Dock Street passes Council, Round 1

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

The Dock Street DUMBO project sailed through two key votes at the City Council today — passing 6-2 in the zoning and franchises subcommittee and 17-4 in the general land use committee. The full Council will vote on June 10, where it is also expected to pass following support by Speaker Christine Quinn, according the Observer.

The project, as it stands following amendments from Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Department of City Planning, would rise 17 stories, have 300 residential units, and offer the city a 45,000-square-foot shell for a school.

Just before the vote, Land Use committee chair Melinda Katz — who voted for the rezoning — made public a rider to the Walentases’ application that will require a public school in the project and for no fewer than 20 percent of the residential units be affordable.

Explaining her vote, Katz pointed to the the land use committee’s role to rezone a neighborhood and trust that the developer will follow through with the plans. In this situation, “priorities need to be given priority, and at the end of the day, you hope there is a good outcome of a project,” she said, adding that she “respects” the work the Walentases have done in DUMBO.

David Yassky, who vocally opposed the project and has said he would be “frosty” to his colleagues if they support it, said immediately following the vote, “I’m disappointed that the Council has done the wrong thing, disappointed that the Committee made a great mistake and one that will possibly damage the bridge … and will permanently change the experience of walking across the bridge and that’s a shame.

As Yassky spoke, Councilman John Liu, who voted against the project, passed by. Yassky shook Liu’s hand and said, “That was a smart vote.”

(Note: Yassky, Liu and Katz are running against each other for city comptroller.)

Lead opponents on the case, Doreen Gallo and Gus Sheha of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, said they had no comment.

UPDATE: Sheha through a spokeswoman sent out the following statement:

“Today, June 5th 2009, after 126 years of being unencumbered and on display for the world to enjoy, the Brooklyn Bridge was sold by the NY City Council Land Use Committee … This is a very sad day, as political contributions and special interests have reinforced the public’s perception that the ‘will of the people’ is an empty phrase, something rendered non-existent in our democracy in this era of checkbook politics. Collectively we say shame on all those who will bargain our national monuments and history to bankroll careers that do everything but serve the will and the voice of the people and public interest. Your legacy will leave an indelible stain on human history and world beloved landscape of our city.”

But by the elevators, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), who voted for the zoning change, leaned over to Gallo and said, “The bridge will still be standing tomorrow.” Without missing a beat, Gallo shot back, “Why crowd it.”

Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton, whose organization aggressively searched for alternative sites for a public middle school beyond Dock Street and opposed the project, said she knew the Council would vote in favor, anyway.

“I think we saw it coming. We fought a good fight, but we saw it coming,” she said.

Project developer Jed Walentas sat stonefaced throughout the hour-long vote, and then released the following statement:

“From the outset of this process, we have worked hard to demonstrate that Dock Street Dumbo will be a thoughtful, contextual, positive addition to the neighborhood and we are both proud and grateful that the project has earned such widespread support on the merits. Two Trees is honored to have the opportunity to provide the community with a new middle school and Dumbo’s first-ever affordable housing, all in an environmentally friendly green building that respects the surrounding neighborhood and its historic character.”

Here’s a full rundown of who voted which way:

Land Use committee:
Tony Avella: no
Charles Barron: no
Eric Gioia: no
John Liu: no
Maria Baez: yes
Maria Arroyo: yes
Leroy Comrie: yes
Elizabeth Crowley: yes
Inez Dickens: yes
Simcha Felder: yes
Daniel Garodnick: yes
Sara Gonzalez: yes
Vincent Ignizio: yes
Robert Jackson: yes
Melinda Katz: yes
Jessica Lappin: yes
Annabel Palma: yes
Joel Rivera: yes
Larry Seabrook: yes
Helen Sears: yes
Albert Vann: yes

Zoning and Franchises subcommittee:
Tony Avella: no
Eric Gioa: no
Simcha Felder: yes
Robert Jackson: yes
Melinda Katz: yes
Joel Rivera: yes
Larry Seabrook: yes
Helen Sears: yes

For more coverage, see the Brooklyn Paper’s account.

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  • nabeguy

    Congratulations to Da, you got your building. And Carlo, you got your rider…nicely done.

