With Community Board 1 having weighed in on what could be 5,000 new housing units headed for the Greenpoint waterfront, it was the Borough President’s turn last night to hop on board the project’s lengthy civic vetting process.
Residents, city officials and representatives of 77 Commercial Street filled the Borough President’s courtroom and gave testimony before members of Marty Markowitz’s office.
As throughout the entirety of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) — which decides the fate of additional green space, air rights and housing that developers are requesting for their already sizable plans — comments prepared by residents focused on placing the needs of the Greenpoint community on equal, if not superior, footing with those of the City and developers.
In footage captured by New York Shitty, Greenpointers reemphasized their insistence that developers not get their way unless the extra construction reflects the needs of the local population — which to them means: lowered affordable-housing rents to reflect the actual income of local residents, claimed to be significantly lower than the city-wide Average Median Income of more than $50,000; equal access for low-income and market-rate units to amenities in the residential towers; better neighborhood infrastructure, including transportation and fire stations, to compensate for what would be a significant population growth; and the full development of available park space.
In response to questions from the Borough President’s representatives about lowering the AMI, a lawyer representing 77 Commercial Street, Jay Segal, suggested creating a group formed by members of the local Community Board, City Council, Borough President and Mayor’s offices to educate the developer about available programs they can apply for that would help them lower rents. “We’d like to proceed vigorously with the formation of this group to get the levels as close as we would want, as is economically feasible,” said Segal. “Our goal is to commit to it by the time the [City] Council is ready to vote on [the project].”
While the community’s comments came with a somewhat begrudging acceptance of the project (the majority of which is pre-approved under 2005 zoning changes meant to enable more green space and affordable housing in North Brooklyn) others argued that not a square foot of additional development should be granted.
“I come here to reach out to you to say, ‘No,’” said lifelong Greenpoint resident Helen Kersten. “They don’t have the air rights. Don’t sell them. Build your 15 stories,” said Kersten, referring to the “as-of-right” permitted height, rather than the 40 requested stories by 77 Commercial Street developers. “We don’t have lawyers, we’re not lawyers. We’re your average Joe and we clean up after you.”
Community Board 1 Chair Christopher Olechowski had to provide testimony at another event that conflicted with the waterfront development hearing last night, so was unable to present his prepared comments; but he described his message to Bedford + Bowery as a call to local Polish residents to organize and demand that a percentage of new housing be allocated to them. So far, he said, 300 signatures have been added to a petition to this end; he hopes that number will grow to thousands by the time the City Council votes on the project. That petition, however, is controversial – and called by some to be discriminatory and illegal.
Councilman Levin was present last night but did not speak. Levin’s Legislative Director Rami Metal said the newly reinstated representative concentrated last night on listening to what the community wanted instead. “Obviously [Councilman Levin] is taking the concerns of the people in the community very seriously, but he is going to let the Borough President do his job without any interference and looks forward to his recommendations,” Metal wrote.
Whatever the Borough President’s recommendations are, they should be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks before they are shipped off to the City Planning Commission and, eventually, the City Council, for the projects final seal of approval.