A developer’s bid for a glitzy, 800-unit mixed-use apartment complex along the Williamsburg waterfront tripped at the first hurdle on Tuesday night when the local community board rejected it 31–8.
Members of Community Board 1 objected strongly to the project — dubbed “Rose Plaza on the River” — because it would reserve only 20 percent of its condo units as below-market-rate housing.
Board members also complained that 95 percent of the complex’s units are studios, and one- or two-bedrooms.
“Is this what you think our community needs?” said Rabbi David Niederman, a board member and president of the United Jewish Organization. At an earlier meeting last week, Niederman had called the project “another development that gentrifies a community that is suffering already from a lack of housing.”
The waterfront site is currently zoned for manufacturing and houses a lumber warehouse and a parking lot. The developers are seeking a residential rezoning so they can build a 3.7-acre complex with 801 units in three towers of 18, 24, and 29 stories. The site is bordered by Kent Avenue on the east, Division Avenue on the south and the Schaefer Landing complex to the north.
Rose Plaza is bigger, bulkier and will provide more housing than its neighbor to the north, which has towers of 15 and 26 stories for a total of 210 units.
Luxury condos have sprouted up in Williamsburg and Greenpoint since the contentious 2005 rezoning of the waterfront communities, a zoning change that allowed developers to build 30-story towers as long as they have big enough lots and provide public space. Since the rezoning took effect, condos towers like the 29-story Northside Piers near N. Fifth Street, the 30-story Edge between N. Fifth and N. Seventh streets, and Ismael Leyva’s proposed 40-story tower on West Street near India Street have become the norm.
The Rose Plaza site was not included in that rezoning, which brought the development team to the community board, which takes a first crack at city land-use changes.
Members of the CB1 land-use committee had sought improvements in the project last week, including setting aside 33 percent of the project for below-market-rate housing and creating some larger units for families.
“I didn’t think the committee vote was ‘no way,’ we just want to see the project to become better,” committee Chairman Ward Dennis said at that hearing. “The open space is a little more than required by law and we have always pushed for 40-percent affordable housing for new projects. All that you are offering is the standard, the minimum [of affordable units], you are looking for wavers on the height of the towers, and what do we get in return?”
In return, Howard Weiss, the attorney representing the would-be developers Abraham and Isack Rosenberg, said that Rose Plaza would include retail and restaurant space, an underground parking garage to fit 496 cars, an extension of S. 11th Street west of Kent Avenue to serve as a visual corridor, plus public space in the form of a waterfront esplanade.
“The public space and affordable housing shows that we care about the community,” said Weiss, adding that the construction of housing in what is currently a manufacturing site would “bring life and create jobs.”
To be able to do so, though, the developers need that the rezoning, which would cap the towers at 185 feet, unless the lot can be reconfigured. Rose Plaza would not be the first development to get such a waiver, but that didn’t matter to some panelists.
“You’re not special,” said Heather Roslund, a member of the committee. “I don’t buy it.”
Speaking of buying things, Dennis pointed out, Rose Plaza would add 800 units to the 2,500 new apartments that are expected to be on the market by the end of the year and another 2,500 by the end of 2010.
But Weiss was not deterred.
“By the time the project is built, the market will have changed — and we will be offering waterfront real estate,” said Weiss.