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Council panel troubled by Dock Street project

The Brooklyn Paper
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Widely hyped concerns that a controversial residential tower and middle school on Dock Street in DUMBO would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge took a back seat at a City Council hearing last Thursday, where politicians focused on charges that the School Construction Authority improperly colluded with the project’s developer.

Councilmembers slammed the city’s school building agency over internal e-mails that cast doubt about whether or not the city actually considered other sites for a public middle school, which is a key component in David and Jed Walentases’ proposed 18-story, 300-unit building in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) attacked SCA Vice President Ross Holden over a Dec. 8 e-mail sent from Lorraine Grillo to Kenrick Ou that seems to indicate that the agency was only humoring Dock Street opponent Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) when the politician suggested an alternate site for a public school at 205 Water St.

“Now I know that if we don’t do the Walentas project that we don’t really want to do anything else over there, but I think we have to follow up on this just so we can say that the Walentas project is such a good deal,” the memo said.

Gioia pounced on it. “I have to say, this is the most disturbing document or e-mail that I have seen in my eight years in Council,” he said.

“This is not how government is supposed to work,” he added.

Holden maintained that the document needs to be taken in context with other SCA memos, but he was unable to immediately provide the Council’s Zoning and Franchises committee with those e-mails.

He also disputed allegations that the agency did not investigate other sites.

“We prepared our alternative site analysis as we would anywhere else,” said Holden. “No one at all came to the SCA with a recommendation that would provide us with the … school at minimal costs.”

But when asked how much money the city would save by taking a floor in the Walentases’ pre-built “core and shell” on Dock Street, Holden was unable to give an exact figure.

That answer didn’t please Yassky.

“This is a betrayal of the public interest, and I think reason enough alone to disregard the schools argument here,” he said.

The five-hour long hearing before the Council committee also drew scores of project supporters and opponents who rehashed familiar arguments for and against the proposed development.

Opponents objected to the development’s location below the Brooklyn Bridge and claimed that the 18-story portion of it would forever mar views of the fabled span, while supporters touted the Dock Street project’s proposed units of affordable housing, public middle school and parking.

Before the lengthy hearing, some 50 supporters of the project rallied on the stairs of City Hall with project booster Councilwoman Leticia James (D-Fort Greene).

“I’m not a pro-development person, but I have weighed this project … and come out in support of it because of the greater good,” said James.

The rally came two days after Dock Street builder Jed Walentas countered the growing list of celebrity Dock Street opponents including Ken Burns, Gabriel Byrne, Helen Hunt, Gary Sinise and David McCullough by issuing a public letter in hopes of making the stars “aware of some of the objective facts it appears [they] may not have been provided about the project.”

After the hearing, Walentas told The Brooklyn Paper that he believes his project will pass a full Council vote — the final hurdle hunt in his hunt for a zoning resolution that would allow him to build residential apartments on a site currently reserved for manufacturing or hotels.

“It went fine,” said Walentas, whose project has already gained the support of the Borough President Markowitz (who called for a taller and thinner building) and the City Planning Commission (which suggested a slightly shorter building with other minor alternations). “We have been, and we continue to be, very confident about the outcome.”

A review by The Brooklyn Paper earlier this year revealed that very few public views of the bridge would be obscured by the tower.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
More laughably non-objective reporting from the Murdoch owned (and recent Two Trees business tenant) The Brooklyn Paper--winner two years in a row of the Bought and Paid For Local Press Award, sponsored by the NYC Real Estate Developers Association
May 22, 2009, 10:21 am
judah spechal from Bed- Stuy says:
Council Woman James is the most confusing politicians in NYC. How do you oppose ATlantic Yards yet support a project that will change what the world have been accustom to at the Brooklyn Bridge. I can only hope the voters show you the door in November. Has any reporter ask her about this?
May 22, 2009, 12:04 pm
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Tish James support out of context overdevelopment and giveaways to developers OUT of her district (Dock St.), but crows the City Council Website about her "Victories" INSIDE her district:

From the NYC Council website:

Another victory for James came with the City approval of rezoning 99 blocks of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene in July 2007. The architectural integrity of Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods has been a high priority for James since her election. Highlights of the rezoning include reinforcing the established row-house character by preventing out-of-scale development adjacent to historic districts. Also, a three to four-story height limit will be put in place where low-rise housing predominates within the zone.
May 22, 2009, 3:39 pm
bob from heights says:
say what you will about how the dock street proposal might impact on the "view" of the brooklyn bridge (although the brooklyn paper's coverage seems to have debunked that issue) … no way is it "overdevelopment" or a "giveaway" … the dock street proposal is quite in line with what exists in dumbo, and unlike ratner at atlantic yards, walentas is not asking for hundreds of millions is taxpayer handouts.
May 22, 2009, 6 pm
Fpurth Estate from DUMBO says:
The Brooklyn Paper is useful for only one thing- protect the floor when I am painting.
May 22, 2009, 7:35 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Atlantic Yards shares simliar "conflict of interest" issues, but it is also the largest proposed and tax subsidized to the tune of 2 Billion development in the history of histories ... which is different than one building slated to be generally in line with the existing area.
May 22, 2009, 9:10 pm
JLC from Fulton Ferry Landing says:
bob from heights (Friday, May 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm)
It is definitely overdevelopment and quite possibly a giveaway (jury's out on the later). The Dock Street proposal is not in line with what exists in the southern end of DUMBO, and most definitely is not in context with what exists throughout Fulton Ferry Landing Historic District. It would loom over the historic Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse, throw the very narrow Water Street into darkness and cast a long shawdow over the Empire Stores, the Tobacco Warehouse and the Empire Fulton Ferry Park. As for how taxpayer handouts compare with those sought by Ratner for the Atlantic Yards, I can't say, but it would be interesting to see how, on a pro rata basis, based on relative square feet, the benefits Two Trees would get for public bond financing compares with the benefits extended to Ratner.

Friday, May 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm
May 23, 2009, 8:07 pm
JLC from Fulton Ferry Landing says:
Publius from Bklyn Heights (Friday, May 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm) Excellent point!
May 23, 2009, 8:08 pm
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Unlike the shill Brooklyn Paper, The NY Times yet again publishes a fair article about the Dock St/DUMBO story: http://tinyurl.com/pora3b
May 23, 2009, 9:44 pm
JLC from Fulton Ferry Landing says:
Found this great point made by fulton ferry res
on May 22, 2009, 1:05 pm at http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/9802#comment-185355
a point partly echoed by Publius' Friday, May 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm post here.

"So, Tish believes that out-of-scale development has no place in HER district, but has no qualms about putting it elsewhere. And Dock Street DUMBO would border not one, but two historic districts, DUMBO and Fulton Ferry."

Thank you, fellow Fulton Ferry resident, for pointing out the double-standard in James' positions on historic districts outside of the one she represents. I add that Dock Street DUMBO would be right smack between the two arms of the Fulton Ferry Landing Historic District.
May 24, 2009, 10:13 am
daniel from France says:
Good story,

Hit me up man....

Daniel
May 24, 2009, 1:05 pm
Pat K from South Slope says:
Did this guy Daniel make a wrong turn down the street or something? Hit me up man.. Hey slick we're talking about the Bridge and Building here...

You entered the wrong act in the play.
May 26, 2009, 9:49 pm
davoyager from bh says:
Boy oh boy Publawyer is really making his money this week.
To quote a great play written by and performed by the kids of PS 8:
Cha, Cha, Cha, Cha, Ching!
May 29, 2009, 10:55 pm

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