Developers ceremoniously "broke ground" on Greenpoint Landing yesterday, a massive development mega-project that will add as many as 10 towers—totaling 22 acres and 5,500 units—to the Greenpoint waterfront. And though some local residents worry the influx of so many newcomers will tax a neighborhood already struggling with transportation and obscene rent, elected officials cheered the project for its inclusion of 1,400 affordable units, 300 of which are expected to be completed within the next two years.
Marian and George Klein, who control the Park Tower Group, the development company behind the project, were joined by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, City Councilman Stephen Levin and others at Greenpoint's northwestern tip to announce the impending completion of the first three affordable housing developments. One, located at 21 Commercial Street, is expected to be completed in exactly one year; another, at 5 Blue Slip, is expected to be completed in exactly two years; while a third, at 33 Eagle Street, has a completion date of December 2016.
The "affordable" units at both 21 Commercial Street and 5 Blue Slip will be marketed for families earning 30 to 60 percent of the area's median income, while 33 Eagle Street will feature "affordable" units for families earning 30 to 120 percent of the median area income.
Both Maloney and Levin heralded the Kleins for allotting 25 percent of their proposed units for affordable housing, which is slightly more than the required 20 percent. They also praised the development for bringing new amenities to the waterfront—the developers have offered to build and fund four acres of public parkland, in addition to a 640-seat public school for grades K through 8.
"I think there are four things most New Yorkers would agree on that we need," Maloney said. "We don't have enough affordable housing, we don't have enough new schools, we don't have enough open space for parkland, and we don't have enough jobs. With this project, all four at the same time on a large and beautiful scale are being created."
While all that sounds nice, there's been local opposition to a project initially proposed as "a neighborhood on the waterfront," much to the chagrin of people living in the actual existing neighborhood. From the beginning, some Greenpoint residents complained that the development could contribute to rent spikes neighborhood-wide, clog the already limited transit, and further the negative environmental impact imposed by the polluted Newtown Creek site. "10,000 new people are not good for our community, on one of the most toxic waterways in America," Greenpoint resident Darren Lipman told Bedford & Bowery at a Community Board 1 meeting in August 2013.
CB 1 opposed the project then, though it's unclear whether the more recent commitment to affordable housing has changed public opinion (CB 1 has not yet responded to request for comment). At the very least, the transportation issue will likely remain long after the first few buildings debut—though developers say they're hoping to install a ferry landing right by 5 Blue Slip, there's only so much population an area served primarily by the limited G line can handle.
When pressed for comment about the strain on transit, Park Tower Group Vice President Johanna Greenbaum highlighted the East River Ferry, expanded B32 bus service, and improvements to the Kent Avenue bike lane in the neighborhood, and suggested that the impending addition of Citi Bike stations in Greenpoint would alleviate transit issues. "There's a lot of biking and a lot of transportation alternatives that are coming," she told us, though, still, adding a few extra cars to the G train might help, too.
Transportation issues aside, it remains to be seen whether these 1,400 affordable units will make enough of a dent in the city's current housing crisis, or what impact the 4,100 market-share units will have on Greenpoint. The neighborhood's landscape is certainly changing—though only about half the proposed buildings have been designed thus far, at least one tower will top 30 stories, with another boasting 40 stories, and condos will line a large swath of the waterfront. The project is expected to be completed within eight to 10 years.