March 10, 2008

Rezoning East Greenpoint

From the Eagle, news that the Department of City of Planning has the rezoning of "East Greenpoint" next on their list. DCP is actually working on two rezonings in the area - a small 11-block area along Grand Street, west of Marcy Avenue/BQE, and a large 170+ block area east of the BQE. The Grand Street rezoning was approved by the City Planning Commission a week or so ago, and is expected to be approved by the City Council (and thus made into law) by the end of this month. City Planning has promised to have the larger rezoning (covering an area roughly from Maujer Street north to Newtown Creek) into the public review process by Autumn of this year.

Both rezonings impose contextual zoning on existing residential zones. So areas with no height limits will get height limits (and no more "finger" buildings). In addition, the contextual zoning eliminates the (much abused) community facility bonus and makes certain areas eligible for the inclusionary (affordable) housing bonus.

March 20, 2008

A Big Day for Grand Street

141 - 149 Grand Street

The Grand Street rezoning, which has been wending its way through the public approval since December, cleared its next to last hurdle today - the City Council's Land Use Committee voted to approve the rezoning with minor modifications. The next and last stop is a vote by the full Council, which could come as early as next week.

Once enacted, the zoning for all of Grand Street from Kent Avenue to Marcy Avenue will more closely reflect the existing context. Most blocks will be limited to buildings of four to five stories, with a density roughly in line with what was allowed previously. Out of scale "finger" buildings and developments that ignore the prevailing street wall will not be allowed.

March 26, 2008

Grand Street Rezoning Approved

This afternoon, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning of Grand Street between Marcy and Berry, and surrounding blocks. The implementation of "contextual zoning" on these blocks will limit building heights to match the surrounding neighborhood fabric. The new zoning also eliminates the much-abused "community facility bonus".

Bldg. 'Cap' in W'burg [NYPost]

April 1, 2008

Ouroussoff on St. Vincent's

In today's Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff has a piece critical of the St. Vincent's/Rudin plan for the St. Vincent's Hospital site in Greenwich Village. The hospital and developer plan to demolish as many as eight buildings, none of which would necessarily rise to the level of landmarks in their own right. But for Ouroussoff, all are part of the eclectic fabric of the city, and in their own way contribute to the character of Greenwich Village. Ouroussoff's points points are particularly cogent in relation not only to historic preservation but also to issues such as neighborhood preservation, neighborhood character and the like.

Sadly, the hospital’s application reflects the pernicious but prevalent notion that any single building that is not a major historical landmark — or stands outside the historical mainstream — is unworthy of our protection. Pursue that logic to its conclusion, and you replace genuine urban history with a watered-down substitute. It’s historical censorship.

This perniciousness will be all too familiar to North Brooklynites - it is the notion that we hear when Council Members refer to landmarks as a "piece of trash", or when developers use demolished icons as a reference point for banal condos. It is the notion that the fabric of neighborhoods have no meaning beyond their base economic value.

Its a short article, as much news as critique, but it is a compelling argument for the preservation of neighborhood character beyond just great buildings. All the more interesting as it comes from a critic - not a fan - of Jane Jacobs. We'll leave Mr. Ouroussoff with the last word:

This is not simply a question of losing a building; it’s about masking [a complex historical narrative in which competing values are always jostling for attention] and reducing New York history to a caricature. Ultimately, it’s a form of collective amnesia.

April 8, 2008

Greenway Vote Tonight

Proposed view of Flushing Avenue, with Greenway installed.

Community Board #1 will be voting this evening on a proposal to put a Greenway along Kent Avenue and West Street in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. This plan, part of the larger Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, would establish a protected bike and walking path along these streets, providing easy access to the planned waterfront esplanades and parks along the East River. To the south, much of the Greenway would run along the waterfront.

As Teresa Toro, a strong advocate for the plan (and sane transportation policy in general) points out, this more than just a bike lane:

...a greenway is not the same as a bike lane, although it has a bike lane element... The greenway will provide a safe, designated walking lane for people who wish to take a nice walk; it will provide critical traffic calming along Kent Avenue, which is also a truck route (and will also provide critical air quality mitigation -- also important because of the truck route). It is more of a linear park, than a bike lane; and the green/planting and walking elements make it all a genuine benefit to the community.

