Drug buy? W’burg groups bid on Pfizer properties

Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, has completed its pullout of Williamsburg now that three more lots on the Southside have been put up for sale.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Six Brooklyn community groups have offered to buy Pfizer’s last remaining properties in Williamsburg for $10 million in hopes of building hundreds of units of below market-rate housing.

A conglomeration of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvessant neighborhood organizations — including St. Nicks Alliance, Los Sures, United Jewish Care, Churches United for Fair Housing, Bridge Street Development Corporation, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation — hopes to team up with Gowanus developer Monadnock Construction to acquire two vacant Wallabout Street lots near Harrison Avenue and construct as many as 840 residences.

The pharmaceutical giant put the block-long parcels the market late last year without disclosing a price, flustering some neighborhood leaders who hoped the company would make a deal to develop housing before shopping them.

Both properties are currently zoned for industrial use and are extensively polluted, but developers have already had luck with other Pfizer properties, snatching up the drug maker’s longtime headquarters on Flushing Avenue and turning it into a food manufacturing mecca.

St. Nicks Alliance director Michael Rochford believes the scale of the lots makes them an attractive investment.

“These parcels are among the largest and last pieces of vacant undeveloped land in North Brooklyn,” said Rochford. “The zoning has to be changed and that’s a risk and the land has to be cleaned because it’s a brownfield, but we believe it can be brought to standards for affordable housing.”

A Pfizer spokesman did not comment on the bid for land his company has owned for more than a century, but said the pill-makers intend to keep the interests of the community in mind as it plans its future.

Neighborhood leaders, including Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Williamsburg), applauded the proposal.

“I believe Pfizer should commit and invest in the community that was home to it for many years,” said Reyna. “It should look to build a comprehensive plan alongside the community.”

The properties are within an area of Williamsburg known as the Broadway Triangle, bordered by Flushing Avenue, Broadway, and Union Avenue — just west of the city-owned industrial properties that have become one of Brooklyn’s most controversial urban planning debates.

Nearly 40 community groups filed a lawsuit against the city and two developers, halting a plan for the Broadway Triangle that calls for 1,895 units of housing — 900 of them below-market rate — on that 31-acre plot of land.

Some of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit are part of the new bid to put housing in South Williamsburg, but St. Nicks Alliance’s housing director Frank Lang, whose group was not among those that sued the city, said the developments could complement each other.

“The city wants housing,” said Lang. “They’re rezoning all kinds of areas. Why wouldn’t the city want to get this done?”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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