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New open space for the nabe

The Brooklyn Paper
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Pier 5, the 400-foot pier at N. 5th Street that was built with the Northside Piers waterfront development, opened to the public last Saturday, becoming the first publicly accessible parcel of open space resulting from the private development of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront.

For the next few weeks, the pier will be open every weekend from dawn until dusk until it opens full-time in the spring. It is punctuated by an eight-ton, stainless steel sculpture at the pier’s end by local artist Mark Gibian. Doubling as a canopied bench, the sculpture — comprised of two opposing crescents that are each held together by triangular tresses — is as utilitarian as it is aesthetic.

When the sculpture was first installed in May, developers said the pier would be publicly accessible in the next few weeks. But safety concerns having to do with the continuing construction at Northside Piers pushed back the opening.

“This is extremely exciting. This is the first new waterfront access the community has had in years,” said Stephanie Thayer, an administrator for North Brooklyn Parks and the executive director of the Open Space Alliance.

Thayer recommended area residents “maybe sit and enjoy the river view and have a bite to eat. And fishing is encouraged!”

Northside Piers is the first development to rise on the Williamsburg waterfront as a result of the area’s 2005 rezoning, which enabled residential high-rises on the formerly industrial and manufacturing tract of land. Currently, one of the development’s two 29-story towers is inhabited, while the other remains a year away from completion. In addition to the towers, the development will contain an affordable component and an as-yet-undetermined other building. Overall, it is expected to contain 800 housing units.

As part of the 2005 rezoning, developers were required to provide public open space on their properties as a community give-back after their property values increased with the rezoning. Most developers have turned over management of their open space to the Parks Department.

Also planned in the 2005 rezoning was a continuous waterfront esplanade to be paid for by the developers, another community give-back. But this esplanade will not come to fruition until other waterfront developments are built, a prospect that is years away given the current soft real estate market.

Indeed, Northside Piers has been one of the waterfront developments whose sales have seen the effects of the economic downturn. Along the waterfront, there are expected to be 7,000 new units of housing, a vast supply that far outstrips the current demand in lean economic times.

A December article by Crain’s New York Business reported that Toll Brothers, the developer of Northside Piers, began offering 10 two- and three-bedroom apartments on a rent-to-own basis. According to the most recent reports, only two of those units have been sold.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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