In an attempt to save views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Borough President Markowitz did the impossible this week, uniting opponents, supporters and even the builders of a controversial DUMBO development — against his plan.
Markowitz backed developers David and Jed Walentas’s bid for a controversial zoning change that would allow them to erect a residential building close to Roebling’s famed span — so long as they make the building thinner in an effort to lessen its visual impact on the iconic bridge.
But Markowitz’s recommendation for the planned 18-story building — which is similar in height to other former factory and warehouse structures in DUMBO — would actually allow the developers to build up to 25 stories.
And that taller, skinnier building is the part that didn’t impress Dock Street opponents, supporters, or the builders of the 375-unit residential and public middle school development.
You gotta hand it to Markowitz: he certainly built a consensus, albeit a negative one, around his plan:
• Dock Street supporter Councilwoman Letitia James: “The borough president’s recommendation results in more challenges, not less.”
• Dock Street opponent Bill Stein: “What the borough president has tried to do is make the best of a bad idea, but in the end, a tower, is a tower, is a tower. It is still inappropriate.”
• Dock Street supporter Eileen Mislove: “The Walentas proposal is within the scale of [existing DUMBO buildings]. A tower [such as Markowitz’s] would be more of an interference — especially to the sense of the open sky. It would block the light and the air.”
• Dock Street opponent Doreen Gallo, Executive Director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Association: “This contradicts his earlier statement that nothing should be higher than the [roadway] on the bridge. He missed the mark with it.”
• Dock Street builder Jed Walentas’s lawyer, Ken Fisher: “[It’s] an interesting solution to some of the community’s concerns, but not one that would meet much favor if we proposed it to you,” he said at Wednesday’s hearing before the City Planning Commission.
• Walentas’s Dock Street architect, Laura Cheng: “The moves that are suggested by the borough president are in fact not in context to the neighborhood.”
Also out of context would be a much taller hotel, which Walentas could build without a zoning change.
Markowitz, who is not an architect, cited that fact in standing behind his suggestions this week, saying that he supported the Walentases’ request for a rezoning in order to prevent them from building a tall hotel without any comment from the community.
“If I rejected the proposal outright … the result could be that development could proceed with zero community input,” the Beep said in a statement.
“It is unacceptable to me when it comes to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to have such uncertainty when there is an opportunity to steer the developer to revise plans voluntarily,” he added.
The controversial project has already gained the support of Community Board 2. With Markowitz’s support — and an expected nod from the City Planning Commission — the project will head to the City Council, where opponents David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) will face off with James, who supports the development.
Non-local councilmembers typically defer to the neighborhood’s representative on land-use issues. Then again, the Walentases have spent more than $100,000 to lobby the Council and other agencies over the past two years — an effort, Jed Walentas said, to educate lawmakers about it.
Additionally, Councilman Tony Avella (D–Queens) backs Yassky and DeBlasio in opposition.