The East Williamsburg waterfront remains an industrial wasteland, so it should come as no surprise that at least one architect is imagining the neighborhood with a better and brighter future. As part of a design competition, Avoid Obvious has created a plan to revitalize a large parcel spanning the 300 and 400 blocks of Maspeth Avenue, illustrating Newtown Creek’s potential as a vibrant extension to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
The area currently falls under an industrial zoning designation, and any development would require an intensive effort that would have to wend its way through City Planning. But it is time to rethink land use around the entirety of Newtown Creek, as the watershed is becoming increasingly residential (largely through not-entirely-legally conversions, as happened in SoHo), and continued heavy industry is not compatible with changes downstream.
While progress is currently hard to glean, the mouth of Newtown Creek will soon be flanked by two major developments. To the east, Hunter’s Point South will anchor the tip of Long Island City with residential towers, and to the west, Greenpoint Landing will do the same for the Brooklyn waterfront.
Despite these changes, no plans are in the works for the rest of Newtown Creek, which remains one of the last industrial areas that’s relatively close to New York’s central neighborhoods. That’s also why adjacent banks should be subject to a rezoning allowing residential use: not only would the land be more valuable, but current uses degrade the quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods.
As Greenpoint Landing and Hunter’s Point South are both built-out, pressure to rezone areas upstream is likely to ratchet upwards, which will hopefully yield to projects like the vision by Avoid Obvious. The plan would position three residential towers above a retail base, offering replacements for jobs lost to the closure of industry, while also providing much-needed housing in a neighborhood where prices continue to spiral upwards.
Additionally, the plan would include an ample amount of green space, kick-starting the redevelopment of English Kills, a tributary leading into Newtown Creek. While the site does not have a developer attached yet, Avoid Obvious’ Director Vicky Chan told YIMBY “we hope to find the right investors in China.”
Whether the project is ultimately built is up in the air, and if it ever does come to fruition, the design will likely be markedly different from today’s concepts. But at the very least, the Avoid Obvious plan offers an optimistic vision that will hopefully be realized on an even larger scale, as East Williamsburg does have a remarkable amount of potential — now it just needs the zoning to match.
Studio C also assisted Avoid Obvious in creating the above plans.
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