A controversy-dogged developer whose Greenpoint industrial complex mysteriously burned down eight years ago is planning a convention center that has begun construction in the neighborhood, to the chagrin of neighbors who are vowing to fight the complex.
The planned Greenpoint Expo Center is a project of real estate mogul Joshua Guttman, whose Greenpoint Terminal Market was gutted by a 2006 inferno that was the largest the city had seen since the Sept. 11 attacks — and whom many Greenpointers still regard with extreme distrust.
“He is the poster child for the bad landlord neighbor,” said Dewey Thompson, founder and harbor master of the North Brooklyn Boat Club. “He is totally sketchy from beginning to end.”
Guttman quickly refinished the warehouse at 79 Franklin St., at Noble Street, with a glass exterior and is now marketing the building as the future home of the Expo Center, a sort of miniature version of Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, with moveable walls for conferences, banquets, and office space.
The project’s website boasts that the building is “a new concept for a historical neighborhood that is now emerging as a frontier of culture in the Brooklyn scene.”
Guttman’s massive Greenpoint Terminal Market was home to a hodgepodge of artists, musicians, active industry, and derelict structures frequented by vandals and homeless people at the time of the fire that destroyed much of it. Police later arrested and convicted a homeless man for starting the blaze, but firefighters said at the time that the flames ignited in at least five separate spots, according to neighbors. Other Guttman properties went up in smoke in the years before that.
The developer racked up more than $4 million in fines for failing to maintain the piers and bulkheads at the Terminal Market after the massive conflagration.
“There is nothing good about this guy,” said Greenpoint resident Michael Hoffman, who used to work at American Manufacturing, one of the factories inside Greenpoint Terminal Market. “He is completely shady.”
Neighbors say they plan to take whatever measures are available to them to keep Guttman from opening up the proposed meeting complex.
“It is good that the community is being alerted as to who is behind this, because we should be opposed to whatever he is doing,” said Thompson. “He should not get permission to open anything.”
The lot that the building occupies is zoned for commercial and residential uses and the rendering shown on the Expo Center’s website does not appear to show any changes to the structure’s height.
Guttman, who is also developing a boutique hotel in Dumbo, did not return repeated requests for comment.