on the waterfront
Eight years after a rezoning paved the way for the Williamsburg waterfront’s transformation into Miami Beach, residents and politicians in neighboring Greenpoint are speaking up about their own shoreline.
District councilman hopeful Stephen Pierson vowed that he will go to court to reduce the size of planned 40-story towers to 15 or 20 stories. And other opponents of the waterfront redefinition have released renderings of hulking high-rises that dwarf the Manhattan skyline across the river.
Last week, +POOL, that brilliant, crazy, possibly over-designed, possibly perfectly designed project that places a floating, self-filtering pool in the East River announced it was going to try and raise $1 million in the next six months to make its aquatic dreams come true. It is a prospect, which makes The Observer giddy with child-like joy. Swimming in the river, in river water no less.
That youthful excitement is infectious, especially when talking to Dong-Ping Wong, one +POOL’s founders. “It’s a simple idea that didn’t really come from anywhere,” he explained in an interview. “As for ‘Why the idea?’ It was a combination of a few things, a hot and sweaty summer looking at the water, taking the train over the water, and riding my bike over the water but never really seeing it at all. I’m from San Diego, we use and view water very differently than we do from here.”
What was once the life preserver of Hudson River Park is now dragging the waterfront park under. Pier 40, the popular athletics venue and parking lot might, after years of attempting to rehabilitate it, be shutting down, according to The Tribeca Trib.
Exactly two years ago tomorrow, the City Council approved a sweeping $1.4 billion redevelopment plan for the Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront. One of the biggest concerns at the time (of which there were many) was that the grand promise made by developer CPC Resources to make 30 percent of the project’s 2,200 units would never be realized.
Nowhere in the zoning resolution was this mandated, even though it was the marquee feature of the 11-acre development, along with promises of waterfront access, top-notch open space and a school. The developer could build no affordable housing, though this would mean a smaller project, or use the city’s inclusionary housing program to gain a bonus for bigger buildings in exchange for a promise to make 20 percent of any units affordable. Anything beyond that was a promise, one even CPC Resources did not have to keep. The firm had signed a memorandum of understanding saying it would follow through on this promise, but in no why was it legally binding.
That is why when it was announced last week that Jed Walentas and his Two Trees development company is in contract the Domino site for about $180 million (three-times what CPC had paid for it in 2004, but also less an arduous and contentious public approval process), there were widespread concerns that Mr. Walentas would not live up to the promises of his predecessors. In a recent interview, the developer admitted as much.
“Basically, that analysis is correct,” Mr. Walentas told The Observer.
Most New Yorkers with $14 million would likely opt for a pricey slice of real estate on the Upper East Side, maybe with a little left over for dinner for a thousand friends at Per Se. But in Brooklyn, they choose instead to spend that money on their bikes.
With $14 million in funding, secured by Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association, the borough will finally see the completion of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile foot and bike path running from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. Some segments of the greenway already exist on some streets and riverside parks, but these funds will help stitch the entire thing together.
on the waterfront
Does a developer have any obligation to undo the ills of the past?
That was the rather existential debate that took place at the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this month, as commissioners debated the merits of a proposal to transform Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. While the designs by SHoP Architects were roundly applauded, and ultimately won unanimous approval, many commissioners lamented the fact that the current mall was being replaced with a new one, rather than something less commercial or even nothing at all, just a wide-open public pier.
“There’s lots of proof in Manhattan that a shopping mall never works, but nevertheless, there’s a developer who insists they have the right formula for this shopping mall to finally work, so I guess within the context of that, then the question really is—is the architecture appropriate for the Seaport?” commissioner Margery Perlmutter said.
Commissioner Fred Bland felt so strongly about the issue, including the destruction of the notable-for-its-time Ben Thompson-designed mall, that he had composed his comments earlier that day, something he said had only happened twice before in his four years on the commission (for St. Vincent’s and “for the infamous mosque”).
on the waterfront
At 126-years-old, Pier A could be doing worse—at least it has not totally fallen into the waters of the harbor like so many of its peers.
on the waterfront
Building booms come and developers go, but a good project has a way of sticking around. Times Square, Columbus Circle, Hudson River Park, Queens West, all have seen their ups and downs, all are in various states of repose.
It was almost five years ago that the Municipal Art Society began conceiving of ways to remake a stretch of the East River waterfront in front of the old Con Ed plant between 38th Street and 41st Street. At the time, the question was how to not only bring access to the water but also how to make it work with a massive residential development planned by Sheldon Solow–how to make sure this would be public space for all, and not just a Sutton Place-style backyard for luxury apartment towers.
Mr. Solow is gone, at least for now, but another benefactor has taken his place. Since the city and the United Nations reached a deal in October to hand over half of the Robert Moses playground in exchange for, among other things, $150 million for waterfront redevelopment, MAS has revived its plans for this piece of East River real estate.
on the waterfront
This week, The Observer took a look at the future of the Brooklyn waterfront, which after a few choppy years, seems to be doing rather well, with numerous projects set to break ground soon. Here, we take a tour of many of them, traveling from north to south.
Two weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. A new tower is coming to the Williamsburg waterfront, the first since the bubble burst three years ago. It is the biggest news in the neighborhood since then, both figuratively and literally: the third tower at North Side piers will house 500 luxury rental apartments in a 40 story tower, the largest project of its kind yet in North Brooklyn, arguably the entire borough, if the neighboring towers are included.
But really, that is nothing—at least next to the development Park Tower Group has planned.