Pfizer Offering Williamsburg Plant Site for Affordable Housing—So, Why’s a State Assemblyman Trying to Seize It?

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is opting to leave the Brooklyn community that gave it its start 159 years ago with something of a mixed-income goodbye kiss, as its seeks to turn its giant 15-acre southeast Williamsburg site into a new development marked by affordable housing.

The firm is putting out a request for proposals for developers to create a mixed-use, mixed-income complex on the site of its old manufacturing plant, which is slated to close by the end of the year in the name of cost-cutting and consolidation. In a statement, the company said, in gathering input from the community, affordable housing topped the list of desires.

“The message we heard loudly and clearly, from a wide range of diverse voices, was that affordable housing and jobs are pressing needs in the neighborhood,” the statement said. “We fully agree.”

Pfizer has retained the investment sales team at Cushman & Wakefield to handle the R.F.P. for the site, near the border of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant.

Any developer would likely have to change the zoning on the properties, most of which currently restricts uses to manufacturing. The current density allows for about two million square feet of development, according to figures from the real estate tracking firm PropertyShark.

All of Pfizer’s plans, however, could be for naught if State Assemblyman Vito Lopez is successful in a bid to claim the site with eminent domain and develop it for affordable housing. First reported in Crain’s New York Business, Mr. Lopez, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been drafting a bill that would have the state’s housing agency acquire the site, then issue its own request for proposals so as to create about 1,700 housing units.

Mr. Lopez, the chairman of the Assembly’s housing committee, has pushed for large levels of affordable housing, often irking city officials and other legislators who consider his demands unreasonable and unrealistic. His efforts, however, received a shout-out from Governor Spitzer in his State of the State address last week, in which he praised Mr. Lopez for his commitment to affordable housing.

Pfizer, in a candid statement, said the company finds it “extremely puzzling that a legislator would propose a government seizure of private property through eminent domain to ostensibly re-develop the properties with the same types of uses we are already considering.”

Pfizer Offering Williamsburg Plant Site for Affordable Housing—So, Why’s a State Assemblyman Trying to Seize It?