Dock Street opponents rally at City Hall

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

(BHB/Sarah Portlock)

Dock Street opponents took the steps of City Hall today, and brought out their biggest gun — Brooklyn Bridge historian David McCullough — to rally for the cause.

McCullough, who published a column in this week’s Newsweek explaining his views against the controversial proposed Dock Street project, said on Tuesday that the bridge should be left alone.

“We wouldn’t let a 17- or 18-story building go up next to the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty — of course not,” he said. “The bridge should be preserved, protected, and respected.”

In a follow-up statement, he said:

In his initial proposal for the Bridge, written in 1867, the brilliant John A. Roebling, its designer, said that the finished work would stand down the years as a testament to the community that built it. That was 142 years ago. And there the bridge stands today, just as he said, a testament to those who built it. Let what is decided now, in the year 2009, be a testament of our appreciation for this rarest of structures, the gratitude we feel as we enjoy it, the pride we take in it.

The controversial proposed project goes before the City Council’s zoning and franchises committee in May for its latest round of public discussion about the rezoning application. Developer Jed Walentas wants to build an 18-story rental tower next to the Brooklyn Bridge, and needs the area to be rezoned first, thus launching a seven-month public review process that is nearing its end.

The chairman of that committee, Tony Avella of Queens, has come out loudly against the project, and vowed on Tuesday to lobby his colleagues to vote against the project, and that he “would not let this happen under any circumstances.”

“How foolish would we be to allow a building to go up there,” he said. “I don’t think any of us want to be the one who allowed for people to walk past and say, ‘Who the heck put that up?’ Under no circumstances can [the Walentases] make this project palatable to me.”

In related news, project supporter Councilwoman Tish James sent a letter to her colleagues today as well, outlining her views. The full letter is here [pdf].

I am fully aware of the concerns being expressed by some project opponents about the building’s proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge, so I have taken the time to walk the neighborhood to evaluate their issues and have consulted with numerous community leaders and residents. I’ve 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 both the local Community Board (CB #2 approved the project nearly unanimously) and by the City Planning Commission, which overwhelmingly voted in favor of the project earlier this week.
…Not only am I confident that this project will not cause any harm to the Brooklyn Bridge or the Dumbo community, but on the contrary, I think its new public middle school and affordable housing will generate a great deal of good for the residents of Downtown Brooklyn. I have attached a copy of an op-ed article I recently wrote in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle – “Dock Street Project Provides Rational Answer to Real Need” – that further explains my rationale for supporting the proposal and lays out the need for more of these types of thoughtful public-private partnerships across New York City. (I also have attached a couple of additional news clips from the local papers for your review as well.)

The City Council hearings will be in May, and we’ll update you with the date and time when we get it.

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  • nabeguy

    What the hell kind of context is Councilwoman James framing this project in when she refers to it as a “threat to the Brooklyn Bridge”? In her attempt to co-opt the passion of the detractors to the proposal, she only serves to prove that the hyperbole of the proponents can be equally as absurd. It’s a building we’re talking about Tish, not a plutonium recovery plant run by the Taliban, so stop using the Threat Level 5 language of the Cheney-ites. And if you’re campaign coffers received a penny from TT, you’d better ‘fess up now, because the story is out there (never thought I’d say this but “Thank you NY Post”)

  • nabeguy

    By the way Jed, good job, but you’re no Conrack.

  • my2cents

    i can’t believe anyone buys into the “affordable” housing line… when was the last time affordable housing was voluntarily provided by any developer? Especially 2 trees, who have made DUMBO singlehandedly into one of the most expensive parts of brooklyn.

  • No2Walentas2Trees

    The list of people who need to be voted out of office has just gotten one more name! Councilwoman James, get ready to stand in line for an unemployment check.

  • No One Of Consequence

    Why are these council members blatantly disregarding public opinion?

