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Under pressure, Walentas scales back 38 Water St., near Brooklyn Bridges

The Brooklyn Paper

Following community outcry over a proposed 16-story building adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge, developer David Walentas unveiled plans this week to scale back part of his residential and commercial project.

The new plans, presented to the Department of City Planning Monday afternoon, include shaving the building height down to eight stories along a stretch of the property closest to the bridge.

But opponents of the project say the changes don’t go far enough.

“The bulk and density is still too great for that location,” said Gerry Vasisko, an architect and planner who heads the land use committee of the Brooklyn Heights Association and attended Monday’s meeting.

Earlier this year, both Community Board 2 and Borough President Marty Markowitz voted down the proposed project, which is currently winding its way through the city Uniform Land Use Review Process in seeking a zoning change for the site, currently reserved for manufacturing.

Critics called the project “ill-conceived” and out of scale with existing low-rise buildings. They are concerned it would cast shadows on the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park commercial and recreational development.

The largest objection is that the new building — which would rise at the 38 Water St. site that is now home to the single-story St. Ann’s Warehouse performance space — might obstruct views of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, just 70 feet away.

In order to address those issues, Walentas, a principal of Two Trees Management, which is largely responsible for converting DUMBO from a decaying industrial neighborhood to a thriving residential and commercial hotspot, went back to the drawing board.

In the new version, the tallest part of the building would be set back 132 feet, while the rest of the building would stand flush with the bridge overpass.

The proposed building also calls for 8,000 square feet of retail space along Water Street, an 8,000-square-foot performance space that would be rented to a non-profit arts group, and a 327-space public parking garage with an entrance and exit along Front Street.

To maintain roughly the same number of apartment units, Walentas would add a penthouse tower, reduce ceiling heights and the overall size of each apartment, and cut the community space down to 3,000 square feet.

Those changes would allow him to reduce the overall residential area to 190,000 square feet from the proposed 200,000 square feet.
City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden praised the changes.

“The developers have come a long way in cutting a big chunk of the building off,” said Burden who called the changes a good compromise.

Other planning commissioners said the building should be pushed back even further and stressed the importance of maintaining open views.

In its recommendations, CB2 passed a resolution in May asking that future proposals for the site be lower than the Brooklyn Bridge roadway and be consistent with the adjacent buildings.

“We’re trying to find a solution where we can get an economic building approved that’s responsive to the community’s concerns,” said Jed Walentas, a principal of Two Trees Management and son of David.

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to cast its vote at a public meeting at the City Planning offices at 22 Reade St. at 1 pm on Aug. 25.

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