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Jan 21, 2009 | 16157 views | 0 0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Development could block view of Brooklyn Bridge
by breakingnews
Jan 28, 2009 | 24401 views | 0 0 comments | 497 497 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
An independent rendering of the building, disputed by the developer, that would block views of  the bridge
An independent rendering of the building, disputed by the developer, that would block views of the bridge
An artists rendering of the new building with middle school
An artists rendering of the new building with middle school
By Daniel Bush

To have a view of the Brooklyn Bridge or not to have one- that was the question last night at Borough Hall, the scene of an unusually heated public hearing.

Nearly one hundred residents, and some elected officials, appeared before Borough President Marty Markowitz in a packed courtroom to make their case for or against a controversial development proposed for the DUMBO section of Brooklyn that has bitterly divided the community.

At stake is an 18-story mixed-used development proposed for a site on Dock Street that many area residents believe would deprive them of a view of the iconic bridge.

A fierce opposition movement to the development grew after the developer, David Walentas, first proposed the project in 2004. The city rejected the proposal.

Instead of giving up, Walentas revised his proposal. In the biggest change, the new proposal- approved in a January 14 vote by Community Board 2- now includes a public middle school to be housed in the building’s lower floors. Walentas has told the city he would build the school for free- a good will gesture that could save the city as much as $50 million in new construction costs.

At the public hearing opponents of the plan denounced Walentas’ proposal to include a school as a bully tactic aimed at pushing through a major development that would forever change the character of the neighborhood.

“I oppose this proposal and I urge you to do the same,” Councilman David Yassky told Markowitz in his testimony at the hearing. “My main concern here is for the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge is an icon like no other.”

Yassky argued that a new middle school in the area- which residents of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights have been lobbying for for years- is sorely needed, but could be built elsewhere.

By finding a new site, said Yassky, the city could meet its need for a new school and preserve the view of the bridge at the same time.

At the hearing a representative for the development company 205 Water LLC offered to build the school at a different DUMBO site.

Walentas has insisted the Dock Street location is the only suitable site for a school in the neighborhood.

In his statement at the hearing, Jay Schippers, a prominent Brooklyn Heights developer, said he has been searching for an alternative side for the past few years- at the behest of several local community groups he declined to name in a later interview- and was unable to find one.

“There is no other site,” said Schippers, drawing jeers from a majority of the people in courtroom. “And the proposed building does not substantially block views of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Several artists and educators from the neighborhood joined Schippers in voicing support for the project because of the school component. Other supporters of the plan said the construction of the development would generate local jobs during a time of recession.

“This opportunity presents residents with jobs,” a Fort Greene resident told Markowitz at the hearing. Though he loves the Brooklyn Bridge, and even has a view of it from his apartment windows, the man said, “having to choose between a vista [and jobs], I would have to choose jobs.”

After delivering brief opening remarks Markowitz listened to the four hours of public testimony in silence, alongside a panel of aides. The borough president has to make a recommendation rejecting or approving the project within 30 days of Community Board 2’s January 14 vote of approval.

A spokesman from the borough president’s office said the decision should be reached by mid-February.

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Shops at Atlas Park Changing Management
by breakingnews
Jan 22, 2009 | 26260 views | 0 0 comments | 497 497 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
ATCO Properties & Management, the management and leasing company that runs the day-to-day operations of The Shops at Atlas Park, will be replaced next month, according to a report released by the company today.

The mall’s lenders, Caylon and Societe Generale, which are headquartered in France, have announced they will terminate ATCO’s contract effective February 19. The French company, which appears to have final say on the upscale Queens commercial space, has not announced a new mall manager.

“I am passionate about the development of The Shops at Atlas Park and thank you for the role you may have played in this wonderful center,” Damon Hemmerdinger, ATCO’s Senior Vice President, said in a statement (read full letter.) “Our company and I will remain active members of the national retail real estate industry and of the Queens community.”

It is unclear whether the French company’s decision was a reaction to the slumping U.S. economy, or if the move is any indication that the mall is losing money.

In his statement, Hemmerdinger insisted the mall is doing fine. Hemmerdinger said traffic at the mall was up 30 percent, and 12 new stores opened, in 2008.

“I believe in Atlas Park,” said Hemmerdinger, “and I believe that the residents of Queens want, deserve, and can support high-quality retail, restaurants, and entertainment --- even in the midst of the worst recession in memory.”

_Read the full story in the January 29 edition of the Glendale Register._

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North Flushing Rezone Study Underway
by breakingnews
Jan 21, 2009 | 21236 views | 0 0 comments | 558 558 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
The Department of City Planning announced Tuesday that it would begin the public review process for the contextual rezoning of 275 blocks in North Flushing to protect the neighborhood from overdevelopment and try to preserve its low-rise character.

It is one of the largest contextual rezonings the city has ever undertaken.

The rezoning area is generally bounded by Union Street to the west; the Clearview Expressway and Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east; 25th Avenue to the north, and Northern Boulevard and Depot Road to the south. This area includes portions of the adjacent Broadway-Flushing, Auburndale and Bayside neighborhoods.

This will come as welcome news for elected officials, residents, and the two local community boards – 7 and 11 – which have all been pressing the city to undertake the rezoning for years.

Both community boards will now have 60 days to review the proposal.

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