    Where is Carlos T. ? :)

  • davoyager

    Thank you for posting the honorable councilwoman James’s thoughtful and well reasoned letter to her fellow council members.
    I find myself in full agreement with her, impressed with her analysis, and saddened by the hysteria that has been built up on the right against this project. The Middle class has been ignored for too long by the privileged. We need this school, we need affordable housing, we need green construction and public/private partnerships since nobody else is giving us any money. We need developments like this which serve the public good in these ways. and are not simply monuments to greed like so much that has been built over the last 20 years including in dumbo.

  • winkidink

    The Roebling School for the Environment

  • fulton ferry res

    The Davoyager School for Destroying the Environment

  • Anon


    “We need developments like this which serve the public good in these ways, and are not simply monuments to greed like so much that has been built over the last 20 years including in dumbo.”

    You may want to seriously rethink that last line of your post. Much of what has been built in the last 20 years in DUMBO is from the same developer whose project you’re endorsing.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Carlo T checking in.

    There are 40 core members of the opposition who have rallied three times. Many of whom, and we can name names if you’d like, who will lose views. Congrats that you’ve expanded your base with Mr. McCullough and a former SNL cast member, who factually would lose a view.

    To claim that you are the majority of public opinion is another bloated claim. Similar to your doctered renderings.

    Two Trees has put it out there and you’ve taken some good shots. At the end of the day, this is a reasonable development that will benefit the community. Sorry you disagree.

  • No One Of Consequence

    The Davoyager School For Davoyager; Magnet school for the delusional.

  • Bart

    Whenever I hear about a development, I immediately think of the three monstrous buildings between Henry, Cadman Plaza, and Clark Street; they are hideous. They are completely out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.

    What usually happens in with “Middle Class Housing” is that the buildings fill up with a combination of the “Professional Class” and the “Working Class”. Because they they get such a good deal on rent, they stay there until retirement. So while there is an initial expansion of housing, because turnover is extremely slow, the sustained benefit is more questionable.

    Look at 75 Henry Street. Now, because the baby boomers are retiring, they’re finally selling their one bedrooms for roughly $500,000. I question if many working class, or even middle class people have $100,000 saved up for the down payment. So these apartments will probably become more upper middle class.


  • DT

    Bart – those buildings are becoming more expensive not because of retirees, but because they voted (at least 75 Henry) to go private and can now sell at market rates – but they did provide 40 years of middle income housing for the neighborhood.

    Separately, I have to imagine those few buildings make up a sizable portion of the customer base for our neighborhood stores and restuarants. Without them, wouldn’t we’d see even more closed storefronts on and around Henry St?

  • No One of Consequence

    I got a great idea from the “Tree Damage” thread.

    Tear down the bridge, build a new one. Next.

    Thanks “The Where”

  • epc

    Those buildings replaced four full blocks of classical Brooklyn brownstones and commercial buildings. Only marginally increasing the number of residence but totally destroying a commercial presence on Fulton (Cadman Plaza West) and the East side of Henry Street. The neighborhood would have more vitality today had those buildings not been built. With the exception of the strip of storefronts on Pineapple Walk and the Gristedes, no commercial space was allocated in any of the buildings, wasting valuable street frontage and destroying the sense of community you get from people milling around on the sidewalk.

  • DT

    epc – fair points. I didn’t know what was around before the hi-rises came in (I’ve only been in the neighborhood a few years). Interesting to know there was a similar number of residences back then. Do you know why the retail components were removed? It doesn’t make sense (not that is has to when it comes to government-driven development) that the retail presence would have been destroyed on both Cadman and east Henry when there could have been plenty of it on the ground floors.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    To compare Dock Street to Cadman is a bit unfair. Firstly, Dock Street wouldn’t require tearing down classical structures, just a 14 foot warehouse occupied by St. Ann’s and a parking garage.

    The proposal is now 17 stories. I believe the Cadman buildings are significantly taller, probably around 30 stories.

    Dock Street incorporates street level retail and of course, the middle school. Lots of foot traffic and community life so to speak.

