The City Planning Commission voted on Monday to approve the controversial Rose Plaza on the River, a mixed-use, 800-unit apartment complex along the Williamsburg waterfront — a decision that bucks Borough President Markowitz’s rejection in January.
The 7-5 vote was a rare close one, and reflects that the most-contentious issue — the amount of below-market-rate housing — must be solved before the project gets its expected approval from the City Council later this spring.
“The commission approved because [the project is] consistent with zoning requirements of density, height and 20-percent affordable housing,” said Howard Weiss, the attorney representing the would-be developers Abraham and Isack Rosenberg, whose riverfront property currently houses a lumber yard. “Even the opposition has no issues with the project itself.”
He may have a point — Community Board 1 and Markowitz rejected the project in January, saying that they want 100 more below-market-rate units than the 160 proposed, as well as more three- and four-bedroom units in the complex.
And today, the councilman for the district, Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg), reiterated his strong opposition to the project.
“In an area that has suffered many of the ills associated with gentrification, this development will only exacerbate, and not mitigate, the many pressures local families face,” Levin said. “The applicant’s dedication of only 20 percent of its units to affordable housing is entirely insufficient.”
Currently, the waterfront site — south of the Schaefer Landing complex and just outside the area that was rezoned for large towers, and 20 percent affordable housing, in 2005 — is zoned for manufacturing. If the site is rezoned, Rosenberg hopes to build a complex with three towers of 18, 24 and 29 stories.
Opponents also want put the brakes on the rezoning because Rosenberg’s towers are too high. But the developer has said that those towers would have to grow taller still to underwrite the cost of more affordable units.
That said, Weiss said Rosenberg and his team will continue studying how they can add more below-market-rate housing in the project before the City Council vote. Either way, he’s not worried.
“Rosenberg has done everything over the past six years to facilitate public amenities, open space and good design,” Weiss said. “City Planning approved the best project that the city has seen in years, and I expect the Council will do the same.”