Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint residents are bracing for the end of their neighborhoods as they know them in the wake of three major development projects winning Council and community board approvals this week, opening the way for the construction of thousands of new high-rise apartments.
On Tuesday, the Council voted 48 to 1, with only Councilman Charles Barron (D–East Flatbush) opposed, to approve key elements of the Greenpoint Landing project, planned for the waterfront where Newtown Creek meets the East River, as well as the Rheingold development, slated for an industrial area of Bushwick. The overwhelming support for the projects came despite outcry from residents in both neighborhoods who say the proposed complexes are monstrosities that will overwhelm the infrastructure of their stomping grounds and drive the rents sky-high.
“All this big development is going to change the face and dynamics of the whole community,” said Community Board 1 chair Chris Olechowski. “Ten years from now, these neighborhoods are going to be unrecognizable.”
The “Yea” vote for crucial aspects of Greenpoint Landing flies in the face of the recommendation of Olechowski’s panel, which serves Williamsburg and Greenpoint and voted against the project citing a distrust of the developer. The Rheingold redevelopment already had the seal of approval of Bushwick’s Community Board 4, but residents accused the panel of treachery for holding a special summer meeting just to discuss and vote on the project.
For Greenpoint Landing, the city’s giveaway of two city-owned lots in the project’s footprint cleared the way for the Park Tower Group to build 10 towers holding as many as 5,500 apartments, most of which would have been allowed under current zoning.
The Rheingold project calls for 977 residential units in eight 10-story buildings off of Flushing Avenue.
The Council negotiated perks for each community as a condition of approving the projects. Along with Greenpoint Landing, the neighborhood will get $3-million from the company toward building Newtown Barge Park, a city-funded transportation study to determine how to improve transit in the area, and $25,000 per year to keep a new, in-development middle school open as an after-hours community space. The developer also agreed that the 431 below-market-rate apartment units in the compound will stay that way forever.
The Rheingold developer promised Bushwick a grab bag of goodies, including seven lots for a non-profit company to turn into affordable housing, $360,000 for upgrades to nearby elementary schools PS 120 and PS 145, and $350,000 for sprucing up Green Central Knoll Park. Bushwick was also promised more green space and $50,000 for programming at a community center inside the development.
But residents say the perks do not compare to the havoc the new neighbors will wreak on the world outside their windows.
“This is going to be a nightmare,” said Greenpointer Laura Risi Hofman. “The neighborhood is not prepared for it.”
Also on Tuesday, Community Board 1 voted to approve developer Two Trees Management’s vision for an apartment tower town around Williamsburg’s former Domino Sugar factory at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. The board’s vote is strictly advisory, but it sets the tone for the rest of the review process, especially since the retooled version of the proposal has seen a lot more support this time around.