    I understand apprehension to development. I prefer older to new like many. Give Walentas some credit, he converted many older buildings in DUMBO instead of tearing them down in favor of new construction.

  • Neighbor

    I remember something John Lindsay said when he was mayor, responding to a plan to add a small addition to police stables in Central Park: ‘if every good project that had been proposed for Central Park in the last 50 years had been built, there would be no Central Park now.’

    The issue here has little to do with the merits of the Dock Street project (that being said, low income housing isn’t going to happen and there are other good locations for a needed middle school.)

    Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brooklyn Bridge is a major cultural and historical feature of our city. Consequently, it attracts more visitors than almost any other site. It is our job as educated citizens to take a slightly longer view of this — and serve as its steward for future generations.

  • epc

    DT: look at the recently posted photos to the BHB group on flickr ( , for example: ). Much of downtown Brooklyn was “improved” by Robert Moses in the 1940s and 1950s, eliminating several blocks of commercial office buildings to create Cadman Plaza and Columbus Park as well as the area bounded by Clark/Henry and Fulton/Cadman Pl. West.

    As far as the parallels with Dock Street, only that it’s evidence that with a little money spread around you can easily destroy the character of a neighborhood. I personally oppose Dock Street, mostly because I think it’s a fundamentally stupid idea to build a school next to two major highways.

  • my2cents

    DT, if you want to see what was there check out nabeguy’s photos elsewhere on this blog. It shows how it looked in the early 60s. Basically it was like another henry street on cadman plaza, and henry street had 2 sides of stores. This must have made a huge difference to the street life.

  • nabeguy

    As the person who posted the photos on Flickr that others have referred to, I have to agree with Carlo (can you imagine?) that the Cadman development and the Dock Street proposal cannot be put into the same basket. If you look at the photos, you’ll see that the buildings in question, while intriguing from an historic and architectural standpoint, were something of a motley collection of commercial and residential buildings that did not, as a whole, represent any particular statement about the neighborhood. But the situation at hand here is not a local dust-up over the merits of this building or that…we’re talking about the Brooklyn Bridge. Carlo, Jed, Tish, I’ve read as many arguments from your camp that I could get my hands on and viewed your renderings (versus the ones that the “hoodwinked” David McCullough saw), and still can’t understand how you can maintain the argument that the height of the proposed building, which extends above the bridge roadbed, will not negatively impact a viewers appreciation of the bridge. Having seen the monstrosities that replaced the buildings of Fulton and Henry Streets, I can’t stand idly by while the integrity of an eternal monument is compromised by a building that will be considered not only passe, but like the Cadman Towers themselves, will be crumbling in the next 25 years.
    And on a side note to Carlo, if my daughter did manage to get a spot in the new middle school, I’d move to New Jersey before I’d let her go there.

  • No One Of Consequence

    I would also concede that Carlo is right; Dock St and Cadman Towers are not an apples to apples comparison.

    Refering to cre’s comments in OTW, my2 wasn’t saying that the renderings were “doctored,” just “misleading.” Just as the opposition isn’t going to show you anything that makes the project look good, Two Trees’ camp is also not going to put out anything that might make the project look bad.

    It keeps coming up that _owners_ in 70 Washington will lose their views. While I don’t often hear this as an argument from the opposition (I really only hear it from Carlo and Davoyager), I think it is worthwhile to note that they stand to lose it to _renters_. How is it that those who have made a significant investment (and likely their largest) to live in DUMBO with views should have that stripped from them from those who merely rent? (Don’t try to tell me that apartments in the tower with bridge views will be some of the ones slated for affordable housing.) If you don’t own, I don’t fully expect that you’d understand. If you do own, I don’t see how you could find it acceptable.

    It remains that nothing is in writing and I suspect that the proposed narrowing and shortening of the tower, will change the financials of the project enough so that both affordable housing and the school will be nixed. The excuse being that it will impinge too greatly on the developer’s profits. But by then it will be too late to do anything about it.

    restatement of disclosure: I do not live in 70 Washington nor would the building block views of the bridge from my apartment, which I own (in the co-op sense of the word “own”).

