January 28th, 2009
A strong showing by the opposition of Dock Street Dumbo came to the hearing yesterday evening at the Brooklyn Borough Hall. The majority of the speakers were opposed to the tune of approximately 3 to 1, according to those who attended. With hearings such as this one, the crowd tends to favor the opposition, but both sides came with strong arguments. The supporters of the project are hoping that a new public middle school will be built to accommodate the growing families in the area. The arguments against the building came from both residents and land use experts all over and outside of the neighborhood. A representative from Simon & Schuster publishing house read a personal letter from David McCollough (author of The Great Bridge) opposing the project for the sake of the bridge (pdf of letter). One emailer sent us their take on it: “I felt the parade of statements opposing the building were elegant, pointed, and diverse offering hard evidence, well-reasoned argument, and emotionally compelling appeals.”
The general theme was that the bridge was too important to not protect and could not be traded away for a school. Also, the opposition notes that bundling the school issue with the building forced upon people a “false choice” between preserving the bridge and getting a school. Several other school solutions were offered as potentially viable alternatives worthy of exploration including two new offers of providing school space by large area property owners (including the owner of 205 Water).
Regarding the school, this morning’s Brooklyn Paper article about the event quoted Mr. Walentas:
“If you’re an agency charged with building the maximum number of school seats for the least amount of money, you’d be reckless not to pursue a deal with us,” he said.
He also rejected the argument that the middle school was included solely to get approval for the rezoning, which will raise the value of his site and his company’s other properties in DUMBO, a former warehouse and industrial zone that his father, David Walentas, is credited with turning into one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods for residents and artists.
“Yes, it is true that the rezoning would add value to the site,” he said. “But because of our broader interest in the neighborhood, we’re actually giving it back in the form of a school and affordable housing.
Echoing a comment made by Carlo Trigiani, hopefully through compromise, a common ground can be met and this is the job of Marty Markowitz before his recommendation goes to the City Planning Commission.