DUMBO titans David and Jed Walentas, who pride themselves on having developed the neighborhood as a hub of creative culture, will alter a piece of that culture by converting a loft building filled with artists and non-profits into luxury rental apartments.
Tenants at 25 Washington St. have been told that they must vacate within the next few months so that the Walentases’ Two Trees Management can move forward with what it says is a long-standing plan.
“The expiration dates for the leases at 25 Washington St. are not new,” said company spokeswoman Barbara Wagner. “They were plainly presented in the lease documents signed many years ago.”
But many tenants and neighbors think that the Walentases — who started buying property decades ago, in what was then a forsaken warehouse district, and tranformed it into one of the city’s artiest neighborhoods — are finally cashing in on their carefully engineered creation.
“Our friend Walentas has never cared about building a community. He just wants more money, the maximum amount of money,” said Doreen Gallo, executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, which last butted heads with the Walentases over the development company’s Dock Street project, which includes a school and the neighborhood’s first affordable housing, but was criticized for being too close to the Brooklyn Bridge (see page 3).
Such development, and the conversion on Washington Street, has some thinking that the Walentases have changed.
“This neighborhood was once an oasis for artists and non-profits,” said Adam Rich, the executive director of Kids Creative, a non-profit organization. “The businesses getting kicked out of this building aren’t going to stay in DUMBO.”
Two Trees intends to have approximately 100 rental apartments at the location. The conversion from commercial to residential will begin in spring of 2010.
This move by the developer is not unexpected, and Jed Walentas offered little sympathy to the displaced.
“People’s leases end all of the time,” he said. “People come, people go.”
At 25 Washington, they’re going. And Gallo thinks it’ll hurt the neighborhood that the Walentases basically built.
“We’re disappointed,” said Gallo. “Walentas manipulates the market in whatever way is advantageous to him. He lures businesses in with incentives and then disposes of them when they’re no longer needed.”