  • davoyager

    Comment from fulton ferry res
    Time: April 29, 2009, 4:46 am

    The Davoyager School for Destroying the Environment

    That’s not fair. I’m a vegetarian cept for the occasional fish. And I don’t drive.

    Comment from No One Of Consequence
    Time: April 29, 2009, 8:35 am

    The Davoyager School For Davoyager; Magnet school for the delusional.

    That one I love!

    In the old Eagle warehouse opposite Squibb Park with the park serving as the school yard that students get too by hot air balloons and monorail. If I had a zillican bucks I would open that school.

    Thank you for asking.

    I wrote on the Dumbo blog:

    I think the 35k sq ft area will be deeded to the city on contract. If the city does not own the space the contract is not signed and the building is not built. This is how it was presented to me as a member of the community. I argued for 40k sq ft and roof area for labs and experiments. People said: we can think about that. Anyway it is up to Yassky, Markowitz and others to ensure we have legally binding agreements. During the Giuliani years they would have built The Office of Emergency Preparedness there; I’m hoping Mayor Mike will build a school there.

    Side note to nabeguy: if you leave the nabe over this middle school issue you will join a parade that goes back generations. I draw hope from the difference between your rational and all those who have gone before.

  • Carlo Trigiani


    Can you please explain specifically what views will be lost. You know I’m slow (and some have written much worse) but please be specific – ie. standing on the corner of such and such looking west to the Brooklyn Tower of the Bridge. A preemptive strike, I consider the Tower the focal point of the Bridge.

  • Curmudgeon

    Affordable housing and a middle school are just ploys being used to quell opposition and get this project approved. This kind of shell game has been done in the past and will be used again in the future.

    Does anyone remember the ploy used when Battery Park City was proposed? It was supposed to provide middle class housing so that the “Wall Street secretary” would be able to live in affordable housing and be able to walk to work. Have you ever been to BPC? Has that promise been fulfilled? Why should we believe Two Trees.

    The Brooklyn Bridge is a National treasure and a landmark of great distinction that deserves full protection form the forces of real estate greed!

  • nabeguy

    Carlo, if you have to ask how an 18 story tower (or whatever it is now, it’s hard to keep up) that’s 100 feet from the Brooklyn Bridge will impact views of it, I’d be more prone to question your visual acuity before discussing your mental shortcomings. Your obtuseness on his issue is starting to wear me down, but rest assured that I’ll remain resolutely in the “no” column on this project for a variety of reasons. Sorry to be so “black” about it, but this is a game-changing proposal to me that could have much larger and far-reaching implications down the line.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Dear Phil,

    I guess you are used to always getting your way in life. And since you want to make it personal, please stop smoking in what’s left of the yard at school. The second hand smoke’s not good for your daughter or my son.

    Have fun in Jersey.

  • nabeguy

    So much for “grayness” Carlo. I’m not sure exactly what I said that you perceive as personal (did the obtuse thing set you off?), but please,please, please don’t ever presume to make a statement about my life…you know nothing about me (unless your buddy Jed did a little extracurricular snooping with his $287,000 of lobbying money, which I would consider an honor). Yes, I have smoked in the schoolyard…at 6:30 in the evening in an open-air environment when the school and its windows are closed. You want to discuss environmental issues, show me the EIS reports for the DSP and how they reconcile and justify the construction of a middle school under a bridge that handles 125,000 cars a day.
    As for Jersey, I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t put enough distance between my family and the likes of you. How’s that for personal?
    Oh, and since you seem so hell bent on “outting” me, my name is Philip Wilentz, and I was raised in and currently reside on Middagh Street, across he street from my alumnus, P.S.8. I’m sure that any firebombs that come in my direction as a result of divulging that information wlll have your name on them.

  • The Where

    Get a room ladies!

  • nabeguy

    Thanks The Where. Are you paying for the room or do you have to borrow money from The What?