First Glimpse: 77 Commercial Street

77 Commercial Street, Image from NYC.gov

Activity is about to begin booming along the Greenpoint waterfront, and the latest project to go public is 77 Commercial Street, which will contain two residential towers rising 331 and 429 feet. The buildings will house a total of 720 units, with the project’s 760,000 square feet of development to include ground floor retail, community facilities, and 320 parking spaces – all revealed with a host of additional details in the project’s environmental impact statement.

Alongside the development, the proposal entails the creation of ‘Box Street Park,’ at the MTA’s 65 Commercial Street. Several dozen Greenpoint residents have been vocal opponents of the development, but the current land is an empty waste, and all of the waterfront sites are adjacent to Newtown Creek, which is heavily polluted. The actual Superfund site sits upstream, but – unknown to most New Yorkers – the creek was the site of a major oil spill that began in 1978, and remedial action only began in 1990, with the disaster ranking as the largest oil spill in U.S. history prior to the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Located in the depths of the environmental impact statement is language indicating air quality around the building rests just below hazardous, with long-term non-carcinogenic compound exposure ranking .81 and short-term exposure coming in at .91, both “below the level (of 1) that is considered by the EPA to be significant.” Living in New York City, the air is never pristine, but the push for residential development along the Greenpoint waterfront should be followed by the closing of nearby industrial facilities, which continue to pollute both Greenpoint and Newtown Creek.

Indeed, even with clean-up since the oil spill, problems remain. Per MetroFocus, “The EPA finally declared Newtown Creek a Superfund site in September, 2010, and a preliminary study thereafter determined that multiple companies are responsible for the pollution in the creek, which is evaporating into the air. Also, fish cannot survive in the water.”

Though neighborhood NIMBYs do not seem to be concerned about living adjacent to a toxic waste dump, the fight against 77 Commercial Street and Greenpoint Landing persists.

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Posted in 77 Commercial Street | Architecture | Brooklyn | Greenpoint | New York | Residential

Greenpoint Superfund Site Attacked by NIMBYs for Overdevelopment

The Brownstoner has the scoop on the latest development in Brooklyn to draw NIMBY attention, which is one of the borough’s largest future projects; Greenpoint Landing. The 10-odd tower project promises to bring thousands of homes as well as a retail component to land that is currently derelict.

For a comparison between what is to be and what currently exists, look at the two below images.

What is:

Greenpoint Brooklyn Waterfront
Greenpoint waterfront, image from Archpaper

What will be:

Greenpoint Landing, Brooklyn NYC
Greenpoint Landing, image from Handel Architects via Archpaper

The land Greenpoint Landing is proposed for–the old lumberyard–is total and complete dead space at the moment. Covered by parking lots and a sporadic warehouse, the site is a waste of prime real estate on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Instead of addressing the size of the towers, any complaints should actually be with the aesthetics. Visually, the towers have nothing in common with Greenpoint of the past or Greenpoint of today, instead presenting a monotonous development of towers that could be from Miami or Vancouver. That may not be a bad thing though, as any real homage to Greenpoint’s past would involve vinyl siding, which has come to define many of the neighborhood’s buildings.

The flyer asks “[can] you fit TEN buildings (and all these new residents) responsibly and ethically on 22 acres here?” as if Manhattan isn’t directly across the river, where almost all projects are significantly denser.

Greenpoint NIMBYs
NIMBY flyer against Greenpoint Landing, from The Brownstoner

The qualms with green space are also ridiculous. The developers of the project will restore the waterfront link between Brooklyn and Queens, with the inclusion of a Calatrava-designed pedestrian bridge. Whether that pedestrian bridge is value-engineered or not remains to be seen, but so does whether anyone wants to traverse Newtown Creek, which is one of New York’s most notorious superfund sites.

The real question is whether the land the development is being built on is actually safe for habitation, given the  fact that 17 to 30 million gallons of petrochemical products were released into Newtown Creek and leached into neighborhood soils beginning in 1950, only being discovered in 1978. Those numbers are roughly double the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

Modern construction should be able to mitigate the effects of the pollution, and most residents won’t be living at ground level anyways–just enjoying the green space! If people want to live in a neighborhood bisected by a creek that contains “[pesticides], metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air,” (per the EPA) they are welcome to pay exorbitant prices to do so.

