Building Brooklyn: Boro brass praise developers, salute future skylines
Chamber of Commerce awards 'shapers of Brooklyn's new century'
Results for the 2018 Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building Brooklyn Awards had already been announced by the time civic leaders, contractors, architects and entrepreneurs gathered inside 1 Brooklyn Bridge on Aug. 1 to confer the awards over cocktails and canapes.
Of 11 sites singled out for honors, nine are located in North Brooklyn, only two — Dyker Heights’ District 20 Pre-K Center and Bensonhurst’s Il Centro — are in the south.
“That was just how it happened this year,” said 2018 judging panel member Geoffrey Doban of Doban Architecture. “We sorted through about 25 entrants. These were the ones that really stood out.”
Doban’s own firm received honors for its work on the NYC District 20 Pre-K Center in Dyker Heights.
“I rescued myself on that one,” Doban said with a grin.
Did the panel experience conflict during deliberations — judges disagreeing over their own personal favorites?
“No,” said panelist Renee McClure of National Grid. “We knew why we were there, and what we had to do. Of course some leaned one way or the other, but we came together.”
On hand for the presentations were Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, state Assemblymember Joe Lentol, U.S. Rep. Representative Jerrold Nadler, City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President-Emeritus Peter Meyer.
“You are the planners and builders behind the Brooklyn Renaissance,” Meyer said, addressing the audience. “Your work will determine how the borough looks in the coming century.”
“When you build offices and affordable housing,” Adams said. “You’re not just building four walls, you’re building dreams and possibilities. The work in DUMBO especially allows people to get home to their families that much quicker, and that can make all the difference!”
“I’m so proud to see all of this new development and hope spreading throughout,” said Hochul. Recounting her early days as a native of Buffalo, Hochul described its trajectory from industrial decline, impoverishment, to gradual emergence as a tech center in its own right.
The development, she claimed, mirrored Brooklyn’s own. “I’m so grateful for you having made me feel a part of the Brooklyn family. You haven’t seen anything yet!” she declared to thunderous applause.
National Grid COO Kenneth Daly and Douglaston Development, LLC Chairman Jeffrey Levine were singled out for individual honors.
“He’s been an extremely effective partner for us here at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce,” said Meyer as he introduced Daly.
Accepting the award, Daly recalled humble beginnings with a small company, Brooklyn Union Gas. “It was a real Brooklyn story,” he told the audience. Daly went on to describe National Grid’s project to reclaim biomethane from Newtown Creek as a key part of the company’s long-term strategy to create renewable sources of clean energy.
This year’s National Grid Award for Energy Efficiency went to Il Centro, the first and only Italian-American cultural center in NYC. Its construction includes innovative insulation, low-flush toilets, floor-to-ceiling windows and energy-conserving water faucets.
Fellow honoree Jeffrey Levine, also a Brooklyn native, had a background in construction, then studied architecture during night classes at City College.
“Brooklyn has been very good to me,” Levine said. “I had the honor to be born in this great borough, in this great city, in this great country!” A member of the Mayor’s Commission on Construction Opportunity, Levine is also vice chair at the New York Building Congress and a partner in the Partnership for New York City.
Citing all of the construction and design innovations that have changed the fundamental nature of his borough, Adams exulted, “You almost want to slow it down, to savor each day as the skyline changes!”
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