This newspaper’s editorial board has taken a strong position in support of David and Jed Walentases’ proposal for a residential tower, plus a public middle school and roughly 70 units of below-market-rate housing, on Dock Street in DUMBO.
Nothing we heard at Tuesday night’s well-attended public hearing at Borough Hall changed our belief that the Walentases have intelligently retooled the failed 2004 version of their project into something that will ultimately benefit DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.
Yes, many of the roughly 60 opponents of the project who spoke on Tuesday made eloquent cases that the residential rezoning sought by the Walentases will ensure a nice profit for the family. And some still believe that the 18-story segment of the project would forever destroy views of the fabled Brooklyn Bridge, despite a Brooklyn Paper investigation that showed only a minor impact. That opponents made their case with flawed and inaccurate mock-ups of the Dock Street proposal — some showed off a 19-story building extending beyond the property line, while others put the Walentas building in the wrong place to emphasize its impact on the bridge — further undercut their case.
Few opponents acknowledged an important fact: the Walentases own the land and could build a tall building as-of-right, though it could not be residential. We have long held that landowners have the right to develop their properties, but if they seek a zoning change to enhance their profits, they need to come to the table and give the community something in exchange.
That’s exactly what the Walentases have done on Dock Street. The inclusion of the middle school is a win for a community that has long argued for just such a facility within walking distance.
For too long, the School Construction Authority argued that a new middle school was not needed in Brooklyn Heights or DUMBO because the city had excess middle school seats district-wide. But now that the agency is finally listening to parents and elected officials about the need for seats locally, some locals want to turn down the Walentases’ offer.
What is often forgotten when passions run high is that David Walentas is not a drive-by developer who wants to destroy DUMBO while grabbing a few quick bucks.
He spent the last 30 years, patiently and meticulously, building modern DUMBO from a warehouse district into one of the city’s most-desirable neighborhoods, maintaining its architectural and historic integrity. He still lives on Main Street with his wife, Jane.
He’s made millions, yes, but we hardly think his opponents, many of them well off residents of Brooklyn Heights, want to make the intellectually dishonest argument that risk-taking, responsible investors should be denied a profit.
And lest we forget, all of the buildings that have earned the ire of DUMBO residents and workers — including the ugly Beacon Tower that destroys the view of the Manhattan Bridge and the 33-story J Condo — were the ones NOT built by Walentas.
While Walentas was nurturing arts groups and Mom and Pop stores, someone else brought in the generic Starbucks that DUMBO residents love to hate.
Time and time again, David and Jed Walentas have proven to be responsible stewards of their DUMBO holdings. Their Dock Street project should be approved.