There’s certainly no sense in protesting the development of land that–in its current state–actually detracts from the neighborhood. Logic is not something NIMBY opponents typically possess.

Posted in Architecture | Brooklyn | Greenpoint | Greenpoint Landing | Megaproject | New York | NIMBYs | Residential

Greenpoint: Massive Lumberyard Development Revealed

Early renderings of the Greenpoint Lumber Yard redevelopment were impressive, but the latest batch from Handel Architects is jaw-dropping. The entire plan comprises a miniature city, with 4.2 million square feet of space to be built. The towers will be residential with retail along the street, typical of new developments in New York City.

Greenpoint Lumber Yard Redevelopment, image from Handel Architects

The aesthetics of the project are not as exciting as the scale, with each tower a different take on a typical glass box. The very same towers could be found along Miami Beach or Vancouver, and they definitely do not conform to the architecture that typifies New York. Still, the towers aren’t ugly. 


The new renderings come at a time when Greenpoint is receiving significant publicity, with the New York Times declaring the neighborhood the it up-and-coming part in Brooklyn. Besides the Lumber Yard’s redevelopment, a host of other high-rise and low-rise infill projects are also in the works. Of course, the same could be said for Williamsburg and Long Island City, as the development boom continues along the entire East River.

Aerial of the new development, image from Handel Architects

Posted in Architecture | Brooklyn | Greenpoint | Megaproject | Renderings | Residential

Renderings Released for ‘Greenpoint Landing’: More Miami on the East River

While only vague massing studies have previously been seen regarding the redevelopment of Greenpoint’s waterfront, we now have some concrete renderings from the apparent master plan, dubbed ‘Greenpoint Landing’. The Greenpoint Lumber Yard is being redeveloped by the Park Tower Group, who–as the Observer notes–are working with Handel Architects to create a vision for the revitalized neighborhood.

Image from Handel Architects
Handel’s website gives a great description of the plan, which is said to include 4.2 million square feet of mixed-use development. The project is expected to provide over 4,000 new units of housing in addition to a mix of retail and public parks. With 11 new buildings and 20% of the future housing set aside as affordable, the scale of the project is quite large. Perhaps most exciting is the project’s integration with a marina, which could provide part of the new backbone this waterfront neighborhood so badly needs.
In terms of criticism, the project put forth looks appropriate in scale, although the design is quite bland. Some have noticed many of the new projects along the East River look like they belong in Miami rather than New York (specifically East Coast Long Island City), and this project is no exception; the rendered facades are entirely glass, with little variation. The overall scope of ‘Greenpoint Landing’ makes the project look impressive for sheer size, but in terms of architecture, there is little that is appealing. ‘Greenpoint Landing’ may fail to create a vision that is particularly dazzling, but it certainly isn’t a bad proposal–just slightly boring. 
Image from Handel Architects
Representing a key link in the redevelopment of the waterfront, ‘Greenpoint Landing’ is only one among several huge sites involved in the redevelopment of the East River. Spanning from the new Brooklyn Bridge Park all the way to Hunter’s Point, ‘Greenpoint Landing’ is but another piece in a massive puzzle, and the vision proposed is certainly adequate enough to give the proposal ‘acceptable filler’ status. Part of the balance in revitalization will be choosing whether to maintain Greenpoint as a neighborhood or turn it into a destination, and Handel’s plan certainly seems to prefer the former. 
Not every new project in New York needs something iconic or outstanding, especially if it is to blend into the fabric of an existing neighborhood. Given the Greenpoint waterfront is essentially undeveloped, there is no fabric to blend into–while sheer size is unnecessary for ‘wow’ factor, Handel could have proposed something more creative. The development is very similar to the towers at Northside Piers (to the South), and isn’t a large departure from the towers at East Coast LIC either. In the end, dotting the Greenpoint waterfront with 40-story (~500 foot) towers will prove beneficial to redevelopment.. it would just be nice if it was done with some flair.
The Observer reports that the first of the project’s buildings could begin rising this year. Given the stirring of development all along Brooklyn’s waterfront (Northside Piers and the Domino redevelopment first come to mind), this wouldn’t be surprising. What is clear is that final build-out will take much longer than that, and that this area of Greenpoint’s waterfront will be in transition for quite some time.   
Image from Handel Architects

More information on the project can be found at Handel’s website.

Posted in Brooklyn | Greenpoint | Proposal | Redevelopment | Residential

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