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Thread: Brooklyn Bridge Park - by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

  1. #16

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    Are they talking true electric trolleys? Or SF-styled cable cars? Either is good but I'd prefer the old trolleys that can still be seen in Philly and New Orleans.

  2. #17
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    I think the trolleys Diamond has/had, which are original and (obviously) old style.

  3. #18
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    Trolleys would be amazing and make life in Brooklyn that much better. It would be a thrill to see and ride the trolley, it would cut down on car traffic, it would connect an area poised to explode (Red Hook) with development to an area already developed and ready to go to the next level (downtown). Add to that it making the park more accessible to everyone, it seems like a no-brainer. Hopefully the city feels the same way.

  4. #19

    Default no brainer

    Yeah, i think it should be a no-brainer too. there are so many practical reasons they'd be a good idea. And Red Hook could really use some public transportation. Trolley service could really spur development of the area.

    But also, as a recreation area, Trolley's would bring an old-world charm. How many families would make a day trip to the park just so the kids could ride the trolley? (And how many kids will beg their parents to let them ride the trolley?)

    There's also a proposal for a boat-building museum to be situated in the park. It will be nice to see Brooklyn appreciating it's history.

  5. #20
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    Agreed. In SF, everyone rides the cable car... at least once.

  6. #21

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    December 3, 2003

    Brooklyn Waterfront Landmark Awaits New Life

    By GLENN COLLINS


    The Empire Stores warehouse, at left, faces a classic view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan's skyline.

    It is called the Empire Stores, and for more than 50 years the cavernous, forbidding warehouse has been abandoned, a magnificent ruin between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges along the East River.

    A signature of the Brooklyn skyline for at least 130 years that has transfixed residents and, to an extent, defined the waterfront, it has nonetheless resisted all efforts of developers, public officials and community stewards to reclaim it.

    Now, Empire State Development Corporation, owner of the warehouse, has, through a subsidiary, signed an agreement with Boymelgreen Developers to transform it into a $100 million gateway to Brooklyn from the East River.

    According to this plan, the echoing spaces, cobwebs and rusting iron shutters of the 400,000-square-foot structure, a city and state landmark in the neighborhood known as Dumbo, are to yield to a Chelsea Market-ish conglomeration of restaurants, retail shops, art galleries and performance spaces. Its opening is scheduled for 2007.

    The proposal has been met by skepticism from another builder, and watchfulness from the community, but the development corporation has expressed only jubilation. "We are taking back the waterfront, and this building, with two bridges as bookends, is a Brooklyn showcase," said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the development corporation and of its state-and-city-run subsidiary, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, which will lease the property to Boymelgreen for 39 years.

    Mr. Gargano said that 63 firms expressed interest in the renovation, but in the end three submitted bids. "Boymelgreen had the most to offer, in terms of the proposal and the maintenance that will be involved," which, he said, amounted to "several million a year."

    The Brooklyn-based Boymelgreen is hardly an unknown, with 20 projects under development in the five boroughs, which represent an investment of more than $1.5 billion, including 23 Wall Street and 15 Broad Street in Manhattan.

    Both Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have issued huzzahs. "Not only will these wonderful buildings be restored, they will be the prototype for supporting a park with community-friendly economic development," Governor Pataki said.

    And Mayor Bloomberg gushed: "The mix of office, retail, restaurant and gallery space in this historic structure will really make the waterfront park a destination, and enhance the growing Dumbo neighborhood."

    But the deal has been questioned by David C. Walentas, the developer who, years ago, launched the real-estate transformation of Dumbo — the acronym means Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass — and whose control of millions of square feet of mixed-use space there has won him the sobriquet Mr. Dumbo.

    "I would be delighted if someone would do this, and quickly, because it would make my neighborhood more valuable," Mr. Walentas said of the development. "But it will sit there. And nothing will happen."

    Mr. Walentas, who was one of three developers vying for the Empire Stores revivification, contended that Boymelgreen had overbid for the right to develop the project. "My offer was substantially less," Mr. Walentas said, explaining that high rents at Empire Stores were unrealistic.

    However, James F. Moogan, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, defended the deal. "This is a realistic bid, and we have realistic expectations," he said, adding that Boymelgreen made a nonrefundable $1 million payment on signing the agreement. "That shows us they believe it's viable. This proposal underwent substantial financial analysis by city and state agencies."

