Going Coastal

Counting on a River to Entice

In Brooklyn, Go Coastal, Queens on August 29, 2007 at 5:58 pm

THE East River is still polluted, from sewage runoff and a long-ago oil spill, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, so it is probably not quite fit yet for doing the backstroke.

But that hasn’t altered its role as a selling point for developments springing up along its banks in Brooklyn and Queens, where a recent rezoning has allowed housing to take the place of warehouses.

How popular are developers expecting the waterfront to become? Well, the sheer size of some projects provides an indication.

Take the Edge, a mixed-use development going up in the Northside neighborhood of Williamsburg. It is to span more than two full city blocks, or seven acres, between North Fifth and North Seventh Streets, from Kent Avenue to the river.

Plans call for 1,432 units, with 1,085 condos and 347 rental apartments, spread among five buildings from 8 to 30 stories high, said Jeffrey E. Levine, the chairman of Queens-based Douglaston Development, the developer. Other partners in the $1.2 billion project include UBS, the investment bank, and Louis Silverman, the former owner of the site, which used to house a trucking business.

A would-be city-in-miniature, the Edge will be crisscrossed by streets lined with 60,000 square feet of retail space. Residents will have access to 34,000 square feet of parks; 27,000 square feet of indoor recreation space, including a spa and a video-game room; and two garages, for 550 cars.

But under the terms of the new zoning, the Edge, like neighboring developments, must also provide parkland for nonresidents, and so 21,000 square feet of the property, mostly on two piers, will be open to the public, Mr. Levine said.

The state attorney general has not yet approved the Edge’s offering plan, but Mr. Levine said prices had already been determined. The smallest studios, about 600 square feet, will cost $600,000, and the largest two-bedrooms, with about 1,075 square feet of space, will run about $1.08 million, he said. Finishes throughout include oak floors, quartz kitchen counters and Miele appliances.

In addition, the city’s 421a tax-abatement law requires 20 percent of the units to be priced for people with lower incomes, so the rental apartments, one- and two-bedrooms, will cost $800 to $1,200 a month, Mr. Levine said, adding that the first round of closings is set for the summer of 2009.

Housing directly on the water “is desirable in other cities like Chicago or Paris,” he said. “There’s no reason it can’t be here.”

Reconnecting people with the East River, especially in a park-starved area, is a noble undertaking, said Roland Lewis, the president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, which advocates for greater waterfront access.

But, he said, “you have to be careful about what’s promised and what’s delivered.”

Many of Manhattan’s vest-pocket parks, which were often created by builders in exchange for greater development rights, are often poorly maintained or locked, Mr. Lewis said.

“It’s one thing to cheat the public out of a pocket park,” he said, “but it’s another to cheat them out of access to a river.”

By C. J. HUGHES

New York Times 

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