Brooklyn Nonprofits Team in Bid To Secure Remaining Pfizer Properties for Affordable Housing

April 5, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Eli MacKinnon

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

SOUTH WILLIAMSBURG — A group of six local nonprofits is hoping that $10 million will be enough to persuade Pfizer to make a parting gesture to the community it left behind when it shuttered its South Williamsburg plant in 2008.

The coalition of community development corporations has pooled resources to make a $10-million bid on two vacant parcels near the site of the pharmaceutical company’s original headquarters on Flushing Avenue in South Williamsburg. They are determined to utilize the industrial properties to accommodate 840 units’ worth of affordable housing, which they say would serve to ensure “a balanced racial, economic and religious community.”

The organizations decided to make the offer after their hopes that Pfizer would designate the properties for affordable housing were quashed when the company put them on the market in December.

The nonprofits are optimistic that their good-faith $10-million bid, coupled with a judicious measure of corporate guilt-tripping, will be enough to sway Pfizer’s sympathies.   

“Pfizer repeatedly promised our community that they would ‘not sell and run’ and as a good corporate citizen they would ensure property sales addressed community priorities,” said Colvin Grannum, executive director of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, one of the six nonprofits involved in the effort to buy the Pfizer land. “We have put together a substantial purchase offer; this is not a giveaway.”

Community groups had also hoped that Pfizer would convert the closed Brooklyn plant itself into a below market-rate housing development, but instead the pharmaceutical giant sold the former drug-manufacturing complex to Acumen Capital Partners last year. Acumen has since turned the 660,000-square-foot property into a burgeoning hub of local artisanal food manufacturers, leasing space to businesses that include McClure’s Pickles, Brooklyn Soda Works and Steve’s Ice Cream.

The two block-long Pfizer lots currently sought by the team of nonprofits are on Wallabout Street near Harrison Avenue, just north of the Acumen property on Flushing Avenue where Pfizer opened its inaugural plant in 1849. When Pfizer pulled out of that foundational site in 2008, it put an end to hundreds of local jobs as well as the neighborhood’s de facto corporate stewardship.

A Pfizer spokesperson would not comment on bids on the company’s properties, citing confidentiality agreements,  but she said that  Pfizer would “remain committed to working with the community and local public officials” as it determines how to dispense its remaining Brooklyn holdings. 

The six organizations behind the offer to buy and develop the Wallabout Street properties are the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Bridge Street Development Corporation, Churches United for Fair Housing, Los Sures, St. Nicks Alliance and United Jewish Care.

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