  • Get Real

    I really hope this does not signal the end of DUMBO as we know it. We are going to lose St. Ann’s for sure, I am pretty sure 2Trees is not renewing Gleason’s lease. I hope the other studios and smaller artistic spaces can stick around. It would be a shame to see 2Trees build everything up in a unique and special way only to tear it back down for a profit.

  • adam

    DUMBO as we know it is almost entirely a creation of two trees and the Wallentases. They were the ones who wanted to convert obsolete but sturdy manufacturing buildings into residences even though it ran counter the area’s zoning. As I remember, the BHA was vehemently opposed to the conversion of the historic buildings to residential use. In retrospect that seems so reactionary and ill-informed. Now once again they are trying to stop the evolution of the neighborhood by claiming that the Brooklyn Bridge is imperiled. Such baloney.

  • No2Walentas2Trees


    time will tell. We will find out if the proponets for a school will get their wish and if the opposition was right or not.

    Lesson: Voting is for suckers.

  • nabeguy

    No2, the school will be built, because Melinda Katz has made sure of it with the rider. Even I trust that TT’s will follow through on that commitment. The question for me has always been whether it’s appropriate to put our children at risk by sending them to a school in an area that has serious traffic and air/noise pollution concerns, besides being in a Zone 1 flood zone. Those arguments seem to have fallen on deaf ears and fattened wallets. What distresses me the most in reading about the lobbying money that TT’s has thrown at our elected officials is the idea that they’ll use it to send their own children to private schools.

  • No2Walentas2Trees


    Well we now know, for sure what motivates politics. Change? no! Money? Yes!

    I for one know who I will not vote for, but that is mute. When the first child gets runned over by a livery cab we will see.

  • nabeguy

    Hey No2, welcome to Brooklyn. Having grown up here, I understand that local politics are bare-knuckled, the pens are poison-filled and, at the conclusion of the argument, the opponents are expected to pat their victors on the back and say “I’ll get you in the next round”. Thanks to sites like this, the vox populi can be expressed, but whether it’s strong enough to have an impact on the influence-peddling that is the SOP in NYC and perfectly exemplified in this project is yet to be determined.
    Homer, it’s been a long and lengthy battle and I want to express my gratitude to you for allowing all voices on both sides to be heard.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Homer, My gratitude as well.

    Nabeguy…I grew up here as well. Kings county has always been known as the most corrupt county in the country. It’s nice to see that the politicians hold to tradition.

  • nabeguy

    No2, I can’t necessarily concur about Kings being the most corrupt county in the country, (we have nothing on New Orleans) but we definitely do it with more style than anyone else! Brooklyn rules!!!

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Brooklyn. the land of slumlords and crooked politicians!

  • anti-Dock

    It is too bad that the opposition got labeled as only concerned about their views from 70 Washington, when in reality there were scores from Fulton Ferry and Brooklyn Heights who fought the 38 Water St version of this project successfully in 2004, and were active this time as well. As you know, in 2004, 70 Wash was filled with artist studios, some of the hundreds of artists who had to move on when Walentas converted that building in 2006. The issue back then, as now, was the views of and from the Bridge, but there was no mudslinging about it being rich people’s views back in 2004.

    The City Council testimony of then DNA President Nancy Webster (now acting Executive Director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy) contained the following in part:

    “First, DUMBO Neighborhood Association acknowledges that the applicant, Two Trees, has done excellent commercial and residential development work In DUMBO. We feel strongly, however, that this project, even revised, is too close to the span of the Brooklyn Bridge to rise as tall as the applicant wishes. Further, it looks to the wrong buildings as context, seeking to emulate the large industrial Gair buildings clustered on Washington and Main Streets rather than the 4-6 story 19th century brick buildings which predominate on Water Street and function as a transition from DUMBO to Fulton Ferry Landing. Therefore, we urge you to deny their request for a change to M1-2/R8 zoning. We care deeply about this issue because we believe this building, with an 88 foot high portion beginning 70 feet from the span of the Brooklyn Bridge and a larger 178 foot section 134 feet from the span, is still unacceptably intrusive — particularly from the pedestrian walkway where the glorious vista to the Manhattan Bridge will be lost. One Main and Sweeney One, which the applicant references in their application, are 500 and 250 feet away, respectively.”
    “Finally, let me be clear that DUMBO Neighborhood Association does not relish taking this stand in opposition to the applicant. We have worked amicably with Two Trees in the past and trust we will do so again in the future. Nonetheless, we feel strongly that this is the wrong building for the site. It is both out of context and intrudes upon the most recognized and beloved symbol of our borough and city – the Brooklyn Bridge. Any project which crowds and diminishes this national landmark and which diminishes the pedestrian experience on the bridge walkway should not be approved.”

