Brooklyn Heights

Neighbors to fight 40-story tower proposed for Pineapple Walk in Brooklyn Heights

December 10, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Residents of the Cadman Towers housing development crammed into the meeting room at 101 Clark St. in Brooklyn Heights Wednesday night for a meeting on what might be done to fight a high-rise tower proposed for Pineapple Walk. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Cadman Towers Lawyering Up

More than 100 neighbors crammed into the meeting room at 101 Clark St. in Brooklyn Heights Wednesday night, and a dozen more crowded outside the door to catch the discussion on what might be done to fight a high-rise tower proposed for Pineapple Walk, just north of their building.

“The idea is not to talk about how angry we are, but talk about how effective we’re going to be,” said Toba Potosky, president of the board of Cadman Towers, a middle-income Mitchell Lama housing development located at both 101 Clark St. and 10 Clinton St.  

According to a letter from the board of the private co-op next door — Whitman Owner Corp. at 75 Henry St. — an unnamed developer has offered to pay in excess of $75 million for the strip of shops along Pineapple Walk. The parcel, currently owned by Whitman, 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.

The developer has proposed to build a 40-story condo on the site and create new retail space; the existing stores would be demolished.

While residents of Whitman Owner Corp. could receive payouts ranging from $120,000 to $260,000 or more, the residents of Cadman Towers would receive nothing.

The Cadman Towers board has already made moves to reach out to land-use attorneys, Potosky said.

“We’re getting up to speed on what the zoning laws are,” he told the anxious residents. “We’re looking at the original documents from when the land was originally acquired from the Brooklyn Bridge, where 140 Cadman Plaza North was built, all the way to us. They were all acquired under one program.”

Potosky said the board was forming an action committee and considering writing a letter to Whitman shareholders “letting them know how we feel.”

“We’ve worked together with that co-op in terms of senior issues,” said board Director Shelley Holtzberg. “We have a nice relationship.” She said that a Whitman resident told her that some of the shareholders there are forming a committee “that is anti-building.”

“It’s not everybody looking at the money and saying ‘I want it.’ There are people there that would love to work with us,” Holtzberg said.

Whitman shareholders must vote by Jan. 15 on whether or not they want to investigate the offer further.

Elected Officials Represented

Teresa Toro, representing Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, told attendees that Simon “is very concerned about runaway development in Brooklyn, and in this district, especially. She’s been calling for a moratorium — hitting the pause button until we can get a grip on what’s going on.”

The two sections of Cadman Towers (101 Clark St. and 10 Clinton St.) are represented by different state senators: Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Sen. Daniel Squadron.

Oscar Jonas, from Montgomery’s office, said that though the development may be more of a local issue, “We will be working with you guys in whatever capacity we are able to as a state Legislature.”

Robert Young, from Squadron’s office, said, “We will be here working with you guys. We’re all in this together.”

Glomani Bravo-Lopez represented Councilmember Stephen Levin. “The building in this neighborhood and throughout the community — the library, Pier 6, the Pierhouse project — it’s tremendous,” he said. “It’s no mystery. You keep on building and there’s not enough resources.

“Unfortunately, with this project it might be a battle. It is not ULURP, it’s an as-of-right project, meaning it would not need rezoning,” Bravo-Lopez added.

Nan Blackshear, representing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, offered the land use expertise of the office, and said she wanted to hear what residents had to say so she could bring it back to the borough president.

Last week, the the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) said it was firmly opposed to the proposal and dismayed by the crush of unplanned development in the area.

 

Residents Comment

“It is about a great deal more than any individual building’s view or any individual group’s concerns,” said one Cadman Towers resident. It is the same issue that is being dealt with at the [Brooklyn Heights] library. It is the same issue that’s being dealt with about that monstrosity that was built down in front of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s the same issue of unplanned development built on promises that are not kept and deals that are not honored.”

He said residents working on all of these issues should band together and “speak with one voice before it becomes a runaway problem. If everyone doesn’t stand together in this, we’re going to drown together.”

Another resident, Florence, was pessimistic.

“I’ll tell you a secret: Money talks. And it will always talk,” she said.

With Whitman residents looking at more than $100,000 if they approve the tower, “You can’t tell me that that vote is going to be no. Absolutely not. People are people,” she said.

Another Cadman resident, Susan, said, “This is clearly a community issue. We have to work on our politicians and use lawyers.”

Several residents of Whitman who attended the meeting said they were against the proposal.

Miriam Louis, a longtime Whitman resident with a south-facing view, criticized the letter sent to shareholders by the Whitman board as inadequate.

“It claims to state facts, but in fact it doesn’t,” she said. “They talk about financial incentive for profit, but in fact a lot of people, including myself, are actually going to sustain financial losses.”

Justin Luchter, a resident of 140 Cadman Plaza, said, “I don’t want to see rampant development destroy our community.” The breakneck development of the area was “incomprehensible,” he added.

Andrea Demetropoulos of Rocco and Jezebel for Pets, a shop on Pineapple Walk, drew laughs when she said the Whitman manager had told her, “Don’t worry.

She explained that commercial tenants don’t have protection. “If they want to get rid of us, they will get rid of us.

After the meeting, Sydelle Brooks, past president of the 101 Clark St. board, was doubtful. She told this reporter, “Show me one little New Yorker who can fight a developer.”  

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

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