Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights co-op owners weigh developer’s 40-story Henry Street plan

December 2, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The parcel under consideration runs from Cadman Plaza West to Henry Street and includes the popular Park Plaza Diner, a pet store, a toy store and 79 Green Apple Corp., commonly known as Peas & Pickles grocery store, shown here. Photo by Mary Frost

$75 million offer for Pineapple Walk site

Is another high-rise coming to Brooklyn Heights?

Residents of Whitman Owner Corp., a 32-story tower and townhouses at 75 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights, heard late Tuesday that their co-op board has received an eye-popping offer to purchase the portion of their property located on Pineapple Walk.

This rectangle of land runs from Cadman Plaza West to Henry Street and includes the popular Park Plaza Diner, a pet store, a beauty parlor, a toy store and 79 Green Apple Corp., commonly known as Peas n’ Pickles grocery store.

According to a letter from the co-op board, the unnamed developer could pay “in excess of $75 million to the corporation and its shareholders.”

In its preliminary offer, the developer has proposed to build a 40-story condo and create new retail space; the existing stores would be demolished. Whitman Owner Corp. would retain ownership of the new stores, while the developer would keep the proceeds of the sale of the new condo apartments.

Whitman’s board has previously received and rejected lesser offers for this parcel, according to the board, but this offer is so large that the board wants the shareholders to mull it over and vote on whether the board should give it further consideration.

They asked residents to consider the years of disruption the construction would cause, the views that would be blocked for those living on the south side of the co-op, and the noise, traffic and safety concerns.

The local community has been up in arms about the frantic pace of development in Brooklyn Heights, along with the lack of city planning for new schools, traffic and other concerns. The board asked shareholders to consider this in their deliberations.

“If history is any indicator, such a development will be met with significant resistance from many in the Brooklyn Heights community,” the board said.

“The board is unanimous in believing that the short and long term considerations for our community and neighborhood need to be thoughtfully addressed,” the letter added.

The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) on Wednesday said it was firmly opposed to the proposal and dismayed by the crush of unplanned development in the Downtown Brooklyn area.

“The BHA has received many calls today from residents concerned about another tower going up in the Heights. We will reach out to our members within 75 Henry to urge them to reject the offer put before them,” Peter Bray, executive director of the BHA told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“We are dismayed by the wave of impending development on the edges of Brooklyn Heights, which is occurring without any comprehensive planning by the City to address the problems of excessive development,” Bray continued. “With the community already facing significant school overcrowding, traffic congestion, and the loss of our neighborhood’s hospital, not to mention the impact of so much construction on our neighborhood’s quality of life, we call upon the Mayor and the Department of City Planning to reconsider its zoning policies for Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods while it develops a rational plan that addresses these important concerns.”

David Grillo, account executive at Whitman Owner Corp. for Gumley-Haft Property Management, told the Eagle that the offer was only preliminary. “Shareholders must vote either yes or no” to consider it, he said. He declined to comment further.

Big paycheck dangled before Whitman shareholders

Residents at Whitman were cautious on Wednesday, with some saying they would be willing to hear more, and others adamant that they were fed up with the rampant development in their neighborhood.

The Park Plaza Diner, circled, as seen from 75 Henry St. The two-story site of the Brooklyn Heights Library, one block south, can also be seen near the top of this photo.

A number of Whitman shareholders have been fighting the development of the Brooklyn Heights Library, just a block south of their co-op, and have expressed alarm at multiple developments in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Were the sale to go through, however, tower shareholders could receive from $120,000 (studio owners) to $260,000 (three bedroom owners) apiece, and townhouse owners even more. Shareholders would also be granted perpetual use of the amenities included in any development.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said her “eyeballs popped out” when she heard the parcel might fetch $75 million. “That would be the children’s money,” she said.

“But do we really want more one-percenters moving into the neighborhood? A quart of milk is going to cost $10,” she added.

Another resident said that the offer was worth considering. “I’m willing to hear more,” he said.

Several residents fretted over the potential loss of the Park Plaza Diner, a go-to spot for locals and those involved in legal proceedings at the several nearby court houses.

A neighbor, who did not want his name used, said in an email that he was “very concerned with the impact that a 40 story building could cause to both adjacent buildings.”

“The additional building could very easily add 400-450 units to the neighborhood and destroy the open space between such high-rises, casting even more shadows over the landmarked blocks across Henry Street,” he said.

Shareholders have been asked to vote by January 15 whether the board should evaluate the offer and investigate further, including considering competing offers. The board says it will not commit to any sale without a subsequent shareholder vote.

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Disclosure: This reporter is a resident of Whitman Owner Corp.