Residents praise affordability of East Williamsburg development at public hearing

An aerial view of the proposed Cooper Park Commons.
Rendering by Architecture Outfit and Magnusson Architecture and Planning

Plans for a large-scale, completely affordable housing development at the former Greenpoint Hospital site in East Williamsburg were met with praise at a public hearing hosted by the City Planning Commission Wednesday morning.

“Local residents like me have fought for proper development of this site, and have worked endless hours and years to see this community plan come to fruition,” said Karen Leader, who has lived in the nearby Cooper Park Houses for over 40 years.

Truly affordable developments are somewhat rare in Brooklyn, as is the enthusiastic community support this development has so far received.

Named Cooper Park Commons (due to the site’s proximity to Cooper Park across the street), the project, located at 288 Jackson St., will consist of four buildings and will be 100 percent affordable. Two of the structures will be newly constructed; the other two will be converted from existing historic buildings.

Rendering by Architecture Outfit and Magnusson Architecture and Planning

Hudson Companies Inc., who was selected by the city along with Project Renewal and St. Nicks Alliance as the development team in 2018, are behind the project. Magnusson Architecture and Planning and Architecture Outfit are designing.

The project seeks a rezoning to change the property’s zoning from R6 to R7-2, a special permit to designate the site for Large Scale General Development (LSGD) and as an Urban Development Action Area (UDAAP), disposition of city-owned property and mapping the area for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

Three people spoke at the brief public hearing, all in favor. Commissioner David J. Burney, both at a review session on August 30 and again Wednesday morning, questioned come of the choices around the handling of the bulk in the design of the buildings, even while acknowledging that getting rid of the bulk would result in a loss of affordable units.

At a virtual presentation to Community Board 1 on April 13, the developers said there will be a total of 557 affordable units spread across three of the buildings, with 109 of those units reserved for senior housing. The fourth building will house a 200-bed homeless shelter to replace the existing one on site.

According to the developer, 167 of the affordable units will be for the formerly homeless, 48 units will be set at 30 percent of the area median income, another 48 units will be set at 40 percent, 88 units at 50 percent, 69 units at 60 percent and 134 units at 80 percent. (Three of the units will be set aside for building supers.)

Rendering by Architecture Outfit and Magnusson Architecture and Planning
Rendering by Architecture Outfit and Magnusson Architecture and Planning

During her testimony, Leader said that while she at first feared the taller buildings because of the possibility they may block some of the sunlight that enters the Cooper Park Houses, she ultimately thinks it’s necessary to create extra affordable housing. “The height is no longer a concern for me,” she said.

What was a concern for her, however, was parking. Cooper Park Commons is planning to provide 30 parking spaces for residents, which Leader and Eric Bruzaitis, a member of Community Board 1 who also testified at the hearing, said needed to stay in place.

“There has been a large increase in restaurant shelters that are not planning on going away,” said Bruzaitis. “This has resulted in the loss of hundreds of parking spots in north Brooklyn.” He added that the 30 spots were “essential” to the project and that they should not be waived.

Rendering by Architecture Outfit and Magnusson Architecture and Planning

The project was certified by City Planning on June 21, launching the city’s ULURP process. Community Board 1 gave their recommendation of approval on July 12, according to City Planning. Borough President Eric Adams has yet to give his recommendation.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.