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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  • The Where

    Third base.

  • nabeguy

    The Where, I think the straps on your straightjacket need readjustng. PDFWM.

  • nabeguy

    And Carlo, since you want to bring up the issue of my smoking, do you think that the fact that this building will be built across the street from what had been a tobacco warehouse warrants any ground studies?

  • bornhere

    Carlo – I think the Bridge, in toto, is the focal point of the Brooklyn Bridge; but, for sake of whatever, I’ll consider your tower argument. So. The torch is probably the focal point of the Statue of Liberty. Why not promote a plan that allows adjacent construction — but only up to, let’s say, the statue’s hip?

  • davoyager

    I want to remind everybody that even the BP’s office admits that the owner of this land can build a 25 story hotel and nobody can say boo about it and so this is an opportunity to build something which will better serve the public good. I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me the BP’s office should know what they are talking about since in principle they oppose this building.

    And when the business model of such a hotel fails five years from now they will then get permission to co-op the damn thing. I afraid that that is what will eventually happen here. We will see a Trumpstrosity hotel built by the latest winner of The Apprentice who just happens to be a former mayor’s wayward son. Mark my words.

  • Publius

    We’ll mark your other words as well, like the words you said at the Borough Hall hearing to the effect that anyone opposing the Two Trees project is not a real Brooklynite.

    Mark these words, DuhVoyager: You’re screwing yourself but unfortunately you’re taking the whole neighborhood with you. There’s a high liklihood that Two Trees will get their zoning change, and there will be no school or affordable housing.

  • davoyager

    what words exactly are you talking about because I have a transcript of the words I spoke and I’m very proud that I got up and spoke in a public forum as is my right as a citizen. And I stand by all my words and would be happy to publish the full transcript here.

  • epc

    @davoyager The current zoning is M1-2, a maximum FAR of 2, 98000 square feet (245 feet along Water x 200 feet of Dock). The tallest practical building with that zoning appears to be 10 stories. I mean, sure, you could build a 50 story building but it’d be only 10 feet x 200 feet or 45 x 45 feet. Where is it documented that a 25 story building could be built as-of-right? You could potentially eek out another floor or two because you actually can’t build straight up on the lot. But really, 25 stories?

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Bornhere, my point is this proposed building will not obscure any public views of the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. The 17 story section of the Dock Street envelope ends before the cable to the Bridge tower rises. It’s a respectful design, in my opinion.

    Walentas has a right to build something there – get what you can and get it in writing. Negotiate-compromise-get it in writing.

  • No One Of Consequence

    Carlo, you know that’s not true. Only certain tourist views will not be obscured, except into DUMBO. There are many angles from public places where the views will be compromised.

  • Carlo Trigiani

    Name a couple.

  • No One of Consequence

    I have previously and you discounted them as locations that “Helga” would never venture from the main thoroughfare of the bridge walkway to witness.

  • Publius


    At this point, Carlo and DuhVoyager are engaging in intentional Doublespeak to cloud the issue, since it’s gotten Two Trees this far along into the ULURP process. It’s been the pro-Dock Street’s strategy all along. Truly Orwellian and Rovian.