CB2 panel says no to Walentas

The Brooklyn Paper
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A proposal for an 18-story residential building near the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO — a project that includes a coveted public middle school and dozens of units of below-market-rate housing — was dealt its first setback on Saturday morning when a community board committee voted against it on the grounds that it would block some views of the historic span.

By a vote of 7–6, Community Board 2’s land-use committee rejected developer David and Jed Walentas’s request for a zoning change so the pair could build the rental building along Dock Street on the western edge of the former warehouse district that David Walentas converted, one building at a time, into one of Brooklyn’s most desirable residential and artistic communities.

To get their needed zoning change, the Walentases offered to build a middle school at no cost to the city and include 65 units at below-market rates.

But that wasn’t enough of a sweetener for the majority of land-use committee members.

“It’s too tall — that’s the only problem, it’s too tall,” said board member Sophie Truslow.

In a second motion, the board voted 10-1 to recommend that the site actually be rezoned to only allow a 75-foot tall building, instead of the proposed 183-foot structure. It is unclear whether that previously undisclosed proposal could survive a legal challenge from the developer.

If protecting views of the Brooklyn Bridge was the committee’s goal, the vote is confusing, given that the current zoning allows the Walentases to build a far taller building — such as a hotel or other non-apartment building. The developers were seeking a zoning change so the site could include housing, including below-market-rate units, and the middle school.

The Walentas’s construction of the middle school — two floors of raw space — would save the city roughly $50 million in building costs.

That part of the proposal earned the support of another CB2 committee on Thursday, when the youth, education and cultural affairs committee unanimously approved a middle school at the site, if the Walentas’s building eventually gets built.

An attorney for the project, former city councilman Ken Fisher, said after the meeting that the committee’s second resolution — the 75-foot height limit — would make the project “completely unfeasible.”

“It is more likely that we would have to consider a commercial property and there would be no school,” Fisher said.

But Jed Walentas said he would consider slightly redesigning the building within the original rezoning proposal before the full board meets next month.

“If the community asked us to make the building a little shorter, we’d be happy to consider it before the application completes the process,” he said.

The rejection by the CB2 land-use committee sends the proposal to the full board with its first rejection of the city’s uniform land-use review procedure, a winding seven-month process that developers must undergo when seeking zoning changes.

The full community board will vote on the proposed rezoning in January. After that, the project gets reviewed by the borough president, the Department of City Planning, the City Council and the mayor’s office. Three “no” votes and the project is defeated.

City Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) opposes the project on the grounds that its height threatens the Brooklyn Bridge. In the council, members typically defer to the councilmember in whose district a project is proposed.

Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Marc Verebey from DUMBO says:
Three cheers for CB2's vote against this proposal. It's frightening that people would consider this monstrosity near the Brooklyn Bridge. If a middle school is needed that badly, find another location that wouldn't destroy this landmark area.
Dec. 21, 2008, 9:06 am
Louise Silverstein from Dumbo says:
I am not certain that the community understands that:

1. the proposed middle school will only provide 100 spots for each of 3 grades, and

2. those spots will be assigned by lottery.

So - it is possible that very few neighborhood children will actually be able to go to the school.

3. 300 spots are not enough to fill the Brooklyn Hts/Dumbo need, so another middle school will need to be built. A much better alternative would be to expand the proposed P. S. 8 annex to include a middle school. In that case, ALL of the spots would go to our neighborhoods.
Dec. 21, 2008, 9:36 am
da from bklyn hgts says:
The fix is in. A sad day for our children. A short sighted decision to bow to the thuggery that has been demonstrated by the opposition. This committee should be disbanded and reformed with people who actually care about the future of this community. You will get a Trumpstrosity hotel on the site eventually and you will deserve it. No view of the bridge and no education for our children. faa Merry Christmas indeed.

Dec. 22, 2008, 4:26 am
Carlo Trigiani from Brooklyn Heights says:
All due respect to those who oppose the project, I don't believe that the proposed building is a monstrosity or out of character with other buildings in DUMBO (except for the J building). Other than the folks of 70 Washington Street, I don't understand who's views will be blocked?

As for the community understanding the school aspect of the project - PS 8's current second grade class is approximately 80 kids, so 100 per class for the middle school sounds about right. All middle school spots in District 13 are assigned by lottery. Common sense will tell you that if a school is built at Dock Street, most of those slots will be filled with kids from the surrounding neighborhoods. Expanding PS 8 doesn't work for several reasons; too small a footprint, DOE and SCA have said it doesn't make sense, no outdoor space, too much money, easement issues with adjoining property owners.

The CB 2 committee and executive board votes are non-binding. Support for the project in City Hall is strong (except for Mr. Yassky). Claiming victory at this point is a bit pre-mature by either side.

At the end of the day, it's about a school. A much needed and deserved school for children of all races, religions and cultures who will bring a new life to what it already a great neighborhood. Who can argue with that?


Carlo Trigiani
Dec. 22, 2008, 4:34 pm
sue from boerum hill says:
Don't you people read the news? The school construction authority has no intention of buiding a middle school there - it is just a ruse by the mayor to reward developers. The school construction authority has NO INTENTION OR PLAN for the school. So the building would get built, out of context with the community, blocking the vista of the bridge and there will never be a school. Let's just call it a day, abandon this plan for the building, make it a park (because the way the Brooklyn Bridge Park is going there will be five other bridges before anyone will be playing baseball there), and enjoy a beautiful neighborhood - with thanks to David Walentas for investing in it all these years. His son is just getting greedy, with Mayor Mike's help.
April 10, 2009, 8:12 pm

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