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Walentas ‘Dock’ project sails ahead — though foes still say it would ruin Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Paper
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A local community board resoundingly approved a controversial plan on Wednesday night for an 18-story building that opponents say would forever ruin views of the fabled Brooklyn Bridge, but supporters say will bring a much-needed public middle school and affordable housing to DUMBO.

Community Board 2 voted 30–7 to approve the development, which is slated to include 65 below-market-rate units and the 300-desk middle school on Dock Street. The vote came less than a month after the board’s land-use committee rejected the project in a bitter 7–6 vote.

Developer Jed Walentas beamed after Wednesday night’s win, the first good news that he and his father David have had on the project, whose earlier version was shelved four years ago amid community opposition. The current plan calls for the tallest part of the building to be further away from the bridge, plus adds the affordable housing and middle school as sweeteners.

“The project has enormous benefit now, and it is the right project at the right time in the right site,” he said. “I think we listened to why people rejected the project the first time and we made appropriate adjustments.”

But opponents say that the building height would still ruin views of the bridge, though the 183-foot structure is comparable to others in the former warehouse district between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.

Project opponent and community board member Sidney Meyer reminded his colleagues that middle schools could be built elsewhere, but the bridge is permanent.

“It’s a mistake to build anything that close to the bridge — it’s an icon for the entire city of New York,” Meyer said. “A school can be built somewhere else.”

The city has rejected siting the much-desired school anywhere but the Dock Street site — and has already set aside $43 million to build the interior spaces. By providing the space, Walentas would save the city roughly $50 million in school construction costs.

That won the day for CB2 member Lincoln Restler.

“When we look at what [the community board] has asked for in the past, the need for a middle school tops that list,” Restler said, pointing to additional benefits of a 400-car garage so near to the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The project goes to Borough President Markowitz next, and will eventually move to the City Council, where members often defer to the local councilmember. Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) opposes the project on the grounds that it blocks the “experience” of the historic span.

But Yassky’s colleague Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) strongly supports the project because the community “can’t afford to miss” the opportunity for the middle school.

It’s unclear how that battle will play out in the full Council, a body that frequently supports development. Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens), who chairs the council’s zoning committee, said at an anti-Dock Street rally on Jan. 11 that he would vote against the project because it ruins bridge views.

But when The Brooklyn Paper recently walked the streets of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, they discovered that the only direct views of the bridge that would be blocked by the Walentas building are at York and Front streets — a view that is not popular with tourists because Manhattan itself cannot be seen in the distance. The much more crowded tourist vistas from the Fulton Ferry Landing would be virtually unchanged by the Walentas building, which would rise behind the bridge’s spider-like cable array.

And while pedestrians heading from Brooklyn to Manhattan will have their view of the Manhattan Bridge and East River obscured, shutterbugs need only walk a dozen more feet toward Manhattan and the blocked view clears completely.

The borough president’s hearing on the project will be on Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 4 to 9 pm, at Brooklyn Borough Hall [209 Joralemon St., between Adams and Court streets, (718) 802-3856].

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

Jeremy from Bushwick says:
You want a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, buy the land right in front of it. You know, like Walentas did. If you want unending, stunning vistas, live in a penthouse or move out of the city, a place where we build densely.

