More living, less working in Red Hook’s future?

The Brooklyn Paper
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City officials are touting a plan that could result in more housing along a prime stretch of the Red Hook waterfront — bringing up long-simmering tensions between would-be developers and the people who toil at Brooklyn’s last working port.

Officials with the city Economic Development Corporation this week proposed dividing 120-acres of industrial pier land between Degraw Street and Atlantic Avenue into three development parcels — the first time the city has considered opening up that land for residential development.

The preliminary proposal won’t be finalized until 2007, when the city takes over the Port Authority-owned piers.

Inside the Port Authority’s fences now sit a few low-slung buildings and a lumberyard. But on Columbia Street across from the port, set designers and other creative professionals, plus cafes and bars to service them, have been sprouting up for the past few years — an indication that the future of the strip is more Smith Street than Cannery Row.

EDC said the proposal could cement the area’s maritime identity or hasten its demise.

“The question is: Do we keep this area maritime or put lighter [industrial] uses there or do we mirror the kind of development that is happening across the street?” EDC vice president Kate Collignon asked Community Board 6’s Waterfront Committee this week.

But despite all the wiggle room Collignon left in her presentation, longtime committee member Matt Yates left in a huff.

Yates was not only enraged at Collignon. City officials have long said they will not renew the lease American Stevedoring, which currently operates the Red Hook Container Port, when its lease expires next year. Yates is the company’s director of commercial operations.

And as if there wasn’t enough controversy, another speaker suggested using Brooklyn Bridge Park — which is under fire for relying on luxury housing to subsidize publicly funded green space — as a model.

That idea was greeted with silence.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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