Dock Street DUMBO: What If…

A quote by former NY City Councilman/super-attorney Ken Fisher regarding Two Trees and the Dock Street DUMBO project keeps repeating in my mind.  After CB2’s land-use committee voted no on the project – due to the building’s height among other things – Fisher told the Brooklyn Paper, “It is more likely that we would have to consider a commercial property and there would be no school.”

That’s one loaded sentence, eh?  You’ve got what could be a reference to a hidden agenda (“we would have to consider a commercial property”) and a teeny tiny bit of what could be fear mongering (“there would be no school”).

What is bugging me is that it appears that the approval needed for a zoning change and the height issue – as far as my small brain can tell – is relevant only in the discussion to change the project’s status from commercial to residential.   So can Two Trees build whatever it wants under the auspices of a commercial structure?

And if that happens,  the opposition will chime in and claim that the transient nature of a commercial building’s tenants and visitors poses a terror threat to the bridge. Oy vey.

All the issues here add up to one conclusion – no matter what gets built there, it’s gonna suck.

Therefore, I am suggesting a very simple solution.  Two Trees must immediately donate the land to the state as part of Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Face it guys, preserving a pretty carousel only goes so far in convincing the community that you care about “preservation” and “quality of life”.

I know this is tough talk, but you Walentas can handle it.  Choosing to be mensches here is a good thing for you.

Just think of the press, the good will and the pretty green space the neighborhood YOU CREATED would have.  As a matter of fact, I’ll give you the first line of your press release:

“Two Trees Management announced today that it has chosen to donate the Brooklyn land ear marked for its Dock Street DUMBO Project to New York State and the new Brooklyn Bridge Park.  “In the end we felt that respecting the historical significance of the Brooklyn Bridge served the community and our legacy best.  Letting our dream project go was a small price to pay.” Jed Walentas says.

But wait it gets better, here’s a fantasy report from BHB of the Future:

New York City Public Advocate Bill DiBlasio and New York City Councilman David Yassky announced a plan today for a middle school to be built at the site of the old 84th Precinct House on Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights.  “We’re happy that we found a way for the City to work with Two Trees in turning the precinct into a much needed school for our children,” Yassky said.  “Sometimes those in government and those in the private sector are able to get together and find a way to do the right thing.”

We really do live in a world where anything is possible.  You just gotta want it.  You just gotta wanna do the right thing and leave this world better than how you found it.   It really is that simple.

You may say I’m a dreamer.  Am I the only one?

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  • Chester

    This is a great idea Homer, thanks for posting. I wonder if Senator Squadron could make this happen.

  • nabeguy

    Lovely vision Homer, but given the “wah, wah, I want my own development too” attitude of Two Trees, I fear your dream may be one of a tubular nature. But, hey, let’s keep putting things out there. At some point, the cork is going to be popped on this thing, whether it be Ripple or Dom.

  • ABC

    How about two trees builds a school there and sells it to the DOE at a predetermined price. I’m sure they could do it cheaper and better than the city. Plus, I’d love to see the 70 Washington owners fight that.

  • Pete

    The 70 Wash owners are such a tiny minority here. I don’t see why people seem to think they’re the only ones making a stink about the project.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    How about if those who oppose the project pay TT a fair market value for the floors they dont want built? Should be easy to calculate the net present value on the profit generated per floor. That way everybody wins.

  • dd

    This is not a “solution” – it is a proposal to require a developer to “donate” property to the city. Beyond being ridiculous and completely unrealistic on its face (would you donate tens of millions of dollars in order to get a favorable posting on a blog?), requiring such action would disincentivize any future development and be a death sentence for the future vibrancy of this city – including any potential public parkland in the area. The Two Trees proposed development in no way obstructs the views of the brooklyn bridge, other than from the million dollar condos at 70 Washington – to claim otherwise is simply a subterfuge for other objections to the project. The bottom line is that Walentas can build as high as he wants on the site so long as it is commercial property (i.e., hotel). A little pragmatism by the community board is encouraged – if the community board continues to play an obstructionist role in the neighborhood, the result will be a reduction in property tax revenues from hard-working, tax-paying property owners (you can be certain that we will leave for greener pastures) and a general deterioration of the neighborhood.

  • Jazz

    Double D (great name) I believe Mr. Fink is proposing a nuclear option, one that is chock full of shock and awe. The world doesn’t need another building but could use another visionary.

  • ddfan

    here here dd,

    This city has to get over its “don’t build anything” BS. The economy’s bad now. But there will come a time for some expansion. And it’s good for all of us — despite the whining from a few people whose views might be compromised.

