After weeks of denials, Con Edison admitted this week that it will demolish a defunct power plant on the South Williamsburg waterfront, leveling a neighborhood landmark to make space for possible high-rise condo development.
Neighbors of the abandoned Kent Avenue power plant knew something was up back in March, when workers started tearing holes into the 102-year-old red brick building, which has been inactive since the late 1990s.
At the time, a Con Ed spokesman said, “We’re just cleaning up the site,” but this week, the energy giant admitted that it will demolish the former plant at the corner of Division Avenue.
“We don’t have any plans yet for anything beyond demolishing the building,” said the spokesman, Bob McGee. “We haven’t decided whether or not we’re going to sell the site.”
Real-estate experts aren’t buying it, saying there’s no way that Con Ed won’t sell the waterfront lot, which is three blocks south of the Schaefer Landing condos.
“It’s going to be a residential development site in the future, there’s no question about it,” said Williamsburg realtor Herbert H. Kliegerman. “This is real estate that someone is going to want to develop, just like the Con Ed site in the East 40s.”
Kliegerman is referring to a nine-acre tract in Manhattan that developer Sheldon Solow bought from Con Ed for $630 million in 2000. Some experts said that the energy company might have gotten even more money for the site if it had delivered it clean, rather than forcing Solow to demolish the old power plant before he could begin his $4-billion high-rise project.
Insiders say Con Ed does not intend to make the same mistake twice.
And that saddens local preservationists.
“We’ve lost a bunch of significant buildings,” said Ward Dennis, spokesman for the Waterfront Preservation Alliance of Greenpoint and Wiliamsburg. “It’s a wonderful building that could provide an opportunity to do some adaptive reuse.”