City Council passes Dock Street 39-9


((Revised Dock St rendering, post-DCP amendments))

((Click here for a downloadable PDF of the revised renderings.))


We’re live-blogging, sort of, the Dock Street DUMBO vote before City Council this afternoon. The full Council just voted 39-9 in support of the project, with the no-votes from Councilmembers Tony Avella, Charles Barron, Bill DeBlasio, Vincent Gentile, Eric Gioia, John Liu, Peter Vallone, and, of course, David Yassky. The vote itself was for the necessary rezoning that the developer, Two Trees Management, needs to build its 17-story residential tower in DUMBO.

More quotes from dissenting voters, comments, and reactions forthcoming, including transcripts from Council members for and against the project. (Update 5:17 pm: Those quotes are now at the bottom of this post!)

In the meantime, here are initial reactions from Walentas, Yassky, and the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance:

Yassky, immediately post-vote:

“I”m disappointed that the City Council made a bad decision. I guess I hope — maybe it’s foolish, but I would still hope that the property owner sees the broader public interest in protecting the Brooklyn Bridge and doesn’t change the views as you walk over the bridge.”

And DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance President Gus Sheha, who strongly opposes the project, just sent out his lengthy statement, printed here in its entirety:

“Today, the 2009 New York City Council, signed the deed allowing the sale of one of the most identifiable national landmarks and one of the most striking man-made structures in the history of the Unites States of America, the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“Those who have fought hard to oppose the Dock Street development are disenchanted and disenfranchised by our elected officials, who after wide-spread opposition to this zoning change, which included 25,000+ signatures and postcards, 8 neighborhood organizations, the National Trust, the Municipal Art Society, the Historic Districts Council, Architecture Society of New York City, the Roebling Society – Chapter for Industrial Archeology, the American History Museum of the Smithsonian, Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, cinematographer Ken Burns, the Roebling Family and more, the “will of the people” was disregarded. Community and civic mobilization, always promoted by elected officials as a way for communities to be heard, was completely ignored.”

“It is clear that ‘the fix’ was indeed in long before the ULURP process began, an insult to all law abiding, tax paying, community promoting citizens of not only our city, but our country. The pay-to-play politics, conflicts of interest and special interests infiltrating our halls of local government are the reasons behind the public’s disinterest and apathy towards our politicians and government. Moreover, the apparent collusion and corruption with the developer of city agencies, sworn to protect the interests of the tax paying public, are nothing but favor dolling machines with very little public integrity.”

“Mr. McCullough, in describing the Brooklyn Bridge, has poetically stated, ‘None of us had a hand in building it. None of us contributed a thing to its architectural grandeur or its pioneering technology. None of us were injured in the effort, or suffered from the bends for our labors beneath the river, or died in accidents. They did all that, those men and women of that vanished time. And they built superbly. They set an example of how things can be done right.’ Today let it be told, the New York City Council did everything but set an example on how things can be done right. We’d like to commend council members Avella, Barron, DeBlasio, Gentile, Gerson, Gioia, Liu, Vallone and Yassky for taking a stand and showing the rest of council what doing the right thing is all about.”

“To our members, neighbors and admirers of the Brooklyn Bridge, far and wide, we assure you that our fight against Dock Street does not end here. As stewards of the Brooklyn Bridge, we are exploring various legal and governmental investigatory actions to counter the assault committed by Two Trees Management, aided and abetted by City Council, on our cultural heritage and history.”

Developer Jed Walentas, through his spokeswoman Barbara Wagner, fired off the following statement literally moments after the vote:

“We are grateful for today’s vote by the City Council approving Dock Street Dumbo and want to thank all the Council members for their careful deliberations and support. Two Trees is both honored and proud to be able to provide the community with a new middle school, affordable housing and a thoughtful, environmentally friendly green building that will add to the vibrant, historic waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO.”

Comments from Council members for and against the rezoning proposal and project itself, as transcribed before each member’s vote:

Charles Barron (D-Canarsie):

“The 80-20 formula to me is not affordable, to me development should pay more and do more with affordability. The debate was reduced to someone wanting a better view of the Brooklyn Bridge and affordable housing.”

David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights):

“When I think about what’s at stake in this application is the Verizon Building on the New York side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Any of us who have walked over toward Manhattan know that the experience of the bridge is marred by the presence of a big ugly bldg that’s right in your view.

“I’m not saying the building proposed here will be as unattractive or as devastating as that building, but when you have one of the armful of treasures in the entire city that is the experience of walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, I think it would just be a mistake to tamper with it in any way and for that reason I am opposed to this.”

Letitia James, D-Fort Greene:

“I urge my colleagues to vote in support of the Dock Street project because it holds the promise of hundreds of new middle school seats in for children in Downtown Brooklyn, proposed to build 300 seat in a privately funded, “green” LEED-certified building that will also create DUMBO’s first very affordable housing. The developer plans to donate a significant portion of the cost of the city as well, worth over $40 million. Further, he has already reached out to surrounding community regarding job opportunities for women and minority businesses.

“The Dock Street project is exactly the kind of smart, innovative, carefully-crafted and planned partnership that the future of this city needs, particularly at this time of challenging fiscal needs.

“I’m also well aware of the concerns by some project opponents to proximity to the Bridge, so I took the time to walk the neighborhood. I concluded quite comfortably that Dock Street DUMBO does not pose any kind of threat to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is a position clearly shared by the local community board and city planning commission, along with numerous design professionals, and area parents and others throughout the neighborhood.”

Melinda Katz, D-Queens

“…The [land use] committee voted overwhelmingly in the majority to pass this project. The community board in this community voted overwhelmingly in favor of this project. And I just want to point out right now, in the worse recession that we have seen in decades, economic development and smart projects going forward are going to be the key for the future of this city.

“Moreover, the fact that we are building a school to educate the future of our city and that folks can go there from all over the community is an extremely important aspect of this project that cannot be underestimated, so the land use committee voted in favor if it. I urge my colleagues to vote in this project — it is the right thing to do for the future of this city.”

Bill DeBlasio, D-Park Slope:

“I respect those who disagree with my position in opposition to this plan, but many of our neighborhoods desperately need more affordable housing and classroom space. But, as the proposed development for Dock Street currently stands, I’m not convinced it’s the best or more appropriate way and we must insure that no development project compromises the Brooklyn Bridge. For those reason I vote no.”

Vincent Gentile, D-Bay Ridge:

“I just want to say that the Brooklyn Bridge should never be compromised or overshadowed and there are other resolutions to the issues at hand.”

Larry Seabrook, D-Bronx:

“A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to take a fieldtrip to Brookyn and to see this area that we’re talking about in the DUMBO area. I had not been to area since 1975 … and I was amazed and very pleased to see the development that had taken place there.

I was able to see that the magnificent bridge and the historical site that is there … and I had that opportunity to see what I was actually voting for and to see what could happen. I think that the bridge will maintain all of its integrities and historical aspects based upon what I saw and based upon what I could visualize, from not an architectural point but just visually. The school I think will provide a tremendous opportunity for a well-diverse population that could be there along with the affordable housing that could actually take place.

“It’s a beautiful place for people to be and I think that it would be something that would be very important to have — new housing and the diversity and the school there and I will be casting my vote in the affirmative.”

Peter Vallone, D-Queens:

“I do not believe that anything should be build next to the Brooklyn Bridge that’s higher than the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge. We would not allow skyscraper next to the statue of liberty and we should not allow this.”

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. Last week, the Council’s Land Use committee passed the proposal 17-4. Today’s vote signals the end of the city’s public review process for al rezoning applications that was kick-started in January when Community Board 2 first passed the proposal 30-7. Its only flat-out rejection, voting wise, was at CB2’s land use committee, where members voted 7-6 to reject the proposal.