    Sorry, guys, this is NYC. Most of the time, you’re going to be looking at another building. Only a tiny few places can guarantee a view for life — and they’re pricey as f–k.

    otherwise, let progress and development move on.

    (of course, i’d sell of large chunks of central park for development — so maybe don’t listen to me!)

  • dd

    What is “visionary” is the public-private partnership that could be forged by heavily subsidizing the cost of a middle school. The school is critical for the continued success of the neighborhood – otherwise you are looking at heavy turnover of real estate (and consequently drops in real estate prices) for families whose children are approaching middle school age. One need not propose “nuclear options” in order to be visionary – pragmatic solutions to seemingly intractible issues can be found if community leaders (read: Community Board) are willing to consider the broader impact of their decisions, instead of focusing narrowly on “preservationist” instincts which, while admirable (even if misguided in this case), should be balanced with broader community considerations.

    FYI – I am a huge supporter of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and think that its development, as well of the Dock St. development, are critical for the continued success of the neighborhood. These views need not be in conflict with each other.

  • No One Of Consequence

    I don’t believe it’s fair to target residents of 70 Washington (I don’t live there).
    I think most of the arguments are about how views will be blocked from the perspective of public spaces, which is what (I think) those against the project find unacceptable. Because it’s something being robbed from everyone, not just rich whitey in his penthouse.

  • davoyager

    this is what i wrote when I learned of all the other projects on the drawing board for the Brooklyn waterfront.
    From the 30 story nightmare which is suppose to pay for the Brooklyn Bridge Park on all the way up past the Manhattan bridge and beyond. :

    If all this other stuff gets built and we still don’t get a middle school because some of you babies are afraid of losing such a tiny snippet of view for those of us who dont live in those pricey condos…
    There was no middle school 40 years ago when I graduated from PS 8 and there is none now. It is so sad to see the same panicked dance by good families who had put down roots now have to reorder their lives when the middle school years arrive for their children. In Manhattan, parents can choose from a plethora of good public schools. As someone who’s family goes back here before the civil war I say: if we don’t get this school we should secede from the city because the promise they made to us when we built this bridge is that we would be equal partners. I think Brooklyn too often gets the short end of the stick and the school issue and the dismemberment of LICH are just 2 examples.

  • gopark

    The vacant ex-police building right next to PS8 is begging to be a school and would offend no one in that capacity. Why does Walentas insist on building an 18-story building next to the Brooklyn Bridge? He’s already a billionaire off his DUMBO real estate deals, is that not enough? Why not donate the land next to the bridge as an extension of the park. It would fit in so beautifully with the ajascent state and Brooklyn Bridge parks and surrounding landmark buildings. He could even retain rights to concession spots on the property and lease those out.

  • bklyn20

    We should have a school AND keep the views of the Bridge, and not only the views, but also the air space around it. If a developer wanted to build a tall building 50 feet from the Eiffel Tower, and tried to make it palatable by putting Le Pre-School de La Sorbonne in the bottom 3 stories, would that be ok?

    The issue for me and MANY others is not a sliver of view from a luxury condo. The issues are the Brooklyn Bridge and the dearth of decent public middle schools in Brooklyn. Why must one be lost to gain the other? Maybe 2 Trees should pay everyone who looks at the Brooklyn skyline and the bridge a “vista penalty fee?”

    As someone whose family has also been here since before the Civil War, does not stand to lose a view from my home, and has a child who’ll be attending middle school in a few years, I do indeed have a stake in all this. My kid may never be able to get into this school — why should I or anyone have eto make this absurd choice? 2 Trees shouldn’t be able to force us all into a Hobson’s choice. Let’s not give a millionaire self-interested developer that power.

  • dd

    If you want to live in a museum, go to the MET. This is a living, vibrant area – other than the vacant lots that lower the quality of the neighborhood – reasonable development and public/private partnership should be enouraged.

    Again though, back to your principal point – what views are you talking about? This building is not anywhere close to the architechturally significant portions of the bridge, and the “views” are not going to be destroyed or impaired from ANYWHERE in the area except from the vantage point of certain existing condos.

  • bklyn20

    Interesting, then, that people who don’t live in neighboring condos still care about this over-high building. The site should be either developed reasonably or made part of the park.

    If you want to develop tall buildings by world landmarks, maybe you can go unchallenged somewhere else…not here. The only reason the school sweetener came along was precisely BECAUSE it was the ONLY WAY to get this development on the table. As for living in a museum– some of them want gigantic additions, too.

  • Chester

    Fink you are a true visionary. Too bad Walentas are greedy and don’t have the cojones to do something like this.