Advocates oppose changes to development near Transmitter Park
by Benjamin Fang
Jan 17, 2017 | 145 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Park advocates are organizing against a proposed “fishbowl” lobby for a new residential development near Transmitter Park in Greenpoint. The Friends of Transmitter Park group voiced opposition to the changes at 13-15 Greenpoint Avenue, which borders the park’s eastern side. Its developer, BNS Real Estate, wants to have the building’s entrance directly facing the park. For Konstancja Maleszynska, Greenpoint parks project coordinator for the Open Space Alliance (OSA), the fear is changing how the park is used, looks and feels. “The overarching concern is the layout of the lot,” she said. “The development will share a lot line with the park and no intervening street or sidewalk. “When you think about it, you’d be hard-pressed to find another park that shares a border with a building,” she added. The lot next to Transmitter Park is currently zoned residential, meaning the developer can build as-of-right without community approval. Its first design wanted two slimmer towers, one at 14 stories and the other at seven stories. The new proposed design, if approved, would only be 11 stories, but would be wider. It would also have windows facing the park and an “extended elevated portico” extending along the wall, Maleszynska said. She said the lobby would make it look “as if the park were its front lawn or yard.” “That blurring of the private-public space is very concerning to us,” Maleszynska said. “It’s a loss of privacy for park goers. Many people don’t feel comfortable with losing the border there.” Last Tuesday, Community Board 1 voted against the rezoning. Next month, the borough president’s office will also vote on the proposed changes, though both votes are advisory and nonbinding. At the public meeting, Maleszynska said park advocates presented a list of modifications that the developer should consider. Instead of a fishbowl lobby entrance, Maleszynska said they wanted a 13-foot barrier with some greenery to separate the two entities. While the Friends of Transmitter Park group has not been approached by developers to work out an agreement, Maleszynska said she hopes BNS Real Estate heard their suggestions. “We’re hoping for a conversation to happen at some point between us and them,” she said. Maleszynska said advocates understand that developments are coming and that they’re “a fact of life.” But she said in this neighborhood, which lacks open space, protecting existing parkland is important. “This is not a generic protest against any development, this is a very specific situation in which a community that has two parks tends to lose some of the quality of that green space that provides a respite,” Maleszynska said. “That’s why we want to preserve the quality of the green space that we have, which is really young and new. It stands to serve residents for hundreds of years to come.” She said the fight isn’t one between old and new residents, rather parks are democratic spaces everyone is welcome to enjoy. “It’s not to say that older residents have more rights than newer residents to use the park,” Maleszynska said. “It’s just that everybody will suffer if the park loses its current status and condition.” Next steps include a meeting with Councilman Stephen Levin, and Maleszynska said the group hopes to find out more about the possible impact of the new design. “We hope for it to be a world-class park that everybody does come to visit,” she said, “but that it doesn’t become a front lawn for development.”
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Councilman Stephen Levin praises Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, for his "outrageously ambitious" plan.
Councilman Stephen Levin praises Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, for his "outrageously ambitious" plan.
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Greenpoint pol wants traffic light at busy intersection
by Benjamin Fang
Jan 17, 2017 | 98 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A young boy was hit by a car at the intersection of Nassau Avenue and Russell Street in Greenpoint, prompting a local elected official to call for safety improvements. The boy was hit on January 6 and suffered minor injuries. The driver was issued a summons for outdated insurance. “I am happy to hear the young boy’s injuries were not too serious,” Lentol said in a statement. However, Lentol said the incident speaks to the safety concerns many locals have expressed about highly trafficked Nassau Avenue. “With the community growing, the BQE under construction and the filming that occurs, traffic is dispersed to new and unfamiliar patterns for drivers,” Lentol said, “and we naturally see higher chances of accidents.” In his letter to DOT, Lentol asked for a traffic study of Nassau Avenue between Russell Street and McGuinness Boulevard, and requested a traffic light at the intersection. “Several years ago, I requested a traffic light at this particular intersection, and a DOT investigation concluded that only an all-way stop sign was warranted,” he wrote. “Now is the time to revisit this intersection.” Lentol noted that the intersection is within a half-mile of three schools and is on the northeastern corner of McGolrick Park, which has a playground. “I cannot stress enough the importance of additional traffic control devices at this location, and also in the immediate area of this intersection,” Lentol wrote. “The safety of my constituents is of my utmost concern, especially when it involves children.” According to DOT data, as of November 30, 2016, there were eight injuries at that exact spot since 2009. There were no traffic fatalities. In an email, a DOT spokesperson said the agency had not received Lentol’s letter, but was looking forward to working with him to review the conditions at the intersection. “In 2013, DOT conducted an intersection control study at Nassau Avenue and Russell Street and installed an all-way stop at the intersection,” the spokesperson confirmed.