    Sadly, the 2009 version of the building, even though the tower has been rotated 90 degrees, is actually closer to the Bridge, at 96′, as opposed to the 132′ referred to above in 2004. Ironically, the opposition did better in 2004 (when there were less residents in DUMBO) than this time, because the same arguments about bridge views (that Nancy made 5 years ago) were categorized as lost million-dollar views in the current battle. Of course, it didn’t help that there were additional factors involved this time, obviously the school and the affordable housing, but these could have been incorporated into a lower building as well.

  • nabeguy

    Which all goes to prove that Walentas should change his name to Jedi, since he seems to have the uncanny ability (and deep pockets) to get his way. May the force be shoved down your throat!

  • Publius

    Fascinating video that details how money and backroom deals drive Chri$tine Quinn’s career:

    The video also details how with her slush fund, she can and does silence City Council opposition. And as we’ve seen with Dock Street, can turn a majority into the minority overnight with threats of political favors and money withheld.

    After watching this, you’ll shudder at how corrupt NYC government is–and how Quinn is at the center of this corruption. Boss Tweed would be proud.

    This video was produced by one of her former supporters who’s completely disgusted with her as a politican.

  • nabeguy

    Wow, no wonder they call her the Mighty Quinn.

  • Truman

    So Nancy Webster is the benevolent one looking out for the public interest? Spare us. Maybe you can explain why she recently had a “meet and greet” in her apartment at 1 Main, with the guest of honor being the corrupt “Chris Quinn.” Does anyone truly think Quinn would meet privately with people at 1 Main if it didn’t involve money? On a recent meeting with Quinn, Webster wrote: “I was very struck by her warmth and accessibility.” I bet. I’m sure their love fest at 1 Main was very warm and accessible.
    In 2004, Webster was concerned with losing her views. In 2009, she has children who’ll benefit from a middle school and is harboring obvious political aspirations.
    Webster leaves her job at Marsteller to join the BBPC and like clockwork Marianna Koval resigns, Webster takes her spot. Funny how for a decade that Walentas Carousel sat in limbo. The second Nancy Webster joins the BBPC, the carousel finds a home.
    All very tidy. And predictable.

    “Warm and accessible.”

  • Get Real

    As I was walking home yesterday down Washington looking at the empty space where the wall/building will go I was pretty disappointed. I also had a thought about all the people who argue that the opponents were just protecting their views…..

    Those people have every right to protect their views. Not only for their own personal enjoyment but to protect an investment. If you had $1,000,000 of a stock and something was going to happen at the company that would reduce the value but you had a chance to stop it, would you not do that. I think you are actually obligated to do that. Say what you will but I do not blame people for protecting their investments.

    I still think that this will be Brooklyn’s Verizon building and that we will all look at it as out of place and jarring in an otherwise beautiful skyline and setting, but only time will tell.

  • disgusted

    What Quinn did to blackmail the council members is so disgusting it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope she goes to jail, and then rots in hell.

    Her job is to serve the greater interest of the public, and with Dock St. she gave a huge f*ck you to the public majority, cashed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of checks from a single developer, and served his private interests. YOU ARE CORRUPT QUINN. YOU ARE EVIL. AND YOU WILL GET YOUR PUNISHMENT.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Perhaps a mooning campaign from the walkway when and if this project is completed is in order.

  • jiker

    I hate development.

  • Clarknt67


  • HDEB

    I love dense development.

  • nabeguy

    Dense development indeed. Like the one between the ears of every council member who voted for this charade.

  • Snoopy

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

  • nabeguy

    “Oh my goodness, I’m falling. Thank heavens that Christine Quinn and Melinda Katz are there to break it”
    – Jed Walentas

  • bornhere

    I’m going to guess that Quinn and crew wouldn’t give a damn about this: