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Editor's Message From The Editor

A New City of Towers

“In 10 years, I can’t imagine what Williamsburg-Greenpoint is going to look like,” City Council Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz said of the area’s rezoning the other day. But as stated in both the same front-page Times article in which Katz was quoted as well as a recent piece in the Voice, there is an obvious comparison. The area was first threatened by power plants, and now it stands to become another Battery Park City. Either way you slice it, the neighborhood’s creative energy will diminish.

Affordable housing is the project’s main selling point, and there’s been much fanfare over the possibility that 33% of the more than 10,000 slated new units would qualify as affordable. “We’re obviously pleased to see such a high number,” says Stephanie Thayer of the North Brooklyn Alliance’s Height and Bulk Committee. “But it’s important to remember that it’s all incentive-based.” Depending on the specific site, buildings could reach upwards of 33 stories without having any affordable housing at all; with it, the new buildings could reach 40 stories.

The incentives to include affordable housing apparently are so great that everyone from the mayor to housing advocates treats the 33% as the major innovation of the plan. Call me a naysayer, but I don’t believe in any deal that’s nonbinding. Jobs for the local community in the Ikea deal in Red Hook? That’s not in writing. Construction jobs for black and Latino workers in the Jets Stadium deal? Show me the fine print. And now an “irresistible set of incentives” to build (middle-class) affordable housing in Williamsburg and Greenpoint? The developers are laughing all the way to the bank.

—T. Hamm


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2005

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