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Mayor: affordable housing progress highest in quarter-century
by Benjamin Fang
Jan 17, 2017 | 111 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman Stephen Levin praises Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, for his "outrageously ambitious" plan.
Councilman Stephen Levin praises Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, for his "outrageously ambitious" plan.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration announced last Thursday that their ambitious goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years is both on budget and ahead of schedule. According to city officials, the administration financed the preservation of 15,119 units and the creation of 6,844 affordable apartments in 2016, the most in the past 25 years. That brings the three-year total to 41,652 units preserved and 20,854 new apartments constructed overall. With 62,506 units preserved or created, the mayor said that will be enough to help 162,000 New Yorkers “for whom the question of affordability is now answered.” “Housing is the number one expense in people’s lives. If you can lighten the burden with housing, then everything else is possible,” de Blasio said. “If people can afford housing, they can afford to live here. If they can’t afford housing, the ballgame is over.” The mayor delivered the updates at Monsignor Alexius Jarka Hall in Williamsburg, where a $19 million project will preserve 63 affordable apartments for seniors. The current residents there won’t pay more than $1,000 in rent for the next 35 years. The average rent in Williamsburg for a one-bedroom apartment is roughly $3,000 a month. Meanwhile, the project will finance repairs to the building’s roof, exterior, plumbing, electrical system and each apartment’s kitchen. De Blasio praised the seniors, sitting behind him and other government officials at the announcement, for sticking around through a darker period in the neighborhood’s history. “Not long ago, in Williamsburg and in neighborhoods all over the city, people were leaving in droves, and those who were staying were fighting against crime and disinvestment and dealing with vacant lots and boarded-up storefronts,” he said. “Only to find that after all their hard work to bring the community back, they started to get priced out of their own community.” De Blasio also told the story of his own neighborhood’s gentrification process. In the 1980s, when de Blasio arrived in Park Slope as a college intern, people were leaving and there were many vacant lots and empty storefronts. By 1992, when he and wife Chirlane McCray moved in, the neighborhood had “stabilized.” In 1998, when they bought their first house, it was already “getting pricey.” In the 2000s, when they purchased their current home, the neighborhood was already “absolutely unaffordable.” “We feel if we hadn’t bought our house, we would not have been able to stay in the neighborhood,” de Blasio said. “I saw with my own eyes how rapidly – with no rezoning whatsoever – a neighborhood could change and there could be intense displacement and that proceeded to happen all over Brooklyn.” That’s how the mayor came to the conclusion that government intervention is needed to “maximize our change of controlling the situation more favorably” to create affordable housing. He questioned the impact of a free enterprise system which, without regulation, would continuously displace people, he said. The mayor said that was already happening in communities like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Prospect Heights. “We’re going to go in and take every power we have to maximize the creation and preservation of affordable housing in place and ensure that development must include affordable housing,” de Blasio said. “If I had more powers, I would regulate it even more aggressively. If I had the power, some of the shiny glass and steel buildings would not be going up all over New York City.” He gave two examples of neighborhoods – East New York and the Rockaways – that have been historically neglected and treated unfairly. East New York is currently undergoing a rezoning and $300 million investment, while Far Rockaway received $91 million in funding from the city. “The Rockaways pre-Sandy was in an unacceptable situation. Sandy made it worse,” the mayor said. “All of those wrongs that need to be righted in the Rockaways, all of the community benefits they should have gotten decades ago, will come because we know rezonings are one of the fastest, most effective ways to bring things into a community.” De Blasio said the message they wanted to deliver to New Yorkers was that “this is still your city.” Despite numerous protests by advocates who say the program isn’t affordable enough, the