Levin calls negotiations ‘difficult’
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A major development project in Greenpoint will bring a new waterfront park as well as 200 units of affordable housing to that northern Brooklyn community, according to Councilman Stephen Levin, who negotiated with the city and the property developer to secure the amenities.
The City Council voted late last month to approve the development known as 77 Commercial Street, a project that calls for the construction of two high-rise commercial and residential buildings – one 40 stories high and another 30 stories high – on the Greenpoint waterfront.
But Levin (D-Greenpoint-Williamsburg) called the process leading up to the council vote “very difficult, lengthy, and arduous.”
The councilman, who won his second term in office in November, noted that many Greenpoint residents oppose the 77 Commercial St. development. He hinted, however, that he was striving throughout the negotiation process to get the best deal possible for the community’s residents.
“I have heard from many Greenpointers expressing their opposition to the height and density of this project, but the open space and affordable housing needs of our community that have persisted for years also go without question,” he said in a statement.
“It has been years in the making but Greenpoint will now be getting a beautiful, fully-funded, and long-sought for park on the waterfront and 200 permanently units of affordable housing that make our community more affordable for working families,” Levin said.
The property at 77 Commercial St., which is owned by Chetrit Group, is located on Commercial Street between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street and is near the Brooklyn-Queens border. A 95,000-square- foot warehouse currently sits at the site.
The Brooklyn Paper reported that the concessions Levin won from the city and the developer include $9.5 million to fully fund a Box Street park that the city had previously promised to build and then stalled and another $14 million to move city vehicles that currently sit on the site of the future park. Those vehicles include transit authority Access-A-Ride and emergency response trucks that have sat at the location for decades.
Two hundred of the 720 apartments planned for two high-rises will be set aside for below-market rate housing, the Brooklyn Paper reported.
The Chetrit Group acquired the site for $25 million in 2012, according to The Real Deal, which reported on the acquisition at the time.
Leaders of neighborhood groups said they supported the concessions won by Levin.
Ward Dennis, co-chairman of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), said the deal has a lot in it that should please residents.
“The density and height of the 77 Commercial Street development were never things that the community asked for or wanted. But the modifications agreed to by the city and the developer of 77 Commercial Street are important steps forward in realizing two key community priorities, open space and affordable housing,” Dennis said.
Dewey Thompson and Christine Holowacz of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning (GWAPP) issued a statement claiming that Levin’s negotiation prevented more “stark options” from becoming a reality at the site.
“This will go a long way in solving the affordable housing crisis and I commend Council Member Levin for understanding the affordable housing needs of our community and fighting to get what we deserve,” said Rich Mazur, executive director of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation.
The 77 Commercial Street development is yet another sign of big changes coming to Greenpoint. In early December, the City Council approved another development, Greenpoint Landing, which calls for the construction of several high-rises on the waterfront.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the neighborhood, traditionally home to a large population of Polish Americans, has become more gentrified over the past 20 years but had little property development to speak of, partly due to the fact that the community is served by the G train and has no direct subway link to Manhattan.
In recent years, however changes are coming rapidly, the Journal reported, with shops and restaurants opening up near the waterfront.