    T. William Kim, the Empire Stores project developer for Boymelgreen, said that "this is one of our priorities, and there is no question that it will be completed." He said Boymelgreen, in partnership with an Israeli businessman, Lev Leviev, will put $40 million into the project and finance the rest of the $100 million with its customary investment partners.

    Empire Stores sits on landfill deposited in the late 18th century and early 19th century, which extended the reach of the Village of Brooklyn, the future borough's first civic settlement.

    A report written by the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, said that the first warehouse buildings at the site, called the Empire Stores (as in storehouses) even then, date back to the 1850's. By 1869 or so, larger private warehouses built by a merchant, James Nesmith, and his son Henry already hugged the shoreline. The finishing touches came in 1886, three years after the Brooklyn Bridge was completed.

    Once a storehouse for spices and green coffee beans, the monolithic warehouse is actually composed of seven structures, and has load-bearing, two-foot-thick walls of brick masonry and interior walls of fieldstone. It was framed with massive first-growth lumber from America's primordial pine forest.

    In the 1880's, Herman Melville, toiling on Wall Street in the New York Customs House, would have seen the warehouse complex right across the harbor. But he never could have predicted that it would become Brooklyn's 21st-century counterpart of Moby Dick. The Empire Stores remained the great white whale of New York architectural preservation, since, as an industrial building, it flew below the radar of history.

    The warehouse declined with the pre-eminence of trucking and railway transportation, and was mostly abandoned in the 1950's. After brief ownership by Con Edison, Empire Stores was taken over by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in 1978.

    During the Lindsay administration there were proposals to transform it into a wholesale meat market. During the Koch administration, there were plans for a festival marketplace akin to the South Street Seaport, not to mention a lawsuit by Mr. Walentas against the city. Another development proposal was made in 1991, but went unheeded. In 1999 Mr. Walentas announced a plan to make the Empire Stores a centerpiece of a $300 million cultural and retail complex, but this galvanized community groups into opposing what they said was overdevelopment.

    These days, the Empire Stores, on Water Street between Dock and Main Streets, endures in Stygian darkness behind its iron shutters. The buildings still yield the perfume of spices and coffee-bean remnants still crunch underfoot; a flashlight reveals disintegrating floors and onetime workers' graffiti on the walls.

    The warehouse was declared a landmark inside and out by both the state and the city in the 1970's. "We want to keep as much of the historic interior as possible," said Jay Valgora, the design principal for Boymelgreen's restoration architect, WalkerGroup, part of the WPP advertising holding company.

    It is the largest preservation redevelopment attempted by WalkerGroup, which has developed projects in New York, Tokyo, and Bilbao and Salamanca, Spain. Mr. Valgora's design calls for a ground-floor grand arcade on the side overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge; a terrace and esplanade would allow access to cafes and retail stores, a mix somewhat like that at Chelsea Market, the successful arcade in Manhattan created from a former Nabisco cookie factory.

    He would also construct several glass-and-steel atriums coexisting with the old walls, creating courtyards spanned with glass bridges. Unlike the South Street Seaport, Mr. Valgora said, the space would "not be an evocation of Ye Olde New York." Instead, he said, "we're hoping for destination retail stores, such as unique Brooklyn design and furniture companies."

    Above the warehouse, atop a new public park on the roof, would be a curving sculptural structure that would be lit at night. "We hope," Mr. Valgora said, "it can become another symbol for Brooklyn."

    All of Mr. Valgora's architectural additions must be approved by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. And beyond that, the project must undergo an environmental impact study.

    The mixed-use proposal for the warehouse is part of a community-generated master plan from 2000, guiding the economic development of Brooklyn Bridge Park, a 67-acre stretch of waterfront between Atlantic Avenue and Jay Street that would be turned into a riverside promenade with recreational and cultural amenities and limited commercial development.

    The plan will thus be closely scrutinized by the community. Residents have opposed traffic-clogged streets and other threats they saw in more grandiose proposals. Mr. Moogan, president of the development corporation, said that Community Board 2 had been briefed on the Boymelgreen plan. He said, "We are committed to sustained public involvement," through the development corporation's 25-member citizen's advisory council.

    Marianna Koval, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition, an alliance of some 60 community groups, said that the Empire Stores was "the jewel in the crown of this park." Having seen elements of the Boymelgreen plan, she said the coalition would monitor the development, but "is cautiously optimistic."