Here are links to other media hits from today’s vote: Brooklyn Paper, New York Times City Room blog, and Crain’s. More to come.

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  • Publius

    Will someone loan me a few hundred thousand dollars so I can buy off Chri$stine Quinn for my next pet real estate project that will diminish another NYC icon?

  • frnkln

    awesome. this project will be great for the neighborhood.

  • Peter

    was it ever in question that this might go the other way ?

    wake up people money talks and we all know what walks!!!!

  • heights gal

    thank goodness. i imagine the opposition spent as much if not more than welantas on those fake pictures and buying yassky. his whole “its like the verizon building in manhattan” (which, thanks to brian lehrer, i now know to be 3 TIMES taller than Dock Street) is completely bogus. another lying politician. not surprising.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    All you ‘proponents’ will live to regret this obvious travesty. SHAME ON YOU ALL. Not only will you not get your ‘school’ due to the upcoming rejection after an environmental impact study on the lead particles coming from the roadway rejects this idiocy, your ‘affordable housing’ will also disappear due to ‘financial’ re-considerations.

    How does it feel to be the pawns of a developer?

  • frnkln

    @No2Walentas2Trees … shame on you all?
    Please spare us the preaching we’re all just as informed on this issue as you are.

  • mr. dude

    yeah someone got a fat bribe for this thing to get built. this was obvious from the start. cohesive city planning is totally absent as usual.

  • No2Walentas2Trees


    I will preach all I want, The U.S. Constitution give me that right, and unless the editors of this blog decide to censor me, I will keep pointing out how shameful the proponents are. If you think that pay-to-play politics is a good thing…Shame on you. If you think it is safe to put kids under a shower of lead particles…Shame on you….If you think placing kids in the path of the exit ramp of the BQE, Shame on you. In short, SHAME ON YOU.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    I encourage all opponents to write the Obama Administration about acquiring the land via eminent domain and build a National Park Museum in tribute to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is after all a National Landmark. We have only begun to fight!

  • frnkln

    @No2Walentas2Trees … spare us the preaching it’s getting tired now.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Again, I really don’t care about your opinion ‘frnkln’. You are nothing but a pawn of a developer. And again, I refer you to the First Amendment of The U.S. Constitution.

  • nabeguy

    HG, given that TT surely bought out more than one Council Member, I seriously doubt the opposition outspent them. And Yassky was saying that the proposal is “like” the Verizon building in it’s proximity to the bridge, not in its height. You weren’t lied to in that sense.

  • frnkln

    @No2Walentas2Trees … just so you know, i’ve lived in dumbo for years, have kids and think you’re arguments are inflated rhetoric. don’t put other people down just because they don’t agree with YOU … that truely is shameful you idiot.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Yes, name calling, the last bastion of the weak. When you complain that your kids have health issues relating to lead, you will only have my ‘I told you so’

  • davoyager

    DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance President Gus Sheha, is steward of his own multimillion dollar condo overlooking the bridge and nothing else. Opposition to this project would have been well advised to keep people like him with personal $ million stakes out of this discussion.
    These votes are overwhelming and are clearly the voice of the people. No backroom deal can buy a 4 to 1 vote.
    Thank you City Council for your good work.

  • frnkln

    @No2Walentas2Trees … weak? you’re the one who’s moaning. I call ’em like I see ’em.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    DA, I have respected your stance, I must say, I agree with you. No back room deals. The deals were in full view of the public, the politicos just didn’t care.

    Now, when the school and affordable housing get shafted, what will be your view? You won’t get your school- lead from the roadway is a real threat. “Affordable housing?’ How easily did Ratner pull out of that. I really do wish you get your school, but Two Trees has shown it’s regard for kids before and will get this off the table as soon as they can raise the money needed to buy off someone else.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    frnkln, your the one using name calling in debate. I never insult my adversary. Is this what you teach your kids? Call your opponents ‘idiots’?

