $78,000.
In exchange, they will be allowed to put up larger buildings, capped at
roughly 30 or 40 stories depending on the location, and they will be
eligible for a 25-year tax exemption. Those developers are also eligible for
certain grants for the public esplanades they build.
Those who do not include affordable apartments in their developments would
be ineligible for the tax exemption. The size of their buildings would also
be smaller, limited to roughly 23 or 33 stories, officials said. In the
inland areas, there is also an inclusionary program, but it is smaller in
Council members involved in the negotiations said that their modifications
to the administration's plan will result in the construction of more
affordable homes overall, about 33 percent of the more than 10,500
apartments anticipated from the rezoning.
In addition, Mr. Bloomberg said, the five major developers who own 70
percent of the property within the rezoning area reached an agreement with
the city's main building service union to pay union-scale wages.
"In 10 years, I can't imagine what Williamsburg-Greenpoint is going to look
like," said Councilwoman Melinda Katz, Democrat of Queens, who as chairwoman
of the Land Use Committee led negotiations with Bloomberg administration
City Councilman David Yassky, Democrat of Brooklyn, who represents much of
the area, echoed that sentiment. "This is truly a transformative plan for
New York City's waterfront," he said. Many residents and community
advocates, though, have been opposed to the changes envisioned by the city,
and some had lobbied for a guarantee that 40 percent of the new housing
would be directed to lower-income residents. But several housing advocates
watching the voting at City Hall praised city officials for including more
lower-cost housing and open space in the plan.
"The communities off Williamsburg and Greenpoint win," said Brad Lander,
director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental
Development, "because today there is a guarantee of new and permanently
affordable housing, instead of a virtual guarantee that new development
would price residents out of their homes."
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