A waterfront blog about Red Hook, Brooklyn. From Columbia Street to the Van Brunt Stores and from Valentino Pier to Red Hook Rec Center.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Skeptical, but not opposed (following up on Imlay)

The recent post about 160 Imlay was linked to Curbed today, and RedHooky was even quoted. Although Curbed notes my skepticism about the Imlay conversion and the especially the NYPost editorial about it, I think I should be more clear about my own opinions of the project. As I noted in the first piece on the Imlay project, I think the influx of new residents would be a real boon for the new businesses in the neighborhood. The variance board's requirement that the developers not add additional floors and that the first floor be used for commercial space goes a long way toward making the project more in keeping with the "mixed-use" character of the neighborhood. In short, I support the conversion of the Imlay building to residencies, but remain cautious about overall development in the neighborhood

There is definitely room in Red Hook for growth in terms of residents and commercial businesses - including some industrial uses. The neighborhood is not being used to its capacity. The most important issue, however, is managing the growth. I think the traffic situation is a good example. Despite warnings of the "narrow cobblestone streets" not being able to handle increased traffic, at one time Red Hook was one of the most used shipping ports in the country. During the boom years of Red Hook, there was substantially more traffic on these streets than we're seeing now. That's not to say that traffic isn't a problem now, and that its not going to get worse as new businesses and residents come in. However, its a problem that could be managed better now, and will have to be managed better in dealing with the future growth. In the short term, a couple of stop lights on Van Brunt Street between Hamilton Avenue and Reed Street would control some of the traffic flow and reduce the hi-speed truck runs a bit. And a stop sign at the corner of Verona and Richards just seems logical. In the medium term, restoring the Conover Street extension which was recently removed from the cruise ship terminal plan should be a priority.

In the longer term, we need closer and more consistent attention to comprehensive planning. Community planning is nothing new for Red Hook, and is probably where I am most skeptical of the Manhattan Institute's analysis. Where their approach emphasizes private enterprise in development, I feel strongly that public concerns should be at the fore. Red Hook was involved in one of the earlier commmunity planning efforts in 1996. A plan was written and is available from NYC.gov website. (Okay, I admit I haven't read it yet. But I will!) . I think the variance board's conditions on the Imlay Street project recognize the developer's responsibilities to a certain degree. More responsibilities can be put on private developers, however. Developers, whether they are building the Ikea or Fairway, or converting Imlay, have entered into the neighorohood and as such have neighborhood citizenship responsibilities. Requiring the Imlay developers to incorporate the Greenway into their plans, or even participating in the Conover Street extension, should not be too much to ask. However, without proper forums, and good-faith participation from both residents and developers, the right questions rarely get asked, and development becomes an exercise in community confrontation.


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