As the City Council was voting to rezone the Broadway Triangle, a Williamsburg-based nonprofit received a $500,000 private donation to bolster its bid to develop another long-dormant site in Williamsburg.
St. Nicks Alliance, on behalf of the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation (GREC), accepted the donation from the Von Damm Family Foundation, which would be used to advance GREC’s proposal to redevelop the site of the former Greenpoint Hospital (Kingsland and Maspeth avenues).
“We made this major contribution because St. Nicks has been so successful in building housing and providing care to the elderly for the past 30 years,” said Louise Von Damm, widow of Henry Von Damm, a Brooklyn benefactor and original board member of St. Nicks who died in 2004. “We feel this project is so important to the community and the people we love.”
The proposal, one of four bids currently being considered by the Department of Housing and Preservation Development, includes a 10,000 square foot senior health care facility, 90 units of senior housing, and 175 units of affordable and mixed-income housing.
“We’ve been fighting for 27 years to have housing and health care services on the Greenpoint Hospital site,” said Community Board 1 member and GREC Coalition member Tish Cianciotta. “Now the Von Damm family Foundation grant could finally help get us there.”
The Greenpoint Hospital closed in 1982, and was converted to a men’s homeless shelter that grew to 1,200 beds at its high point. GREC members organized to reduce the size of the shelter and develop plans to build a nursing home on the site, but a $32 million plan was scuttled in 1991 by Governor George Pataki.
In 2005, GREC members seized the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront Rezoning negotiations as an opportunity to restart discussions on their plan. An RFP for the site was created by the city as part of the waterfront rezoning, in which the city committed funding the creation of 1,800 units of affordable housing on city-owned sites within the boundaries of Community Board 1. So far, only 16 units of housing under the rezoning agreement have been built.
Since May 2007, the city has been deliberating the proposals. Councilmember Diana Reyna said that she was confident that the community has presented HPD with an “inclusive and transparent plan,” and that the city would render its decision soon.
“The Greenpoint Hospital process is community driven and the recent donation is an example of a local investment to our neighborhood for empowerment,” said Reyna.
A spokesperson for HPD could not be reached by press time, though HPD officials have previously noted that a decision regarding the Greenpoint Hospital site is expected in the first quarter of 2010.
However, Cooper Park Houses President and GREC Coalition member Diane Jackson chastised the city for several months of delays.
“We’re still waiting for the city to create the affordable housing they promised after the Greenpoint Williamsburg waterfront rezoning,” said Jackson. “They’re telling us that development on two of the large publicly owned sites, the old Greenpoint Hospital and a couple of open areas in Cooper Park, is stalled because the city doesn’t have enough money. Then why has HPD given a commitment of over $10 million to develop housing in the Broadway Triangle area, on land which isn’t even properly zoned for housing now and where they’d have to push out some neighborhood businesses to make room?”
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