Land Use Committee approves controversial project

Two Trees’ development near Brooklyn Bridge. Image: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP.

Despite concerns project sent to full Council. On June 4, 2009, the City Council’s Land Use Committee approved the controversial proposal by Two Trees Management Company to build a mixed-use development at 10 Dock Street, adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO, Brooklyn. In addition to providing approximately 300 residential units, 20 percent of which would be affordable, the proposed building would provide space for a 45,000 sq.ft. public middle school, a 465- space garage, and additional ground floor retail space. 6 CityLand 43 (April 15, 2009).

The City Planning Commission modified the project to address its relationship to the bridge and surrounding historic buildings. It reduced the height of the tallest section of the building from almost 184 ft. to a maximum of 170 feet. The Commission also required a notch in the nine-story section, reducing the westernmost 50 feet to seven stories, thereby increasing the distance between the building and the bridge’s span.

At Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing, residents, neighborhood groups, and civic organizations testified, with opponents reiterating concerns about the building’s closeness to the bridge. A representative from the Municipal Art Society testified in opposition to the project, stating that it would be too close to the bridge’s span, and that it would block the bridge’s “iconic views” of DUMBO, the Manhattan Bridge, and the East River.

Joe Chan, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, spoke in favor, testifying that the development would serve the public interest by providing the neighborhood’s first affordable housing units. Chan also stated that the proposal presented an outstanding opportunity to create a new public school to meet the area’s growing need.

Ross Holden, Vice President and General Counsel of the City’s School Construction Authority, testified before the Subcommittee about SCA’s selection of the site. After Holden’s testimony, Council Member Eric N. Gioia questioned whether SCA conducted a proper alternative site analysis. Gioia read an internal SCA e-mail obtained by a group opposed to the project, explaining that it raised concerns. He then asked SCA to provide additional e-mails related to its alternative site analysis.

Council Member David Yassky, whose district includes DUMBO, said that he was opposed to the project, and he urged the rest of the Subcommittee to reject Two Trees’ proposal. In addition to stating that the proposal would be “bad for the district,” Yassky believed that it would impact all city residents because the Brooklyn Bridge would be “at risk.”

The hearing closed without a vote. When the Subcommittee reconvened, it approved the project, with Chair Tony Avella and Gioia voting no. Explaining his vote, Avella said that he was “thoroughly disgusted,” and cautioned that when the building goes up, “people are going to remember this particular vote.” Gioia said that the additional e-mails supplied by SCA after the hearing failed to alleviate his concerns with SCA’s alternative site analysis.

Council’s Land Use Committee also approved the project, with Council Member John Liu joining Avella and Gioia in voting no. The full Council is scheduled to vote on June 10th.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: BK 2,App’d, 32-7-0
CPC: App’d, 11-2-0
Council: Pending

Council: Dock Street-DUMBO Development (June 4, 2009).

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