    Watch and learn how easily the school will disappear.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    My hat is off to the opposition for a vigorous and strong discourse. By thoroughly analyzing the proposal, asking each other endless questions, thinking and rethinking our positions over and over, we have all served our community.
    Hopefully we can work together to make the middle school a positive addition to our neighborhoods. Let’s work with the SCA and DOE to build a school of which we are all proud.


  • No2Walentas2Trees

    Carlo, no offense, the ‘community’ was ignored. Only the minority prevailed, not by their arguments, but by developer cash. It is obvious.

  • frnkln

    @No2Walentas2Trees … there’s no debate, the decision is made. You’re clearly just a sore loser and looking for an argument. As for freedom of speech it does work both ways. Good luck with your next cause.

  • mr. dude

    that being said, i’m not against construction in dumbo, but these objects will stand here for decades, and as such, being positioned in such an important and highly exposed part of new york, they have to be carefully conceived and designed to last as architectural landmarks.

    what we see here is another box, that already reeks of the 70s. a real architect and an exterior designer were never involved here in the capacity that’s needed. the building looks like it was designed by a developer, not an architect. it’s facade is unsightly, and it’s orientation and shape ruins the skyline and flow of the neighborhood. a better conceived structure could be right at home in that space though.

  • heights gal

    i just dont agree that a minority prevailed. i think its true that when you show people fake pictures, and tell them there will be a tower like the verizon tower right next to the bridge, they will sign a petition. hell, i did. but if anyone takes the time to look at the real scoop – as it sounds like many of the electeds did – they can clearly see what this project is all about. i dont think the “majority” of petition signers had any idea. the clamor of a few loosing their million dollar views (and the anti development types) did a good job getting people worked up over fictitious claims. in the end, the real majority will always consist of rational people empowered by facts. this blog is starting to sound like fox news. its pretty disheartening.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    HG, you will see and regret this.

  • SaveTheBridge

    Once this building goes up I think even supporters will feel ashamed. My touchstone is would you want your name emblazoned on a plaque placed on the bridge citing you as the responsible party for the building? Bet the people who supported the Verizon Building would pay anything not to have their names on such a plaque.

    This decision is a testament to how corruption is not a province off offbeat African nations, but is alive and well in New York City. It’s also a lesson of all those who would go into government or into big business that might makes right. I’ll tell you I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve learned that for the price of a school, a lobbyist, and a few hundred thousand in bribes, even the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale. Wow. And you know what, I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m not going to look back. Walentas has shown me how the game is played.

  • travy

    i’m with no2. developers are easily walking away from pre construction commitments because of ‘changing economic conditions’. if you think the school and affordable housing will actually be built, i can also get you a good deal on that bridge in the background.

  • frnkln

    Does anyone posting here who feels the “majority” was not represented have any proof whatsoever? You know there are many folks who wanted this project to go through, and are also represented by the City Council.

  • The Where

    Any council member who has not been to any inch of this great city in “35 years” should resign and take gas.

  • SaveTheBridge

    frnkln, just so you know, corrupt dealings generally aren’t backed by hard evidence in paper and posted on websites for review.

    I know that without this evidence you demand, things devolve into a he-said / she-said bickering which is what the perpertrators rely on to keep them covered.

    The best I can offer you is the suggestion you talk to anyone connected with city hall players who will bluntly let you know how all the votes against this abruptly swung for it after Quinn threatened to use her influence against members’ districts public funding coming up for review in two weeks.

    The application was actually timed to end up in council right now exactly so that leverage could be applied by the speaker whose contributions had been building up over the past two years for just this time. If you were at the meeting, you would observe the speaker (Quinn) used her position to just roll Dock St. up with a myriad of other unobjectionable motions that most members just voted “Aye to all” with to minimize standing out.

    All part of the pre-choreographed dance Fisher coordinated. He earned his million bucks, I’ll give him that. If I were a developer, I’d hire him in a heartbeat. Ruthless and utterly effective.

  • Local Guy