Ahoy, Brooklyn! Defying Recession, Developers Drop Anchor Along East River

Packed ferries, along with subways, bike lanes and flea markets, are but only the latest sign that the Brooklyn waterfront has prospered, rather than withered during the downturn.

Developers are hard at work on nearly a dozen megaprojects, many of them all but forgotten about in the past three years. A number of firms expect to break ground sometime in 2012, as they told The Observer, and while such ambitions remain lofty, given the near impossibility to raise construction financing at this time, the strength of Brooklyn real estate market has developers scrambling to get on the waterfront.

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“The ferry is really the litmus test,” Jed Walentas, the second-generation Dumbo developer, said. “If you have just one good thing on the water, a ferry makes absolutely no sense. There’s nowhere to go. But when you get enough things happening in different parts of the city on the water, all of a sudden, ferries make a ton of sense.”

None of these undertakings are as ambitious as Park Tower Group’s redevelopment of the Greenpoint Lumber Exchange. Park Tower put stock in the area long before many of its competitors, taking a stake in the defunct lumber yard in the northern-most reaches of Brooklyn, where Newtown Creek empties its Superfunded waters into the East River. With 4,000 units planned, in some 10 towers along 20 waterfront acres, Park Tower’s project is larger even than the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Despite its size, a good many community members welcome the development.

“Until stuff gets built in Greenpoint, we don’t get any waterfront access,” said Ward Dennis, co-chair of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth. “I guess some people would gladly trade that for a less crowded neighborhood, but the thing is, the rezoning is done, the land is going sit largely fallow and underused, or overused and productive, with at least some benefits to the community at large.”