The Greenway will also bring hundreds of new trees to the neighborhood. And we will not lose parking spaces as a result - the car parking that would be displaced by the greenway plan has been replaced elsewhere, and DOT is moving right now to make those parking spaces available now.

When: 8 April 2008, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Swingin' 60's Senior Center, 211 Ainslie Street (corner of Manhattan)

April 9, 2008

Greenway Update

An update on CB 1's Greenway Initiative vote this evening - APPROVED!. Congratulations and thanks to all of the people who came out tonight (and over the past two months) to support this project.

September 29, 2008

NAG Town Hall

nag town hall2.jpg

NAG (Neighbors Allied for Good Growth), a community organizing group in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, is having a Town Hall Meeting on 10/2 to mobilize the community on issues facing Greenpoint & Williamsburg. Longtimers will remember NAG as one of the leading voices against waste transfer stations on the waterfront, against Radiac, and for intelligent rezoning that protects jobs and housing. As NAG looks to the future, it is holding this meeting to take the pulse of the community and to identify the issues the community will organize around in the coming years.

The Town Hall will take place at the Holy Ghost Hall, 159 North 5th St (between Bedford and Driggs) on Thursday, 2 October at 7:00.

December 3, 2008

NAG Organizing Meeting


Tomorrow evening, NAG will be holding a working meeting to further develop their organizing agenda for 2009. Based on ideas generated by the community at the Oct 2, 2008 Town Hall Organizing Meeting and on feedback from a survey completed by community members, the working meeting will start to develop the following issues as NAG's priority organizing issues for 2009:

Preserving Affordable Housing Options for Residents
Improving Open Space and Access to the Waterfront
Offering Safe and Quick Transportation Options For the Neighborhood
Improving our Quality of Life and Preserving Community Character

This is an opportunity for folks to help develop the priorities for the coming year(s) for this important neighborhood advocacy group.

What: Kicking off NAG's 2009 Organizing Agenda

When: Thursday December 4, 2008 at 7pm

Where: Holy Ghost Church Hall Basement, 160 North 5th Street (between Bedford and Driggs)

February 9, 2009

Building Brooklyn

Every year, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Building Brooklyn Award for the best architecture of the borough. And every year, Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsnburg come up short. Since the nominations are due on Thursday, we'd thought we'd throw out a few of the projects that we think are award worthy (and a few that are clearly not worthy).

First, their rules. To be eligible, a project must be completed and have received a CO or TCO in calendar 2008. Now our rules. We're looking at projects in North Brooklyn only. The BB categories are a little bit wacky (do we really need two categories for residential buildings under 5 families - that's so 20th-century Brooklyn?). So we've added a few of our own.

1. Adaptive Use and Historic Preservation

Photo: Brownstoner

The Mill Building (85 - 101 North 3rd Street)
Fifield Piaker Elman Architects

A luxury loft in Williamsburg that is actually a loft. Not everything here is to the highest preservation standards, but the conversion of this former factory at North 3rd and Wythe has celebrated the historic architecture and the history of the neighborhood. And it looks great.

The building itself was constructed for the Hinds & Ketcham lithography company in two parts. The mid-block portion was completed before 1898, the corner piece (directly across from Relish) after 1898.

Photo: Brownstoner

Not nominated:
118 Greenpoint Avenue
Scarano Architect

This one was designed to the highest preservation standards - those of the NYC Landmarks Commission - but the results are underwhelming to say the least. None of it rises to the level of the unregulated Mill Building. This project would have passed unnoticed, though, were it not for the cornice, which looks like someone installed a crown molding on the face of a factory.


