Yassky schools Walentas on plan

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Brooklyn Heights lawmaker has blown a spitball at DUMBO real-estate baron David Walentas’s controversial plan for an 18-story, 400-unit complex near the Brooklyn Bridge by demanding that the 300-seat school — which was included in the project to generate support for the entire plan — actually be built in the state’s Brooklyn Bridge Park development nearby.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) slammed the $200-million Walentas project as “gigantic” and called the middle school “an excuse to build a building that wouldn’t be acceptable otherwise.”

The project would rise on Dock Street between Water and Front streets, near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Critics say it would block views of the landmark crossing.

Yassky said he has already started pitching rival plans to city education officials, including a scheme that would put the school on state-owned property within the proposed waterfront development commonly referred to as Brooklyn Bridge Park.

That “park” will include six commercial building sites, now reserved for luxury apartments, a hotel, shops and restaurants.

A concert hall has been talked about as a possibility for the long-vacant Empire Stores warehouse that sits on the park’s northern tip in DUMBO.

“I don’t know why we can’t get one of those existing development sites for a school,” Yassky said this week.

Errol Cockfield, a spokesman for Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, said that project planners can’t comment on putting a school in the development until Yassky presents a formal proposal, which he has not done.

And despite Yassky’s objection, the city’s school construction czar is in talks with Walentas about the new middle school, something parents in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO have wanted for years.

“We are talking to [Walentas] and reviewing the need for a middle school in the area,” said School Construction Authority President Sharon Greenberger.

It’s unclear whether Walentas’s Two Trees Management would pay for the school portion of its Dock Street project or if the company expects the city to pick up the tab. Pairing with a private developer does typically reduce the city’s cost.

Jed Walentas, spokesman for Two Trees, could not be reached for comment on Yassky’s counterproposal, but has said that the Dock Street building would “fit perfectly within the existing architectural context of the neighborho­od.”

This fall, Yassky said he will create a task force to examine other locations for the middle school, including the shuttered St. Charles Borromeo School in Brooklyn Heights and an unused Metropolitan Transportation Authority office building at 370 Jay St. in Downtown Brooklyn.

Updated 4:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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