    Others in the neighborhood are more openly enthusiastic. "I would welcome other restaurants," said Buzzy O'Keeffe, who became a pioneer in the transformation of the Brooklyn waterfront after fighting for 12 years to be able to open the River Cafe in 1977. "My basic feeling is that any improvement down here is good for the area."


    Yojany Ramirez, a New York State park ranger, examines a hoist inside the Empire Stores warehouse. Some of the old equipment, including the hoist, remains more than a century after the building's heyday.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #22

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    New York Post 12/03/03

    BROOKLYN TROLLEYS GET THE HOOK


    By GERSH KUNTZMAN
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    December 2, 2003 -- A proposal to bring trolley service to the Brooklyn waterfront is being derailed again.

    Bob Diamond, whose historic trolley cars were part of a now-scuttled plan to connect Red Hook to the F train, was served with eviction papers on Thanksgiving demanding he remove five trolleys from a pier where they have been housed since the 1990s.

    The eviction notice gives Diamond until Dec. 31 to remove the cars, one of which dates back to 1897.

    The eviction could jeopardize a recent proposal to incorporate trolleys into Brooklyn Bridge Park, the $150 million, 70-acre sliver of green that is being built along the waterfront.

    Diamond says he'll have to dismantle the cars to remove them because his rail lines were severed when a barge hit the Red Hook pier in August 2001. "This is irreplaceable equipment, but I'll have to break it all apart to get it out of there," he said. "This is like letting Penn Station be destroyed."

    The Brooklyn Navy Yard is housing 12 more Diamond-owned trolleys - and has threatened to evict Diamond and sell his cars for scrap, he said. All 17 of Diamond's cars have been gathering dust since his plan to build a trolley link to the F train fell through last year.

    "I love Bob Diamond, but I have no choice but to evict him," said landlord Greg O'Connell, who has given Diamond space for free. "There are other nonprofits that could use the space and make a real contribution to the neighborhood."

  8. #23

    Default Brooklyn Papers Article on Trolley Wars

    Here's Brooklyn Papers article about Bob Diamond's fued with Arthur Melnick over Trolley service in Northern Brooklyn. It's a shame that like-minded people have to fued with one another, the could certainly accomplish more together.

    http://www.brooklynpapers.com/html/i...48/26_48bp.pdf

    I tried (and failed) to extract just the text.

  9. #24
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    I've been waiting for the Empire Stores to get going. Sounds great - retail, restaurants, cultural space. This is justs what should be done there and it is in a perfect setting. 2007 is not too bad for such a project. Love Walentas' sour grapes... baby. He has enough to be happy about, damnit!

  10. #25

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    The acronym is silly enough, but I never realized there was a Mr Dumbo. I wonder if he has big ears?

  11. #26

    Default Walentas Sour Grapes

    Yeah Walentas sour grapes is great. I like the fact he said his bid was significantly less. No surprise since he's a cheap mother****er. I have friends who have tried to do business with him and have watched deals fall through because he refuses to enter any deal that doesn't garantee he makes an exploitive profit. (Good businessman, bad community member.)

    One look at the apartments he's developed in Dumbo tells the story: world class price tags, Kmart materials and appliances.

  12. #27
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    Really? I thought he was smart to let businesses and artists in for little to no rent, then when it boomed... so did the rents and condo prices.

  13. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by billyblancoNYC
    Really? I thought he was smart to let businesses and artists in for little to no rent, then when it boomed... so did the rents and condo prices.
    I did say he was a smart businessman. and when it boomed who was the one who jacked up the rents and condo prices? Walentas. And at whose expense? The artists and scrappy low-profit businesses that had been paying rent for years, and even renovated and maintained his dilapadated buildings.

    That's why I accused him of being a bad community member. He's singlular in his focus of greed. Not that he doesn't have the right to be, but the yuppication of Dumbo has come at a great price of long-term residents, just as the same occured 20 years ago in Soho.

  14. #29
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    Sorry, I meant Really re: your citing his cheap build-outs.

    As far as his business sense, it does suck that artists are being bumped. NYC just needs to focus on building artist housing again, not only low-income housing. Are there any plans for this?

  15. #30
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    Hurrah for the Empire Stores, ugh for the trolley eviction.

    The Stores fascinate me every time I'm at the park there. I think one of the buildings has modern, usable bathrooms in it accessible by the public.

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