Brooklyn Bridge historian McCullough denounces Dock St. project

The Brooklyn Paper
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Opponents of a controversial DUMBO development pulled out their wild card on Wednesday — a famed historian who not only opposes the proposed 18-story building near the fabled Brooklyn Bridge, but went so far as to suggest that the city raze other buildings in DUMBO to make room for a national park celebrating the Gothic landmark.

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer David McCullough, author of “The Great Bridge,” visited DUMBO and called Jed Walentas’s Dock Street project “visual vandalism.”

“If you start building all of these things around [the Brooklyn Bridge], you are going to wreck it,” he declared at the press conference, which included a photo op of the writer in front of a view of the bridge that, ironically, would actually not be affected by the proposed project.

The Maine resident — who once lived in Brooklyn Heights — might have surpassed the wishes of even the most adamant Dock Street opponents when he suggested that instead of erecting the affordable housing, middle school and luxury condo development, workers should demolish the low-slung St. Anne’s Warehouse arts center to create more open space around the bridge.

“I would favor taking down [this] building … and turning [it] into a national park,” he said.

McCullough’s comments came as the City Planning Commission nears its April 22 decision on the project — the latest stop on the project’s route through the city’s land-use review procedure, which is triggered whenever a landowner wants a change in zoning.

In this case, Walentas wants a residential rezoning so he can build the 325-unit building, which includes 65 below-market-rate rentals and a public middle school that even opponents of the project say is needed somewhere in the neighborhood.

Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden called the coming Dock Street vote one of the most difficult rulings she has ever faced.

McCullough’s appearance comes on the heels of the revelation that the School Construction Authority held backroom negotiations with Walentas (see sidebar below).

After the Planning Commission votes, the project will move to the City Council, where its prospects are far from certain. Councilmen David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) oppose it, while Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) likes it.

Community Board 2 and Borough President Markowitz both backed the rezoning, though Markowitz favored a taller and slimmer building to reduce what he believes will be an impact on the bridge.

For their part, backers of the project say they have been encouraged by their negotiations with the city.

“We’re focused now on the feedback that we got,” said Walentas’s attorney Ken Fisher, himself a former Brooklyn Heights councilman, turned lobbyist. “So far, it has been very encouraging.”

Updated 5:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Sanity from DUMBO says:

Bravo Mr. McCullough… Bravo. Help bring some sanity back and respect for our history and monuments.
April 2, 2009, 9:11 am
Let the Truth be Told from DUMBO says:
1) Pratt Institute has come out in support of this project because Mr. Walentas, the developer, sits on the Board of Pratt and has donated a considerable sum to the school.
2) Christine Quinn, a major player in the decision making process over this project, and her affiliated campaign and fund raising groups have taken in over $125,000 in contributions from Two Trees, its principals, employees, attorneys and others closely affiliated with the developer.
3) Councilwoman Melinda Katz, Chair of the Land-Use Committee, and a player in the decision process over this project, has appointed the developer, Mr. Walentas, to her campaign finance committee.
4) Two Trees and its principals have spent nearly $500,000 in lobbying fees over the past two years to try and influence the process.
5) The Zoning sub-committee of Community Board 2 voted against this project and recommended by a vote of 10-1 to limit the height of any structure on this site to no higher than the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.
5) A petition of nearly 11,000 signatures reinforces the belief that any structure on this site should be limited in height to no higher than the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.
6) At Borough President Marty Markowitz’s public hearing, out of 100 people who testified, 72 were against this project.
April 2, 2009, 9:12 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
In your article you left out the garage that is part of the building and the proposal...Is it 500 cars?
April 2, 2009, 10:34 am
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:
Bravo, Brooklyn Paper!

Another slanted article in favor of Walentas!!

Paid Speech lives on!

Bravo.....pat yourselves on the back for being the propaganda voice of Two Trees!

Why not report on how TwoTrees is circumventing the process with Cash? Why not report about the 'supporters' who are on the payroll....oh forgot, you can't report the truth, you are also on the payroll. Well, your paper does make good bedding for my Parrot.
April 2, 2009, 8:49 pm
davoyager from bh says:
so sad how this nice old man has been snookered into being associated with this folly. This is a modest project by NY standards which impacts the bridge 0% except for the rich condo owners who have perpetrated this fraud. Truly sad how this serious decision making process has become a circus.
April 3, 2009, 12:43 am
Publius from Bklyn Hgts says:

David McCullough is a respected Pulizer prize winning historian, especially knowledgable regarding the Brooklyn Bridge, and he's has been involved with preserving the bridge for decades.

Your condescending arrogance is outrageous and flat our wrong.

Your ageism disgraces and further discredits you.

This "nice old man" who you say "has been snookered", has more intelligence and standing in his pinky than you have in your entire ponytailed head.

The only people being snookered here are the patsies like you who, without getting anything in writing, actually believe Two Trees will honor their promises if they get their zoning change.
April 3, 2009, 11:24 am
davoyager from bh says:
WA WA WA. I thought my 4 year old was loud. Pound the table and scream some more, maybe you'll bust a gut and we won't have to hear this nonsense any more.
April 3, 2009, 6 pm
FourthEstate from DUMBO says:
WA's so sad how people like davoyager have been snookered into being the mouth piece for Two Tress propaganda, I mean 'community outreach' wing.
April 3, 2009, 6:40 pm
Pat k from Bay Ridge says:
I like Dumbo, I walk and Bike the Bridge often, and of course admire it's beaty as MCCullogh does, he lived in the Heights as he wrote "The Great Bridge"
Don't mess with the "Old man"

Pubilus is on the money!
April 4, 2009, 2:41 pm
Carlo Trigiani from Brooklyn Heights says:
I'm sure McCullough is more than qualified to take his position but let's not forget, he's a businessman too. Certainly he's already made a fortune from "The Great Bridge".

Get the school in writing and take it down a floor. It's not that bad.
April 4, 2009, 4:44 pm
Valerie Semplicino from Brooklyn Heights says:
This project, if it proceeds, will be viewed the same way the tearing down of the beautiful Pennsylvania Station was -- which is that it was a big, big mistake. Obviously the Walentas have no sense of history or beauty, just how much more money they can make.

It would also be interesting to do an air quality test to determine if Dumbo, surrounded by a variety of major highways and byways spewing out gasoline fumes, is the best place for a school.
April 7, 2009, 11:24 am
trace from park slope says:
It will be Brooklyn's shame if it listens to the Walentas' desire for Mammon over the taste, erudition, and foresight of the internationally famous McCullough. If you have ever heard him speak, (or read the book) he is truely a great intellectual. Why no-one else could see that the thing to do is create a huge park around the Bridge is beyond me - once said, it seems so obvioius. A big park would become an international destination, like the Bridge (the view of Manhattan is irreplaceable). Why has no-one thought of that before. So, the ongoing drama - will Brooklyn be able to say no to the old con artist Walentas, and support the truely great man and his ideals, or will intelligence fall to the slime?
April 8, 2009, 10:22 am
nicole from cincinnati says:
I am a young professional with a deep love of historic buildings and structures. I fully support McCullough's efforts and would like to know how people outside of NYC can join his protest.
May 8, 2009, 11:37 am

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