Borough President Markowitz has rejected a developer’s bid for an 800-unit apartment complex on the South Williamsburg waterfront — unless the builders set aside 100 more below-market-rate units than they originally promised.
In a written statement that is part of the public review process for the Rose Plaza on the River project, Markowitz said that developer Isack Rosenberg’s promise of 160 “affordable” units, or 20 percent of the apartments, wasn’t enough. Markowitz said he would support the developer in his bid to rezone his waterfront lot, currently a lumberyard, if he raised the figure to 264 units, or roughly 33 percent of the project.
In a meeting on Dec. 7, Rosenberg told Markowitz that he would come through with the extra units, but the Beep wants it in writing.
“It is the borough president’s policy to obtain a written commitment or explanation” before offering approval, Markowitz wrote in the recommendation, which was released late last Wednesday.
In another demand, Markowitz wants developers to include a substantially higher number of three- and four-bedroom units in the complex, which was originally slated to have studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments comprise 95 percent of the units. Markowitz said he could approve the rezoning if Rosenberg set aside 70 percent of the low-income units as three- and four-bedrooms.
The recommendation is consistent with Community Board 1’s strong objection to the project in early December, when members objected both to the limited affordable housing and the scarcity of family-sized apartments.
“It’s another development that gentrifies a community that is suffering already from a lack of housing,” said principal opponent Rabbi David Niederman, who is president of the United Jewish Organization and a rival of Rosenberg’s in the Hasidic community.
Currently, the waterfront site — just south of the Schaefer Landing complex — is zoned for manufacturing. If the site is rezoned, Rosenberg hopes to build a 3.7-acre complex with 801 units in three towers of 18, 24 and 29 stories.
Rosenberg is also seeking to build the tallest towers a bit higher, but Markowitz put the brakes on that bid, too, disapproving of a special permit that would allow taller (and more lucrative) towers. But again, Markowitz’s denial was conditional, saying that he could accept taller buildings if moderate- and middle-income units got the nice views, too.
The proposal now heads for the Department of City Planning and the City Council. Both of which are likely to approve it, if the developer makes the requested changes. The project is in the council district of newcomer Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg). It is unclear what the freshman lawmaker’s position is.
Rosenberg did not return calls for comment.