Views of the beloved Brooklyn Bridge would be ruined forever — or DUMBO will get a much-needed middle school, depending on which side you believe in the heated debate over an 18-story residential building that will have its first public hearing next week.
The developers of the tower, DUMBO titans David and Jed Walentas, say their Dock Street proposal is far better than a bulkier building that the pair wanted to build on the same site in 2004 before local objections derailed their efforts.
This time, the building’s bulk has been shifted further from the iconic bridge — and the project now includes a nifty sweetener for a cash-strapped city: a new middle school in the midst of a neighborhood experiencing a baby boom.
The School Construction Authority certainly likes the sound of that, and has already signaled its support for the Walentas project, by putting the school on its property list even before it’s officially approved by the city. The agency revealed that the 45,000-square-foot, 416-seat school would cost the city $43.83 million for interior walls and other construction — a savings of about $50 million.
But community members remain up in arms about the Walentases’ “sweetener,” saying that the developers are offering the carrot of a new middle school to distract the public from the stick of a building that is unwanted.
“We feel like the developers are exploiting the refusal of the Department of Education to do its job, which is to provide for the acknowledged boom of children in the Downtown Brooklyn area,” said Jake Maguire, a spokesman for longtime project opponent Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).
“If we start allowing developers to bend the rules in exchange for things that the city needs and doesn’t feel like it can provide itself, we’re on a slippery slope,” he added.
A city zoning change is still required before the Walentases can build their dream house — and that seven-month public review process begins with the Wednesday, Dec. 17, public hearing at the Long Island University Health Sciences Center in Fort Greene.
The project is the Walentases’ second attempt at developing the space. Jed Walentas, who is taking a lead role in this project for his father’s Two Trees Management, admitted there was too much “bulk near the bridge” in the 2004 version.
That proposal also did not include the school sweetener.
The current proposal would block fewer views of the fabled span, set aside 65 of the building’s 325 units as below-market-rate rentals, and use an environmentally friendly building design.
“We’re excited to begin the public review process,” Jed Walentas said. “We are happy to let the merits of the project speak for themselves.”
Not everyone thinks they do.
A group calling itself Save the Brooklyn Bridge says it has collected nearly 8,600 signatures in an online petition. The group claims that the building would still block too many views of the bridge.
The building, in fact, is not taller than its neighbors and the Walentases’ architectural renderings depict a modernized take on the neighborhood’s 19th-century warehouses.
Yassky, the Brooklyn Heights Association and others have called for the city to expand PS 8 on Henry Street into a K–8 school instead of constructing a separate facility in DUMBO.
Community Board 2 will hold a hearing on Dec. 17 at 6 pm at Long Island University [121 DeKalb Ave., near Hudson Avenue, in Fort Greene, (718) 596-5410].
©2008 Community News Group
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