Columbia Street rising — high
Developers shared their plans to build 170 units of housing in the rapidly changing Columbia Street Waterfront district, but residents made it clear that they opposed the size of the buildings in the $80-million project.
The project is a joint venture between the city and L&M Equity, and includes the creation of several apartment buildings and townhouses on two blocks bounded by Congress, Baltic, Columbia and Hicks streets.
One building would be 80 feet tall and have 100 units, including all 40 of the project’s city-subsidized affordable apartments. The other two apartment buildings would be 60 feet tall. The developer expects to finish construction in 2010.
The scale of the proposed buildings provoked an outcry from several people who attended the Community Board 6 land-use committee meeting on Oct. 25.
“People want the buildings to be reflective of the property that’s already there,” summarized Anthony Pugliese, a member of the CB6 committee.
To fend off criticism, the developer said he’d place the biggest building on Hicks Street, facing the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.
“The general idea is that along the side-streets, we’re trying to blend, and along the BQE, we’ll go with the height,” said David Gross, the project’s architect.
But that camouflage wasn’t working with some residents, who complained that project would still dwarf the three- and four-story existing buildings on these blocks.
Others were upset that 77 percent of the project’s total housing would be market-rate.
“You need more affordable housing,” said Celia Cacace, another board member. “I don’t feel like they’re giving this community anything. I only feel like they’re taking advantage of the [city affordable housing] subsidy.”
L&M would get tax breaks for building 40 affordable units on what is currently city-owned property. Cacace is upset that the other buildings — which would not be built on what is currently city-owned land — will not have any below–market-rate housing.
It will be luxury units because the city cannot require the developer to build affordable housing on private land. But a city official said this week that the project is good news because it will create much-needed housing, both affordable and luxury.
“One of the key components of the mayor’s [long-term plan] is to prepare for the addition of one million New Yorkers in the next 25 years,” said Seth Donlin, a spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, referring to Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030. “Clearly we’re going to need housing for these New Yorkers.”
By Mike McLaughlin