North Greenpoint was treated to some unusually good news regarding the legal status of its waterfront right around the New Year, but as the anniversary of the CitiStorage fire approaches, open space activists are hardly about to rest on their laurels.
That’s because Norm Brodsky, the owner of the CitiStorage site, still maintains an as-of-right position over the property, which means developers could swoop in overnight to begin construction on a mall or commercial building, even though the city has ruled against a residential rezoning.
But more on that good news: after intense lobbying from local council members and community boards, Mayor de Blasio dashed the hopes of money-grubbing developers by taking a residential rezoning off the table late last month. So long as the opposition continues to make its voice heard, this (sort of, for now) guarantees that there won’t be any more ludicrously pricey condos going on the land, even if the promised green space never comes, or it turns into another Smorgasburg.
This news was certainly welcomed by Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, a local activist group that’s been leading the charge to get the city to make good on its 2005 rezoning promise to build a 28-acre park on the Williamsburg waterfront. But at their most recent meeting on Jan. 13, the mood was far more resolute than celebratory.
“We’re happy and thrilled with the mayor’s support, but we are at imminent risk,” said organization member Scott Fraser. “There’s a real sense of urgency and there’s a reason we’re having an anniversary meeting on Jan. 31 about the fire, because obviously the fire threatened us and we all galvanized. We are still very much under a threat because the property could be developed tomorrow, and it could be a mall, it could be an office complex…Chelsea market, it could be like that. So we have to keep the pressure on. We have to keep fighting.”
At the moment, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park is cooking up an “action” to take at the Jan. 31 meeting (recent actions have included signage on a fence near Dirck the Norseman, which is pictured above, as well as a staged funeral for the Midtown Equities deal).
As for next steps, a moratorium on new construction is the goal, if not getting the city to actually purchase the land via eminent domain. This has become admittedly more difficult over the last several years of government inaction, however. The value of the land has skyrocketed over the last 15 years, and it’s not going to be as easy for the city to come up with the money. Then again, Brodsky has campaigned to get a payout based on its residential value — which could be worth hundreds of millions — but the decision to maintain the manufacturing M3 zoning will keep the land value below $100 million, so at least there’s that.
If the park ever does come to fruition, it’ll be the result of a pretty major, uphill battle against big-money interests. The cause and conditions of the fire that razed the CitiStorage facility last year are still unknown — though many have suspected foul play. The opportunity was certainly not lost on developers.
There’s more at stake than the ability to stick it to the suits, however. Greenpoint and Williamsburg already have one of the lowest person to open space ratios in New York City, and that could have pretty disastrous health effects on the local population.
The Jan. 31 meeting will kick off with a press conference featuring elected officials, plus an as-of-yet unknown symbolic action. Stay tuned for more details.