One of Brooklyn’s leading economic development groups is pushing Con Edison to protect one of the last, untouched stretches of the Williamsburg waterfront.
Regina Myer, head of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, wants the utility company to sell a 3.2-acre land assemblage on River Street to a buyer willing to dedicate at least part of the property to public access.
While evaluating offers for the three land parcels, Myer urged Con-Ed to give preference to bids that include an open-space component and “avoid the failures of other privately built public spaces,” according to an op-ed she penned for Crain’s New York last week.
“Con Edison should strongly consider bids that build on—not detract from—the momentum we are finally seeing on this stretch of the waterfront,” Myer wrote.
Con-Ed announced its plan to sell the three parcels, which spans from North Third Street south to nearly Grand Street, this past spring. Cushman & Wakefield has been hired to handle the marketing push for the redevelopment site.
With 385 feet of waterfront, the cluster provides the opportunity to continue the belt of greenspace that runs all the way to the Williamsburg Bridge and includes Grand Ferry Park as well as the recently opened Domino Park, a six-acre concourse built by Two Trees Management in conjunction with its redevelopment of the old Domino Sugar Factory.
Myer pointed to the Two Trees project as a potential template for Con-Ed and its would-be suitors to follow.
“While some were skeptical that a private developer could deliver a truly public park that addresses the priorities of the community, Domino Park shows that private entities can produce world-class public spaces if they take the time to integrate neighborhood objectives, establish a strong long-term maintenance plan and prioritize smart urban design,” Myer wrote.
She noted that several public-private open space projects have fallen flat since the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront was rezoned in 2005. She did not identify specific undertakings but she said some have been disjointed and uninviting to the communities they were supposed to connect with the East River.
Con-Ed spokesman Allan Drury said the agency decided to sell the property because it is no longer needed for its energy operations.
Drury also said Con-Ed cannot cherry pick who it sells property to, so it has no say over how the land will be used in the future.
“When we sell a property, we do so through a transparent, equitable process that provides opportunity to all potential buyers,” he said in an email. “We do not and cannot give preferential treatment.”
Whoever buys the site can build 285,000 s/f as of right on the three properties—which include a 19,000 s/f slice of land next to the New York Power Authority’s natural gas facility at the corner of Grand and River Streets.
Although zoned for industrial use, the sites are eligible for a residential conversion that could, reportedly, increase the buildable square feet to 1.5 million. Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman Stephen Palmese, the lead agent on the sale, did not return a request for comment.
Drury said once the sale is complete, the New York State Public Service Commission will determine the use of the proceeds.