March 13, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
A North Brooklyn neighborhood group is preemptively trying to block a zoning change that would make way for large-scale residential development on a for-sale Con Edison site.
Friends of the Northside Waterfront, a local organization dedicated to protecting the waterfront between N 3rd and N 7th Streets, started an online petition last month calling on the Community Board to reject any applications seeking a zoning change pertaining to an assemblage of Con Edison-owned waterfront properties that were put on the market in April of last year.
The three parcel assemblage, located at 105 River St., between N 3rd Street and Metropolitan Avenue, is currently zoned for manufacturing and commercial use. The properties are just north of Two Trees Management’s Domino Sugar redevelopment.
An open period for purchase bids closed last August, however, a buyer has not yet been announced.
Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial brokerage firm that marketed the 3.2 acre assemblage, stated that it was a unique site that could be the “last large-scale development opportunity on the water in the neighborhood.”
The group, already concerned about the effects of rapid overdevelopment in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg areas, fears that another large residential development would have a detrimental impact on the neighborhood’s overcrowded public transportation system and on schools.
According to Friends of Northside Waterfront, Cushman & Wakefield has found a buyer. The brokerage firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The online petition has already gathered 1,316 signatures, nearing the group’s goal of 1,500. The petition calls for the land to remain under a commercial zoning and be used in a way that will benefit the community, citing the upcoming Trader Joe’s in Williamsburg as an example.
“I personally would love to see a regulated utility company make this area open space and really connect the waterfront and/or give it needed services such a firehouse, community center or even a museum/art center that reflects the character of Williamsburg,” said Keith Berger of Friends of the Northside Waterfront. “But realistically I appreciate that current zoned use would be the right path.”
Friends of the Northside Waterfront said that they put the petition together to let politicians know where the community stood on additional residential development. When they heard a buyer might be closing on the properties, the group decided to take action.
“We have concerns with the large-scale, rapid development of the neighborhood, especially by the waterfront, where developers have been allowed to build massive complexes and buildings with little added infrastructure to the community to balance against the increase in population and tourism in the neighborhood,” Berger said. “This has had a deleterious impact on the community and our quality of life.”
Berger referenced exorbitant subway wait times, unbearable street traffic and a lack of action from the Department of Transportation to address these already problematic conditions.
“The DOT spent two years conducting a transpiration survey that resulted in nothing more than a handful of uninspiring changes and lip service—and none of the changes addressed the significant traffic and liability concerns on Kent Avenue,” Berger said. “Construction vehicles and trucks block off local roads and access regularly with no penalty or concern for inconvenience.”
Friends of the Northside Waterfront presented their concerns at last month’s Community Board meeting and were met with general support.
The group plans to continue gathering feedback from the community and will attend future Community Board meetings to urge the board to not allow a large residential development on the property.