Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steve Levin's Domino Testimony

I will speak of several key issues which I believe need to be addressed if this proposal is to be approved:

The New Domino project is proposed to be over 2.8 million square feet, the vast majority, 2.4 million square feet, is due to be residential. That translates to about 2,200-2,400 units for between 6,100 and 6,700 people. It is my opinion, as the Councilmember who represents this area, that we do not have the mass transportation, road infrastructure, basic civic service infrastructure, and school infrastructure to sustain this influx of residents. This development must be seen in the context of the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning in several ways. First, the total average FAR on the proposed waterfront site is 5.7, which exceeds the maximum FAR with inclusionary bonus of 4.7 allowed by the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning by about 21%. On the upland site, CPCR is asking for an FAR of 6.0 which vastly exceeds the maximum FAR allowed by an R6 zoning with an inclusionary housing bonus of 2.75. Both the Community Board and the Borough President have recommended decreasing the upland density to 3.6 FAR, or 40% from what CPC is proposing. In addition, the 2005 Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning has allowed for the construction of additional thousands of units between the waterfront and upland sites-many of which remain empty or are just beginning to fill up now. There is clearly a cumulative effect on the neighborhood to all this development. It is my opinion that entire density of the project needs to be brought down significantly to where the total number of units not exceed 1,600 while maintaining 40% of those units as affordable.

In addition, I agree with the Community Board and the Borough President that the density for the upland parcel be brought down significantly, not to exceed 3.6 FAR.

In terms of transportation, one must ask, how do approx. 6,400 new people get to work and school every day? The development site is 1.5 miles to the nearest subway line, equidistant from the Marcy Ave JMZ stop, which is woefully underserved, and the Bedford Ave. L stop, which, according to MTA statistics released just this week, has 19,550 riders per weekday-the fourth busiest station in all of Brooklyn and the busiest single line stop in the borough. Even more astounding, the ridership only decreases by 9% on Saturdays. In addition, the proposed population increase will put local bus lines at 300% capacity during morning rush hour.

There needs to be a significant effort to address and mitigate the overwhelming strain that approx. 6,400 new people will put on our transportation infrastructure. I believe that the applicant must provide a plan to mitigate the adverse impacts because, as the EIS stated, “absent such mitigation measures, the proposed project would result in an unmitigated significant adverse transit impact.” Options should include a shuttle bus provided by CPCR to nearby subway lines and across the Williamsburg Bridge to lower Manhattan and a ferry service to Manhattan. Also, I believe that there needs to be MTA upgrades in bus service on nearby lines and an upgrade in the JMZ line subway service.

CPCR has, for some time now, offered the community 660 units of affordable housing, or 30% of the total proposed at the New Domino site. While I commend CPCR for it’s willingness to offer this much needed affordable housing, I believe that the overall density of the project can come down significantly while still providing the same number of affordable units. Several blocks south of the Domino site is Schaefer Landing, which in 2003 was rezoned for residential use, is in full context with the 2005 rezoning in terms of density, and has 40% affordable units. I believe that the New Domino can follow this model. In addition, it is very important that affordability levels of the proposed affordable units accurately reflect the median income of the surrounding community, which is about $35,000 for a family of four, and that unit sizes reflect the needs of local families with 2, 3, or more children. Finally, all affordable units must remain affordable in perpetuity.

CPCR has committed to approximately 140,000 sq. ft. of community space, 100,000 of which is to be located within the Refinery building and 40,000 of which is to be located in the final building on the north end of the waterfront site, slated to be developed in 2020. It is my understanding that the 100,000 sq. ft. in the Refinery building may potentially be used for a public school, therefore leaving only the 40,000 sq. ft. for other community uses. While I recognize that District 14 will very much need school space in the coming years I am concerned that the community has to wait ten years from now for community space other than a school. In any event, all community space should be locked in for community use and not used for any residential, commercial, or retail uses.

I continue to have concerns on others aspects of the proposed development including, but not limited to, the following:

the amount of open space created-which will, with the increase in population brought by the project, result in a net decrease for the surrounding community in terms of acreage per capita (this is especially felt on the Southside, where there is a great lack of open space to begin with).

the special permit requested which would allow for 1,694 parking spaces, significantly more than the maximum allowed by the zoning.

the overall effect of the development on secondary displacement in the surrounding neighborhood.

the overall effect of the development on vehicular traffic patterns in the surrounding neighborhood.

the overall effect on civic infrastructure such as school, police, and firefighters in the surrounding neighborhood.

It is my belief that the New Domino has a great potential to bring much needed affordable housing, community space, jobs, and open space to the Williamsburg community. However, the project as presented today would be, simply put, so big, with so much density and so many people, that the negative impacts on the neighborhood would outweigh the benefits.

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