DUMBO’s 200 new apartments

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A Real estate developer David Walentas, known for converting DUMBO from an industrial area to a trendy residential neighborhood, is ready to start building an expansive, 16-story building near the Brooklyn Bridge, according to plans he filed with the city.

But local community groups are crying foul.

“We feel that the proposed building is too tall and too close to the bridge span,” said Nancy Webster, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Association.

The Brooklyn Heights Association, Fulton Ferry Landing Association and DUMBO Neighborhood Association are all calling on the developer to scale back the sweeping project at Water and Dock streets, saying that it is too tall considering its proximity to the iconic bridge.

“Brooklyn Bridge is a national landmark,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, “and we think [this building] is intrusive.”

The 200-unit residential and commercial building would rise at 38 Water St., currently a two-story building that is home to the St. Ann’s Warehouse performance space, and extend down Water Street.

The plan also includes a three-story public parking garage facing Front Street with 327 spaces.

Because the area is currently zoned for manufacturing, Walentas, the principal owner of Two Trees Management, is seeking a variance from the city.

Walentas certified his plans with the Department of City Planning on March 24, starting the clock on the approximately seven-month city Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires public review before the community board, borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council.

Community Board 2 will host a public hearing on the project at 6 pm on April 21 at Polytechnic University, at 5 Metrotech Center. [For more information, contact Community Board 2 at (718) 596-5410.]

The 178-foot-tall, L-shaped building would be among the tallest in the neighborhood, and would include 8,000 square feet of retail space.

That retail space would fall along Water Street, opposite the Empire Stores, which are being converted into a major shopping mall by developer Shaya Boymelgreen. Gary Vanderputten, president of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, said he was disappointed that there are no plans for Front Street storefronts.

“This particular project just takes Front Street and will use it entirely as a facade of a garage,” said Vanderputten, who is also concerned about the height of the building.

Dale Linton, a manager at 5 Front, a restaurant at Front and Old Fulton streets, agreed.

“I think they should develop Front Street as much as possible. There are a lot of small businesses that could be useful to the neighborho­od,” said Linton. He said he would like to see more shops along that block of Front Street, which is currently filled by parking garages.

Walentas did not return calls seeking comment.

But his isn’t the only new high-rise irking neighborhood residents.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commonly referred to as Jehovah’s Witnesses, is looking to build a soaring, 1,000-unit apartment complex several blocks away at 85 Jay St.

That plan includes towers 14, 16, 18 and 20 stories high on the largest developable assemblage of property in the city after the World Trade Center site.

Several community groups have already expressed concern about the Watchtower project and have even started a Web site,, to keep the community informed about the development.

The new Walentas building would also include an 8,000-square-foot performance space for a non-profit institution. That space would not be large enough, however, to house Arts at St. Ann’s which is currently located in the 38 Water St. warehouse, which would have to come down to make way for the new project.

For the past two years Walentas has offered the space rent-free to the non-profit group, which lost its home at the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights several years ago.

Now it may be set a drift again.

“We would like to stay in DUMBO, but we knew they were always planning on developing that site,” said Julie Feldman, the president and artistic director of Arts at St. Ann’s.

The Walentas application also calls for rezoning another building, across the street.

Last year, home improvement guru Bob Vila renovated 85 Water St. for his television show, converting an old pepper factory owned by Walentas into three gleaming apartments and a ground-floor retail space. That space, however, is zoned for manufacturing. ”
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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