More questions were raised than answered, say residents who attended Community Board 1’s contentious two-hour Land Use Committee hearing on August 13 at Automotive High School. City agency representatives and the lawyer for Greenpoint Landing Associates outlined their plan for the proposed 22-acre development.
Stakeholders demanded answers about public park space, environmental impact and affordable housing and questioned why the community was not invited to weigh in months before the project’s July certification by the City Planning Commission.
CB1 Land Use committee member Rob Solano said after the meeting, “We’re on a ULURP clock now,” referring to the Department of City Planning’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure which specifies a 60-day window for holding public meetings and submitting a recommendation to the City Planning Commission and the Borough President.
Melanie Meyers, attorney for developer George Klein’s Greenpoint Landing Associates presented the first phase of the plan, for a standalone 98-unit affordable housing building off Eagle Street, which some 250-plus attendees skewered as segregated. Meyers also touted plans for a new dog run, picnic area and possible new ferry landing.
Land Use committee chair Del Teague questioned the allocation of affordable housing units. At the highest bracket, 25% of the units would be available only to those Greenpoint residents whose income equals 120% of the average median income for the area. For a two-bedroom unit this translates to $66,000 – $103,000. She questions whether a greater percentage of the units can be allocated to residents at lower income levels.
Teague said later that Greenpoint has suffered a “horrific displacement of people who cannot afford to stay.” She says the income median, “is skewed because of gentrification,” and worries that the standards for awarding the affordable units may not be “meaningful.”
The city’s School Construction Authority also presented a plan. A new 640-seat primary-intermediate school will be built at Franklin and DuPont Streets, but residents say Greenpoint needs a high school instead.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol said, in a phone interview after the hearing, that while he is concerned about equitable integration of affordable housing with the market rate units in the new development, he is more concerned with availability. Citing Greenpoint’s relatively large number of blue collar employees, he said, “too many people have had to move out of the neighborhood,” as rents have risen. Lentol also cited Greenpoint’s need for high school seats, and he says the proposed development is an opportunity to address it.
Longtime resident Laura Hofmann said the current deal is not in accord with what was approved in the 2005 rezoning, when she says Greenpoint was promised park space. She said families who “fought like hell to clean up the neighborhood” now see their compensation in the form of “a plan for ten thousand additional housing units.”
Hofmann also worries about health risks in the new units. “New residents are buying into the neighborhood not knowing that there is a live environmental disaster still active in Greenpoint.”
The price of the city-owned parcels is still undisclosed. Barbara Wagner, a spokeswoman for Greenpoint Landing Associates, said the price will be based on “an appraisal of the market rate value.”
Lentol said he hopes the City will direct part of the return back to a community that needs public amenities, particularly green space.
For the waterfront areas, Wagner said that Greenpoint Landing Associates would build them, then transfer the title to the city so that the open space will be owned and operated by the Parks Department. The developer would be responsible for its maintenance through annual payments, but the Parks Department would maintain and operate it. The eventual construction of the Green Street pier awaits later development.
Teague says she expects the developers to attend on August 27 with “concrete answers” about affordable housing integration, environmental impact mitigation, and infrastructure improvements prior to the start of any development.