Peg Breen, president
of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, supports the SBER plan.
“There are very few places on the waterfront where you have a sense of that era and the buildings of that era,” said Breen. “Clearly you can take buildings like this and do something with them if you have the imagination and the money.”
Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said the organization had not taken an official stand on the project but said the “preservation of old buildings is an admirable and important element of any large-scale development plan.”
Carter Craft, director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a network of New Jersey and New York organizations concerned about the waterfront, said they were most focused on preserving the dry docks on the site where ships could be repaired.
With waterfront transportation on the rise and New York Water Taxi moving its homeport to Red Hook, Craft said there is growing need for dry dock space.
Alexandros Washburn, an architect working for SBER, described the shipyards as a “village,” with brick structures with heavy timber posts and machine buildings built in the 1920s that have a Bauhaus industrial design aesthetic with skylights and 20-foot-tall windows.
While preservationists might be pushing the SBER plan, Ikea has been in contract for the 23-acre site for almost two years and last week filed its application with the city, along with a hefty, 500-page environmental impact statement, as part of the public review process.
In addition to creating new jobs in Red Hook, an area of high unemployment. Ikea is planning a 6.3-acre public waterfront esplanade and plans to lease four piers to the neighboring Erie Basin Barge Port.
Ikea also promises to maintain a dry dock, convert an existing pier into a public area and maintain five gantry cranes on the site so visitors can learn about working-waterfront activities.
“Ikea has worked closely with both city and state historic preservation officials since the beginning of this project and we have determined that the Civil War-era structure currently located on the New York Shipyard site has deteriorated to a point that its re-use in the Ikea Red Hook project is not feasible,” said Pat Smith, project director for Ikea Red Hook.
Ikea land use attorney Jesse Masyr also blasted what he called a “so-called ‘alternative’ proposal,” saying it “exists solely as a fantasy rendering drawn over other people’s property.”
“There is absolutely nothing ‘real’ about this supposed alternative,” added Masyr.
Streuver said his company has contacted Ikea officials and offered to help them find an alternative site.
The Ikea application will be reviewed by Community Board 6, Borough President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. The community board’s Landmarks/Land Use committee has scheduled the first public hearing of the process for
Thursday, May 13, at 6 pm at the PAL Miccio Center, at 110 W. Ninth St. in Red Hook.
If Ikea is approved by the city, Streuver said, his plan for the Red Hook waterfront is dead. But he said he is not throwing in the towel just yet and still hopes the city will turn down Ikea.
Said Streuver, “Our argument is that if you believe in [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s vision for the waterfront, [Ikea] is not the right thing.”
SBER does not currently own any of the land it wants to develop.