Special liars award:
Brooklyn Rapid Transit Power Plant
500 Kent Avenue
Con Edison, owner

The building is pretty much gone by now, but less than a year ago it was an intact structure. At that time, local blogger INSIJS did an in-depth article on the fate of the building. Everyone, including workers on site, said the building was coming down. When asked it that was true, a Con Ed spokesperson said that they were only doing some "spring cleaning". Spring cleaning that clearly required removing every brick and sending it very far away to be cleaned.

Landmarks looked at this property in 2007, but refused to hold a hearing to designate. This despite the fact that that the community had identified the building as a significant resource over a decade ago. The State Historic Preservation Office did determine that the building is (or was) eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

As for the future, Con Ed has no plans for the site. Or at least that's what they say.

Have buildings that you think should be included (or excluded) in the BB awards? Email us at wpa [at]

February 13, 2009

North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition

At last week's CB1 meeting, Councilmember Yassky's office announced a new public art initiative. The initiative is a response to the rather woeful lack of public art (and opportunities for public art) in a neighborhood of artists. Organized in conjunction with the Open Space Alliance, the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition "will be comprised of members of the local arts community, with a mission of scouting out ideal locations for public art in North Brooklyn, actively seeking out partnerships and funding for public art in this area, and keeping its members apprised of all public art opportunities."

The coalition will hold a special meeting about Public Art in North Brooklyn on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009, at the Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N.11th St. (between Wythe Ave. and Berry St.) in Williamsburg at 6:30pm. The meeting will include presentations by public arts organizations that are currently offering opportunities to Greenpoint/Williamsburg artists.

For more information, contact Rami Metal in CM Yassky's office - (718) 875-5200x14 or rmetal [at]

July 3, 2009

City Planning Approves Fillmore Designation

Good news from Brooklyn11211 - at its meeting this past Wednesday, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the Fillmore Place landmark designation. That is the last step before the City Council, which hopefully will approve the designation this month.

City Planning also voted to approve the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Contextual Rezoning. Similar to the Grand Street rezoning that was approved last year, this new rezoning will limit building heights and provide other safeguards against abusive development.

July 15, 2009

Jane Would


Things have been quiet up north here, but they've been awful busy down the other end of the borough. If you haven't been paying attention, the City has a plan to rezone Coney Island. In terms of the options, the City's plan could be worse - just look at the plan being touted by Thor Equities' Joe Sitt and backed by his pal Councilmember Dominic Recchia. But it also could be a lot better.

Dick Zigun, Coney Island's "mayor" is one of the people fighting the good fight for Coney Island's future - a future that has far fewer high rise hotels and far more space for amusements, rides and attractions (you know, the things that people go to Coney for). Here is Dick's take:

The Municipal Art Society has a plan to make the City's plan work for Brooklyn. The New York Times thinks that MAS's plan is the way to go. So do a lot of other people.

July 28, 2009

Council Vote on Coney on Wednesday

The full Council is expected to vote out the Concey Island rezoning tomorrow. The question is, will they make they rezoning any better before they do?

MAS is hoping they do.

Atlantic Yards Lite

Photo: NY Post

MAS has commissioned a rendering of what a Gehry-less Atlantic Yards might look like. It probably won't look anything like this, but that doesn't mean it won't suck any less.

via Animal

August 24, 2009

Dreamland Closes

Thor Equities, the outfit responsible for the demolition of the Revere Sugar factory in Red Hook (and the ongoing demolition of a Civil War-era warehouse on the same site) has padlocked the Dreamland Amusement Park in Coney Island. (Dreamland only exists because Thor shut down Astroland last year.)

The Wonder Wheel and Cyclone are still running (Thor doesn't control that land). But with two weeks of (official) Summer left, Coney Island is "closed now".

Thor Equities, blighting Brooklyn's waterfront.

May 16, 2010

The Struggle to Preserve the Brooklyn Navy Yard

In the Times today, a look at Admirals Row and the sorry state of the buildings there. Having found a developer and negotiated a compromise to save two buildings, the latest wrinkle is that one of those two buildings, the Timber Shed, is so far gone that it "might be beyond repair". Demolition by neglect, National Guard style?

Eberhard Faber