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Is this tower too big for Greenpoint?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A first-time developer is planning to build what would be the tallest luxury condo tower on Greenpoint’s waterfront — but he’s going to need a “radical” change in zoning to get it done.

Jonathan Bernstein’s proposed Cesar Pelli-designed 47-story tower, with a 20-story sister building, cannot be built on his India Street lot under current zoning without demapping a portion of India Street and some of Java Street as well.

Without the demapping, Bernstein would be allowed to build a 40-story building and a 30-story secondary tower — but both would be much less dense and, therefore, less lucrative.

“The building will never get built unless it is big,” Bernstein said, anticipating community opposition to his $623-million project. “Lenders will only lend money if you can build an original and financially viable plan.”

That may have been true a few years ago, but the recession has dried up a lot of financing. And there is a glut of luxury units at still-unfinished projects nearby, such as the Edge, Northside Piers and the still-unstarted 155 West St.

Bernstein had an answer for that, too. “In Brooklyn, housing is an absolute crying need, so we are proceeding as if the economy will improve tomorrow,” he said.

Bernstein said his project would include thousands of square feet of parkland, an amphitheater, a beach, sand dunes, wetlands, two piers for three historical schooners (for educational purposes), and ferry service.

Ward Dennis, the chairman of Community Board 1’s land-use committee, called Bernstein’s plan “a beautifully designed project,” but said he was concerned about how radically the zoning would be altered to accommodate it.

Current zoning allows a total density of 660,000 square feet. Bernstein’s project surpasses that by almost 35 percent.

“The big thing is the question of density,” Dennis told The Brooklyn Paper. “How many people can the G train handle? How many people can the schools handle?”

Bernstein admitted that he would be asking for “radical changes to the zoning,” but said his project was so unique that it would become a gateway to Manhattan and Greenpoint.”

“Every city planner comes across a spot that is overlooked, but is perfect and Greenpoint is inevitable for my plan,” he added.

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

city plan(n)er from williamsburgh says:
I believe the city took the spectacular world-class views and Greenpoint's wonderful-ness into account when it rezoned the neighborhood and Williamsburg to the south. The allowable building densities and heights were greater than many people in the neighborhoods wanted but were approved. Now somebody wants more?

I'll make Bernstein an offer: show us your pro forma so we can see how much all your proposed amenities will cost to build and maintain, as well as how much additional income will be generated by the increased density, and then we can have a conversation.
Nov. 9, 2009, 10:41 am
Sam Jacoby from Williamsburg says:
Dead on arrival or DOA another sleaze bag devloper who will bite off more then he could chew. Doest he see things have turned sour? Is he blind? Hey someone should send him some magnifying glasses.
Nov. 9, 2009, 11:44 am
Peter Fillat from Baltimore says:
Is there really a difference between 40 and 47 stories? What really matters is how it meets the ground and how many jobs it will create.
Nov. 10, 2009, 1:53 pm
John M. from Greenpoint says:
Enough already! These monstrosities on the waterfront are so wrong for these neighborhoods, ruining everything that is wonderful about Brooklyn in general, and Williamsburg and Greenpoint in particular. They can't even finish the heinous design offense in Williamsburg, why move onto ruin yet another neighborhood? The luxury condo glut is a failed experiment that must be ended by the community.
Nov. 10, 2009, 3:24 pm
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:
@Sam,

Yes they are blind, or perhaps worse, perhaps they are mentally incapable of grasping reality and need treatment. But of course, they are worshiped by the 'yes men' that they surround themselves with. Enough with the ugly, out of place condos. It's the same with the dock street project- ugly, poorly planned out and destined to be empty. The economy has turned sour, yet these 'rocket scientists' are so disconnected from reality, that to them, they see dollar signs everywhere. Unfortunately, daddy warbucks was re-elected so get ready for more.
Nov. 11, 2009, 7:05 pm
Georgie from Sunset Park says:
It's not about size of the tower, it's about the motion in the ocean.
Nov. 12, 2009, 8:43 am
Bayof from Biscay says:
Why build sleek when so many Brooklynites prefer the frumpy?
Nov. 12, 2009, 2:59 pm
a city planner from williamsburgh says:
(Hey, BP, way to spell check!)

Yeah, Peter, there really is a difference between 40 and 47 stories, about 20 percent. And residential buildings don't generate a lot of jobs. The super, a couple porters, handful of doormen...that's about it.
Nov. 12, 2009, 4:51 pm
Jane from Park Slope says:
Can't see why everyone is afrain of a (medium) tall building. Sorry, get over it small town folks, you live in a city now and tall buildings are everywhere. Bk will not look like witchita no matter how hard you fight for it.
Nov. 13, 2009, 3:55 am

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