CPC Holds Hearing on Proposed City Warehouse Conversion

Vacant Landmarks warehouse at 337 Berry Street. Image credit: Google

Vacant Landmarks warehouse at 337 Berry Street. Image credit: Google

The proposed building would provide low income housing and community-oriented facilities.   On August 19, 2015, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on a Department of Housing Preservation and Development application to develop an eleven-story building for both commercial and residential use. The proposal would demolish an existing Landmarks Preservation Commission warehouse at 337 Berry Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and replace it with a 15,000 square-foot mixed use building. The Commission is expected to issue a decision on the application by mid-October of 2015.

The Landmarks warehouse was once owned and operated by the City as the Architectural Salvage Warehouse, storing remnants and memorabilia from demolished buildings. In the summer of 2012, Landmarks auctioned off the warehouse’s contents, and HPD issued a Request For Proposals for construction of a new building in its place under then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan. The building proposal submitted by HPD to the Department of City Planning provides for fifty-five affordable housing units, including twelve studios, fourteen one-bedroom units, twenty seven two-bedroom units, one three-bedroom unit, and one unit for the superintendent. The building would also contain commercial and community space to be rented at market rate, and parking space for up to fourteen cars for tenant use only.

Brooklyn Community Board 1 issued a unanimous recommendation of approval on July 9th, with conditions that the developers work with HPD to look for applicable guidelines when determining parking fees and community space rent. Community Board 1 also recommended HPD give community preference to the 5% of residential units required to be set aside for the disabled, in addition to the required community preference given to 50% of the units. Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams also issued a conditional favorable recommendation, calling for all fifty-five units to remain “affordable forever.”

At the public hearing, a representative from HPD testified the development plan’s affordable housing units will be designated for individuals and families making up to 60% of the area median income. The building would also provide tenant amenities, including landscaping, passive open-space areas, laundry facilities, and a community room. Representatives of the building’s co-developers—Procida Companies and North Brooklyn Development Corporation—focused their talking points on the planned usage of the non-residential space available in the proposed building. Mario Procida, President and CEO of Procida Companies, testified that the planned twelve-story building was designed by Dattner Architects, and consists of residential units ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms, 3,400 square-feet of ground floor retail space to be rented at market rate, and 1,100 square-feet of community space, the last being required by the Greenpoint Williamsburg Points of Agreement. Mr. Procida noted that the community facility space would likely be occupied by Los Sures to provide social services, as this is “a catchman area for them; they provide services for the neighborhood.”

Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin inquired about the length of time the units would remain affordable, and the HPD representative testified a minimum time requirement is mandated for buildings receiving 420-c tax credits—which includes the proposed building at issue—though she was unsure of what the exact time period is. The HPD representative responded to further inquiry by Commissioner Levin on the planned utility of the retail and community space by commenting on the difficulty in securing tenants prior to the initiation of building construction, but also assuring the Commissioner that HPD had not imposed any specific requirements upon the use of such space.

Chairman Carl Weisbrod commented on the Commission’s ongoing, active interest in finding new sites for daycare facilities and other community facilities that do have a long need time, “particularly for such facilities that are currently in a less-than-ideal space that should be moved to neighborhoods where the need for daycare or senior citizen centers is acute,” and suggested HPD and the developers look into these potential uses of the building’s retail space.

Chairman Weisbrod noted the existence of a zoning proposal under consideration that would reduce the amount of parking space required for the proposed building, and asked whether the proposed building’s planned parking space would be modified if the zoning proposal is enacted. Mr. Procida testified the “only alternative use would be to add additional outdoor space to the building.” Mr. Procida further noted the demand for parking is typically far less than the statutorily-required supply because the proposed parking space is reserved for the sole use of the building’s tenants, but that there are also issues relating to the maintenance of open space that would be considered when deciding how better to use the space if the zoning proposal passes.

Before the conclusion of the hearing, Commissioner de la Uz questioned an architect from Dattner about the new building’s green elements. The architect testified on the proposal’s plans for two outdoor recreational areas—one on the first floor and one on the second floor of the building—and an indoor recreation space, as well.

CPC: LPC Warehouse (150358-HAK)(Aug. 19, 2015).

By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2015).

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