What does gourmet ice cream and shovels have in common? Nothing really. But throw in some sand and a couple of key photo-ops with politicians and you’d be at a party thrown by none other than our new neighbor, Greenpoint Landing.
For those of you unfamiliar with the mega development Greenpoint Landing and how our former Borough President and current City Councilman Steve Levin sold Greenpoint up a polluted river two years ago for a towering gilded waterfront cage, I suggest you read here, here and here for more details.
For the rest of us who cringe each time another pile is driven into the ground for what will eventually be a long string of 40 story towers, then I beg you to read on and seethe in disgust as Greenpoint Landing held a “Ground Breaking Ceremony” complete with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream trucks and yet failed to invite the community.
Say what? GPL is having a Party?
Last Thursday night I received a call from a reporter working for a major NYC news network. She wanted to know if I had any information of a supposed ground breaking happening at Greenpoint Landing scheduled for Friday morning. According to her sources, not much information was being given and there was a general impression Greenpoint Landing wanted to keep the ceremony hush-hush from the general public and media outlets.
What makes this ground breaking particularly dubious was that earlier in the week several community members chosen by the councilman’s office were supposed to do a walk-through on Friday morning of Greenpoint Landing’s property as part of an effort to address construction related issues plaguing residents. At the last minute, a rep for Greenpoint Landing rescinded the invitation, citing safety concerns as one of the reasons for the cancellation.
Yet as you can see from the picture below, clearly safety wasn’t an issue on Friday. Considering the amount of hard hats involved and the wide smiles, it looks like the folks at Greenpoint Landing were having one hell of a party!
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Sand was shoveled and plenty of thoughtful words were applauded. Here are a few gems plucked from the podium:
“For the last 100 years, people have not been able to stand here on the water and look out at that view.” —Park Tower Vice President Johanna Greenbaum, referring to a panorama of Manhattan visible from the site.
“I think the buildings will fit in great with the community.” —Lisa Gomez, chief operating officer at L+M Development, the group responsible for the affordable housing developments, who also noted the rezoning was designed to allow development to scale up.
“I think there are four things most New Yorkers would agree on that we need. We don’t have enough affordable housing, we don’t have enough new schools, we don’t have enough open space for parkland, and we don’t have enough jobs. With this project, all four at the same time on a large and beautiful scale are being created.”–Congresswoman Caroline Maloney.
And my lastly, my personal favorite:
“Greenpoint Landing is a ‘blueprint’ for future city developments, with built-in infrastructure to create a community…This is a win-win.” —Vicki Been, Commissioner for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
Win-win? For whom Ms. Been? A win to the developer who wanted to put a school next to a phthalate plume and is raking in millions of tax dollar subsidies? Or a win for the community who vehemently opposes this monstrosity of a project and was actively uninvited to this celebration?
Infrastructure Woes Still Not Addressed
While no one disagrees permanent affordable housing is desperately needed after lofty real estate developments were allowed to buy their way into the waterfront and spurn on the displacement of local businesses and residents, but let’s be clear: Greenpoint Landing is putting 10,000+ people in a span of ten brownfield blocks, on a mandatory evacuation flood zone, with nary a thought to infrastructure beyond an additional turn-style at the India Street station and private shuttle buses to nearby subways stations.
So when someone pressed the speakers about the lack of infrastructure, Park Tower Group’s VP Johanna Greenbaum replied, “there’s a lot of biking and a lot of transportation alternatives that are coming”, highlighting the East River Ferry, expanded B32 bus service, and the addition of Citi Bike stations in Greenpoint as ways to alleviate transit issues.
Yet when our local subway stations look like a Tokyo commute on a rainy day it’s hard to take such claims seriously.
Taxpayers are giving GPL millions in subsidies
Something we should all take seriously is knowing how our tax dollars are spent. And when it comes to Greenpoint Landing, whether we like it or not, we are shelling out millions to a billion dollar corporation for this project. Unsurprisingly, city officials are proud of this fact.
You see with Albany securing another four years of 421-A tax giveaways to developers, the City has renegotiated financing for the project.
Instead of the Bloomberg administration’s previous finance deal which had taxpayers paying Greenpoint Landing $136,000 in subsidies for each affordable unit created, the City has renegotiated the terms. Now we taxpayers are doling out only $68,000 for every affordable unit Greenpoint Landing builds, according to the terms laid out by Ms. Glen, the Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development.
Just to be sure, let’s do some basic math so we can actually see how much of our hard-earned tax dollars are really going to Greenpoint Landing.
1,400 GPL affordable housing units
$68,000 in taxpayer subsidies per unit
$95.2 million dollars in NYC tax dollars collected by GPL
“They are breaking ground, even though they are getting half the money,” Ms. Glen said in an interview with Crain’s. “This is a great project, and from our perspective, we need to be doing more of this kind of work. But we also need to make sure we are getting the most bang for the taxpayer’s buck.”
If giving away $95.2 million dollars in taxpayer money to a bloated and potentially hazardous project that Greenpoint never wanted nor needed is getting “the most bang for our buck”, then perhaps the Ms. Glen and the rest of the City should take a long hard look in the mirror and finally admit which side of the fence they’re really working on. I know I’m not alone in saying, the system is rigged and Greenpoint residents are the victims of big money, slick politics, and an endless supply of excessive greed.
If Nero were around I’m sure he’d agree.
So as we stand by and watch these monstrosities rise into the sky and slaughter 80 year old trees that lie at its feet, just remember even with a $95.2 million windfall, Greenpoint Landing couldn’t even buy their neighbors some damn ice cream.