Greenpoint tower trouble

Helen Kersten, right, voices her disapproval of the plans for the Greenpoint Landing at a meeting on Tuesday night. Greenpointers say the project is a recipe for disaster with high rents, Superfund frontage, and strained infrastructure.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A humongous housing development planned to rise in Greenpoint at the confluence of Newtown Creek and the East River is going to force up rents, endanger new residents, and strain neighborhood resources to the breaking point, neighbors said at a raucous meeting on Tuesday.

The community board meeting was the first public hearing on the Greenpoint Landing project, which will include 10 towers and as many as 5,500 apartments on 22 acres. Many of the 250 who attended the packed meeting came to let developers and local pols know that they are not happy about the idea of a high-rise village in their backyard. One of the most vocal opponents was Helen Kersten, who said the development’s pricey rents would push her out of the neighborhood where her family has lived for generations.

“You are going to put 10,000 people at the end of this neighborhood. You are coming here and not even giving us a gift,” Kersten yelled. “You have insulted us.”

Other attendees demanded to know how the city could allow the developer to build on a creek that has been designated a Superfund site.

“For the health of the residents, I request that we do not build on the creek until we clean it up,” said neighbor Darren Lipman.

But development advocates say that Greenpointers have nothing to worry about and that they will get plenty out of the deal.

A spokeswoman for Park Tower Group, the company hoping to build the complex, told the rowdy crowd that 1,382 units will be set aside for affordable housing and emphasized that the towers will come with a terraced park, which she said will repel toxic creek water in the event of a flood; a kayak launch for calmer times; a dog park; and walkways allowing non-residents to reach the noxious waterfront.

Jack Hammer, director of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, acquiesced to hecklers’ demands that he reveal rents for the affordable units, saying that rents would run from $560 to $1,290 for a studio apartment, $600 to $1,610 for a one-bedroom, and $1,100 to $1,925 for a two-bedroom.

The promises did little to placate the angry Greenpointers who interrupted tower boosters throughout the night.

“This is going to take more cops, firemen, transportation, sewers and power,” Erica Matechak said. “How will this be supported?”

The Greenpoint Landing project was made possible by the 2005 rezoning of miles of waterfront land that had previously been zoned for industrial uses. Other projects piggybacking on the new rules include the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, the 77 Commercial St. tower in Greenpoint, as well as projects already built including Northside and the Edge, the glass condo compounds on the Williamsburg waterfront. Neighborhood activists have condemned the rezoning, saying it has only helped developers build mega-projects that are too big for their neighborhoods and have driven up housing prices.

The community board will announce its vote on the project sometime in the next month, but the board’s vote is strictly advisory and the city has final say. In the past, controversial projects that the board has shot down, such as the rezoning and the original Domino Sugar Factory project, all gained city approval.

The Park Tower Group still needs the city to sell a waterfront lot that is currently being used to store Metropolitan Transit Authority vehicles, and it is counting on a zoning variance to let the towers rise.

The development company’s spokeswoman said construction should begin in the first quarter of 2014 if all the approvals go through.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

Plans for the Greenpoint Landing, shown to Greenpointers at a Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday night.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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