The Montagues and Capulets of Brooklyn Development

Mr. Rosenberg is new to the world of large-scale development, with no experience to his name of something on this scale, not to mention a set of bankruptcy problems—not the most desirable quality for a developer trying to round up votes. The only comparable development he has done is Warehouse 11, a new, boxy 120-unit Williamsburg condo building developed at the peak of the market. The high cost of the loan for the project—$50 million—sent Mr. Rosenberg into bankruptcy; only in recent days has he negotiated a settlement with the main lender, Capital One, although other issues may remain. This was not his first time in financial trouble—in 1999, Mr. Rosenberg pleaded guilty in federal court to bankruptcy fraud, receiving two years probation.


BUT MR. ROSENBERG’S financial woes aside, what makes the opposition of Mr. Levin so unique is that it appears unwavering, a rare occurrence when a project moves this far along in the public-approval process. The City Council is the last stop in a seven-month review process—a hearing is set for next week—after the City Planning Commission and the local community board, which very frequently recommends “no” votes on projects. At this point, developers traditionally unveil a compromise plan to assuage the local member’s concerns, inevitably leading both sides to declare a “win-win,” and the rest of the Council duly approves the development.

In another unusual move, it was nearly voted down at the City Planning Commission after representatives of the Brooklyn borough president pushed for its rejection.

But Mr. Weiss, Mr. Rosenberg’s attorney, said that at this point he views Mr. Levin’s eventual support as unlikely, as he met with the councilman on the issue and was not offered a clear path to winning his support.

“He listened, and didn’t indicate that there would be any basis for him to support the project,” Mr. Weiss said. “We’re not even able to identify precisely what the issues are.”
Mr. Weiss now plans to try to sway the rest of the Council, pointing out that the project has the same amount of below-market-rate apartments as other private waterfront developments in the area. In coming days, he said, his client plans to increase that number.

Still, it is highly uncommon for the Council to vote against the will of a local member on land use, as members don’t want the rest of the body to turn around and do the same on a development in their districts.

Mr. Levin did not rule out a compromise entirely, although his language suggested he did not see one on the horizon. “I’m always open to having a dialogue,” he said, cautioning, “I have not seen any meaningful concessions on their part.”

The Montagues and Capulets of Brooklyn Development