Build, but listen to us before you do

Build, but listen to us before you do
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Bloomberg leapt at a chance to discuss housing when Community Board 1 Land-Use Committee Chairman Ward Dennis complained about a lack of communication between city agencies and the community.

“We need to do a better job managing the change that has been happening in our neighborhoods,” Dennis said, citing the rapid development that has occurred since a 2005 rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Dennis complained that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been asking developers to come up with plans for new housing in Greenpoint without consulting with the neighborhood first.

“We’ve been left out of the process,” Dennis said.

Bloomberg explained that he had directed the agency to move quickly because housing is such a high priority.

“We can certainly improve the dialogue,” Bloomberg said. “But we need affordable housing now while the economy is still good.”

Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan seconded that.

“We are eager to get as much affordable housing built as possible, and today we have more than 700 units on public sites in the pipeline,” Donovan said. “That is not an excuse for poor communication, and I can’t promise that we’re going to agree on everything. But I can promise that we’ll listen.”

As evidence of that, Donovan pointed out that his agency cancelled and re-wrote a request for proposals at the old Greenpoint Hospital site earlier this year after several concerns were raised.

The hospital complex, which was built in 1914 and remained active until the early 1980s, was a homeless shelter during the Dinkins administration.

In the late 1980s, some of the property was converted into affordable housing and a nursing facility, but the rest of the campus has been abandoned.

Now the city wants to build affordable housing on the site, which is on Skillman Avenue between Kingsland and Debevoise avenues.

When community board members came across the city’s proposal to developers, they noticed some omissions, including a lack of emphasis on senior housing.

That’s exactly the kind of exclusion from the process that Dennis was complaining about, but Donovan used it as an example of his agency working with the community to get it right.