Opponents of a planned high-rise near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO sued to stop the project this week on the grounds that the city colluded with the developer and allowed him to expand the perimeter of his project site to take advantage of zoning perks.
The suit by the nascent DUMBO Neighborhood Foundation names the Department of City Planning, the City Planning Commission, the City Council, the Department of Education, and the School Construction Authority as guilty of improperly allowing the development company Two Trees Management to win a zoning change that paves the way for a planned 17-story project that includes a public middle school as a sweetener to seal the deal.
“There was a concerted effort to advance this project at any cost,” said Gus Sheha, a plaintiff in the case. “When you connect the dots, it’s apparent that people didn’t do their due diligence for a reason: they wanted to pass this.”
Coming just weeks after the release of documents revealing that the development’s promised middle school may have failed to meet city standards when the project was approved earlier this year, the suit alleges that the city officials “failed to fulfill their respective obligations to conduct a full, fair and objective examination of the appropriateness of including a middle school as part of the Dock Street Project as well as to conduct a full, fair and objective comparison of alternative middle school sites.”
“All evidence points towards a pattern of cooperation (if not collusion) between [the city] and Two Trees,” continued the complaint, which also cited the city’s flip flop over the need for a new middle school in the neighborhood.
The DUMBO group also accused the city of overlooking zoning regulations that could have halted developer Jed Walentas (pictured), whose project, opponents claim, will forever mar public views of the Brooklyn Bridge, though a Brooklyn Paper investigation revealed otherwise.
The group contends that Dock Street should not have qualified for as a “General Large Scale Development” — a jargony designation that gives developers of plots larger than 1-1/2 acres additional flexibility “in order to achieve a superior site plan.” But the key requirement is that all of the included plots are “designated as a tract, all of which is to be used, developed or enlarged as a unit.”
The suit claims that in order to reach the 1-1/2–acre threshold, Two Trees included properties that it doesn’t intend to raze — namely, a parcel across the street that currently houses the beloved Galapagos Art Space.
“The Galapagos Art Space is not contiguous and it’s not coming down, so it is not contributing to the new development,” said Sheha.
The suit goes on to contend that if the Galapagos plot — which is within 800 feet of the waterfront — is considered part of the Dock Street development, then the entire project should have been forced to comply with “waterfront block” regulations, which were not studied throughout the city’s land use review.
Two Trees claimed the suit was bunk.
“We complied with all of the legal and environmental requirements and properly obtained all necessary approvals from the city,” the company said in a statement.