mayor touted that 28 percent of those units are for very low and extremely low-income New Yorkers. According to the city’s numbers, the housing program has built or preserved 8,877 units for families making under $24,500, and another 8,369 units for families making between $24,500 and $40,800. More than half of the affordable apartments will go toward families making between $40,800 and $65,250, which the city considers low-income. Roughly two-thirds of the affordable units are preserved, while one-third are being created. So far, the city is falling short of its goal to create 40 percent of the new affordable housing apartments. De Blasio defended the preservation method, which he said gets housing into people’s hands quicker. “The preservation piece of this equation was always the dominant piece. It’s also the faster piece, he said. “A lot of times we are literally preserving people in place in their apartment or rehabbing them and having them come right back in.” But he added that the state’s 421-a tax incentive program for developers will be needed to create more units. Unions and real estate interests are currently negotiating to bring back the program. “I do think the absence of 421-a has been unhelpful to say the least,” the mayor said. “We need it and I am increasingly optimistic that it will be done soon.” In terms of boroughs, Brooklyn will be home to 18,084 of the affordable units, slightly more than the Bronx but fewer than in Manhattan. However, there are only 4,801 affordable units being preserved or created in Queens. The mayor commented on two Queens projects specifically – Flushing West and Sunnyside Yards. De Blasio said there were some concerns that came up with residents and Councilman Peter Koo about Flushing West that needed to be addressed. With Sunnyside Yards, de Blasio said there were still differences to be sorted out with the state. He acknowledged neighborhood concerns, such as congestion and transportation, but still maintained the project would be a big help for Queens. “We’re going to have to have more work done with the community and more work done with the state to get it to be a more immediate opportunity,” de Blasio said. The mayor defended individual neighborhood rezonings, despite early signs that some neighborhoods would be resistant to change. Affordable housing developments were shut down in both Inwood in Manhattan and Sunnyside after significant community opposition. De Blasio said neighborhood rezonings take “serious time commitments,” but they’re just “part of the puzzle” when it comes to affordable housing. “Is every rezoning moving at the optimal pace? No, some go faster, some go slower,” he said. “You have to get it right and you have to listen to stakeholders, and we really believe that a great rezoning is when in the end people feel satisfied with the outcome.” Councilman Donovan Richards added that Far Rockaway is one year into a community engagement process that is ready to enter the next stages of rezoning. The Queens councilman offered praise to the mayor and his administration for the $91 million investment. According to Richards, 300 units of affordable housing are being built in the Rockaways. “We have not seen shovels in the ground in the Rockaways for nearly two decades,” he said. “Thousands of residents have already applied for these units.” The mayor also took a shot at the Bloomberg administration, which promised the north Brooklyn communities a completed Bushwick Inlet Park in the 2005 Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning. It took more than ten years of community advocacy before the city purchased the last parcel to complete the park. “We are not interested in some of the bait-and-switch approaches to rezonings of the past,” de Blasio said, also pointing to the affordable housing commitments that haven’t been met. “We believe that if we make a commitment, it has got to be ironclad.” Councilman Stephen Levin, who represents north Brooklyn, said one of the affordable housing sites that came out of the 2005 rezoning was Greenpoint Landing. Out of 97 affordable units, they had 90,000 applications. “The need out there is so huge that we have to be outrageously ambitious as a city to meet that need,” Levin said. “That commitment is so strong and so clear.” Assemblyman Joseph Lentol also commended the mayor, who said has the “hardest job in America.” “The housing market is so hot, especially in Brooklyn. How do you provide affordable housing for anyone when you have the prices of real estate soar through the roof?” Lentol said. “I don’t envy him or his team, but they are doing a great job. I can’t remember a mayor who has put up instead of shutting up in trying to provide affordable housing.”
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