Rich people are truly whiners.
Jan. 15, 2009, 11:36 am
ned from dumbo says:
Yet again another large developer buys off local politicians and press, tricks the simple locals with talk of schools and jobs and then drops a giant turd on a neighborhood. I'm reminded of the play the Music Man where where local folks hand over their money to a huckster who promises them a shiny new marching band. Or the old joke where a schemer sells the Brooklyn Bridge. Only this time it's true and the Bridge has been sold. You rubes deserve what you get. Suckers all of you.
Jan. 15, 2009, 11:53 am
kim from BH says:
what a shame.
Jan. 15, 2009, 12:19 pm
Beavis from Bklyn Hghts says:
The Brooklyn Bridge truly is for sale. All you need is some $$$ for lobbyists and throw a carrot.
Jan. 15, 2009, 8:48 pm
ned from dumbo says:
Jed is smiling because he knows he just put one over on everyone and he can't believe his good luck and great fortune! Suckaas! "they are letting us take everyone's view of the bridge" Tee Hee Hee.
Jan. 16, 2009, 11:45 am
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
300 desks means 300 students. 450 would have been more of an impact to the community and the city children.
Jan. 16, 2009, 8:35 pm
Peter from Dumbo says:
The views from 70 Washington and 30 Main were not going to last forever. it was in the prospectus when those buildings open. it's not a surprise !! 90% of Tribeca and Soho don't have views either. wecome to 2009.
Jan. 16, 2009, 9:22 pm
Stop it from Bklyn USA says:
Stop it with the 70 Washington views ruse already. OK? This is about thousands of locals, NYers, and visitors who care about the Brooklyn Bridge. Not just one set of views from one group of condo owner.
Jan. 17, 2009, 1:17 am
davoyager from BH says:
The DOE has rightly decided 300 to 350 kids is manageable and the ideal size for a neighborhood school. In fact educational professionals all over the country are moving away from the old: big school warehousing of kids model and toward a smaller and more manageable population. The reasons for this are many and the results have been good.
Jan. 17, 2009, 1:52 am
John Wayne from Bklyn says:
Is that you Jed?
Jan. 17, 2009, 2:18 am
davoyager from BH says:
Is that you Judy?
Jan. 17, 2009, 3:42 am
Carlo Trigiani from Brooklyn Heights says:
As for size, you cant have it both ways. Complaining about congestion while arguing that a 300 seat middle school is too small to support the community is inconsistent.

As for 300 seats, it is considered ideal by experts in the field. It also meshes well with today's enrollment at PS 8. The second grade today is approximately 85 students.
Jan. 17, 2009, 10:06 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
What about just a school? Oh, right, Bklyn is now; by permission only. Too bad people don't realize their government could work for them in the same manner as they do for wealthy developers. Selling something that is free back to the owners. Oh no, Dumbo.
Jan. 20, 2009, 1:33 am
trace from park slope says:
How many outstanding zoning violations does Two Trees have? Assuming the answer is "LOTS", why does anyone believe this plan will ever be what they say it will be? There is only one Brooklyn Bridge in the world. There are many many people like the Walentas, who promise you everything and then go and do exactly what they want to do, including violating height restrictions, and not building any part of this they don't really care to build. The Brooklyn Paper does seem to be in the bag for the Waletas, for some reason...
Jan. 21, 2009, 5:55 pm
Carlo Trigiani from Brooklyn Heights says:
The Walentases took the eyesore that was the parking lot on the corner or Court and Atlantic and developed it into a pretty attractive building with appropriate retail and a YMCA.

The Walentases gave St. Ann's Warehouse a home rent free for seven years.

David Walentas took a risk and bought properties in DUMBO when no one else wanted them. I'm sure he's paid his share of real estate taxes over the years. These are not flippers - here today, gone tomorrow.

In summary, as developers go, they're pretty good.

Conspiracy theorists and naysayers are tiring. Study and engage. Ask questions. Call TT if you have a problem. I have and have found them forthcoming.
Jan. 21, 2009, 11:48 pm
trace from park slope says:
It is not a conspracy 'theory' to say that the Walentas's habitually build exactly what they want with slight regard to what is reviewed and approved - that is fact. Check the record. And if you think the development on the corner of Court and Atlantic is anything other than a blight, a giant turd, you need to go back to planning school. The Walentas like to make money. Public officials (and newspapers) SHOULD like to look out for the public good, those intangibles such as 'view' and 'historical value' that it is hard to place a $$$ on.
Jan. 22, 2009, 12:07 pm
Matt from FTG says:
Nimby Nimby Nimby
Feb. 26, 2009, 7:36 pm
JoanL from Fulton Ferry says:
No, Matt, Nibbby, Nibbby, Nibbby. Not in Brooklyn Bridge's backyard. Lefrack City Doppleganger right up against the most beautiful iconic bridges in the world is unconscionable. Not to mention the grimieness of the approval process.
Dec. 26, 2013, 11:58 am

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