The Real Deal New York

Greenpoint’s future pushes present prices

November 27, 2007
By Alison Gregor

The Greenpoint waterfront boasts a lovely view of Manhattan, though a visitor may find themselves climbing over corrugated metal, chain-link fencing, concertina wire and crumbling asphalt just to catch a glimpse.

But it’s a stunning one, and property developers are hustling to capitalize on an unobstructed version. A colossal rezoning of 200 blocks of Greenpoint and Williamsburg passed by the city in May promises to transform the East River waterfront from its current industrial wasteland state.

Some Greenpoint residents say it’s about time. “When I was a teenager, we all used to sit by the water and watch the city lights at night, and it was so pretty,” said Laura Lovejoy, a Greenpoint landlord. “And I want that for my kids.”

Zoning regulations will allow dozens of buildings to be constructed on the waterfront stretching from Williamsburg to Greenpoint, but it might take another two decades for full development of the waterfront to be completed.

At least one parcel in Greenpoint will be built out in the next three or four years. The 20-acre site encompasses a half-mile of waterfront and could see construction of as many as 4,000 units in towers, lofts and townhouses. That’s a significant chunk of the 10,000 units expected to be developed under the rezoning.

“The project will feature a promenade along the waterfront, a 500-foot pier with retail and recreational facilities and a variety of parks and other amenities including a water taxi,” said spokeswoman Lauren Cozzi in a press release for developer George Klein at Park Tower Group.

While Klein has been first with well-de- fined plans, all waterfront developers are obliged to create esplanades on their property at their own expense, unless they opt to hand over its title in exchange for government funding. Greenpoint residents said they’re thrilled that decades of dumping, demolition and deterioration in the neighborhood will come to a halt under the rezoning.

“We fought for a rezoning for at least 20 years,” said Joe Vance, co-chairman of the Greenpoint Property Owners, Inc. “Because this community was the proverbial backyard for the entire city, everything no one wanted in their backyard got sent over here.”

That included a radioactive- and hazardous- chemical-waste storage facility, a couple of power stations and lots of pollution, said Vance. In fact, the community is fighting plans for yet another power plant that could be developed in the midst of the waterfront, he said.

To the north of the Park Tower parcel are two smaller pieces of property that could see residential development. To the south, Huron Towers and Java Street Realty have both asked JWC Architect to work on their developments, according to the Architect’s Newspaper.

Going south from Greenpoint Avenue, a 14-acre parcel is rumored to be slated for development by developer Joshua Gutman, who owns several buildings in Dumbo, and who declined to comment for this article.

Immediately south of Gutman’s parcel is land owned by B & H Photo, Vance said, and a few smaller lots where various owners have no plans that have been made public.

Those in the real estate industry expect all this development to be a boon for the area.

“The older people don’t like it, because it’s like an invasion of their area,” said Rosemarie Pawlikowski, a real estate agent for Albero Parkside Realty. “But you have to embrace progress.”

Pawlikowski said apartments in Greenpoint rent upward of about $1,200. Renovated duplex apartments in the brownstones located in the historic district on Milton, Calyer, India and Java streets can rent for as much as $2,400.

Rental prices have been rising as the traditionally Polish neighborhood sees an in- flux of younger New Yorkers, who spawn coffee houses, chic restaurants like the new Queen’s Hideaway, Thai cafes, and boutique stores. Lovejoy said she’s seen other landlords charging more than $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom, but she doesn’t charge over $1,500 herself.

“Rents are going up whether they put the new piers in here or not,” she said.

Some residents feel they may not only be priced out by luxurious waterfront development, but their views may be obliterated as well.

“My boyfriend and I live on the top floor of a four-story walk-up on the waterfront, which is $1,200 a month,” said Liz Prybyla, who has lived in Greenpoint for five years. “It’s a two-bedroom apartment with the most beautiful view of the city, and it’s just going to be gone.”

Community activists like Vance said they fought to limit the height of waterfront towers to 15 or 20 stories, but they lost. Buildings can go up to 40 stories, though developers must make concessions to do so, such as making about 20 percent of the development affordable. Residents will be watching to ensure zoning regulations are enforced.

“We got the rezoning,” Vance said, “so now we’re trying to make sure we get what we were promised, from the waterfront parkland to affordable housing.”

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