With tensions still mounting over the future of Red Hook and the neighborhood’s
waterfront, Ikea moved one step closer to becoming a local reality this
The Swedish home furnishings giant certified with the city plans to construct
a 346,000-square-foot store along the Erie Basin, kicking off review of
those plans, which must pass the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure,
The proposal has been tearing at the seams of an already socially and
economically divided community, splitting the neighborhood into two camps
— those concerned about bringing jobs to the neighborhood and those
who fear Ikea traffic will destroy their quality of life.
Ikea has been in contract to purchase the 22-acre former New York Shipyard
site — roughly between Dwight and Columbia streets along the Erie
Basin — for the past two years.
While the store would bring more cars and trucks to the area, it would
also create 500 to 600 part-time and full-time jobs that pay “competitive
wages,” according to Ikea real estate manager Patrick Smith.
The company has promised to open up the hiring process to residents in
Red Hook’s 11231 ZIP code two weeks before any other applications
are collected, although they say federal law prohibits them from promising
that any percentage of those jobs would be held for Red Hook residents.
Ikea has also included a 6.2-acre waterfront esplanade and a “green”
roof with solar energy panels in their plan. More than 70,000 square feet
of additional retail and restaurant space would also be included along
While some residents see the coming of Ikea as the creation of a suburban-style
strip mall, Ikea officials say the additional shopping will draw more
people to the waterfront.
“This is one of the aspects that [the Department of] City Planning
really liked,” Smith said.
“You’re not going to see Staples and Bed, Bath & Beyond,”
said Smith, adding that the space would be used for more small-scale retail.
Because the area is zoned for heavy manufacturing, Ikea is seeking a variance
from the city to allow the retail use.
This week’s certification kicked off a roughly seven-month ULURP
process, which will include hearings before Community Board 6, Borough
President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.
[Community Board 6 will host the first formal public hearing of the process
at the PAL Miccio Center, 110 West Ninth St., on Thursday, May 13 at 6
Ikea plans to build 1,400 parking spaces and Ikea proposed running ferry
service to the store from Lower Manhattan.
Red Hook activists opposed to the Ikea plan have been meeting with principals
of the Baltimore-based Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse (SBER), a development
company known for adaptive reuse projects. The company has put together
a plan for a sprawling, 70-acre, retail, residential and commercial development
with a marina on the shipyard site between Richards and Columbia streets.
Despite a published report last week indicating SBER was ready to give
up, SBER principal Bill Steuver said the company still wants to develop
“We’re not throwing in the towel,” Struever told The Brooklyn
Papers, adding that the company would only axe its $2.5 billion proposal
if Ikea is approved.
The lower-cost, assembly-required furniture retailer first tried to open
a store in Brooklyn on a former U.S. Postal Service site along the Gowanus
Canal at Second Avenue and 12th Street three years ago. Park Slope residents,
fearing traffic congestion, protested the plan and Rep. Nydia Velazquez
even threatened to sue to stop Ikea from coming to the site.
By June 2001, however, Ikea pulled out of negotiations with the site’s
leaseholder, Forest City Ratner, saying they could not agree on who would
pay for the necessary cleanup of the long-contaminated site. [A Lowe’s
home improvement store opened there this week.]
Buddy Scotto, a longtime community activist and Carroll Gardens business
owner, says he is against the Red Hook Ikea project because of traffic
“Our streets can’t handle it,” said Scotto, who is also
the founder of Gowanus Expressway Community Coalition.
Scotto says the crumbling Gowanus Expressway — just this week chunks
of the elevated roadway rained down on Hamilton Avenue, snarling morning
rush hour traffic — will need to be replaced, sending even more traffic
onto local streets.
“These box stores are going to be community suicide,” Scotto
Sunset Park Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, whose district includes all of
Red Hook, has not yet taken a stand on the Ikea plan, despite nearly two
years of public debate about it.
Fanning the flames of an already contentious issue, Red Hook Civic Association
co-chairman John McGettrick accused Ikea this week of dividing the community
by reaching out to the tenants of the Red Hook Houses, a public housing
complex that is home to 75 percent of the community’s residents.
“Ikea is purposely trying to polarize the community by pitting people
in public housing against their neighbors in order to prevent a discussion
of any of the huge problems,” McGettrick said.
“It’s a shame that opponents of the proposed Ikea store in Red
Hook, Brooklyn, are irresponsibly trying to inject inflammatory issues
such as race into the development process,” Ikea’s Smith responded.
Smith said Ikea had reached out to more than 50 organizations, including
the Park Slope Civic Council which endorsed the project.
“It’s so offensive, what are they going to do next?” said
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010