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Greenpoint Williamsburg Waterfront Tour on Friday, September 20

Welcome back, Living Lab Fellows!  We’ll meet at Fulton Ferry Landing at 9:00 sharp on Friday, September 20. We board the East River Ferry for a 9:25 departure up the river to the India Street Pier in Greenpoint. We will be out in the field for a full 3 hours, so dress for comfort and prepare for temperatures in the high 70s, some sun, few clouds, and a breeze off the river. Directions to the ferry from campus are below:
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We wrap up by 1 pm in time to catch the 1:14 ferry back to Fulton Ferry Landing and City Tech.

Transportation Group Conclusions: Ferries, CitiBikes, and a Streetcar?

Group: Jeremiah, Karen and Richard

Our group looked at Transportation. For improved transportation there isn’t one ‘perfect site.’ Transportation always requires networks and not just a single site for improvements. There are three different possible improvements we found, continuing the ferry service, adding CitiBikes, and improving local ground transportation options along the waterfront.

The East River Ferry Service is still relatively new to the neighborhood (it only began in 2011). It is still only funded in a short-term way by initial grants. Long-term ways to fund and keep the ferry operating in perpetuity need to be found. New York Waterway is a private for profit operator and on its Hudson River routes to New Jersey it does make a profit but charges extremely high price, $9 and up for the short trips across the river. Prices like this would only harm ferry service in the area we visited. Right now the East River Ferry is funded totally separately by the NYCEDC completely outside of the MTA. Ideally the East River Ferry should allow free and subsidized transfers to MTA Buses and Subways and accept whatever replacements are found for MetroCards. Unlimited Ride Pass holders should be allowed to ride the ferries for just a $1.50 step-up fee, the difference between a local transit ride and the ferry fare. Continued subsidies for the ferries could perhaps come from a special ‘ferry’ property tax paid directly by the developments adjacent to the ferry docks on waterfront that directly benefit from the ferries. It seems like the two ferry docks serving the portion of the waterfront we visited are adequate and more docks aren’t needed.

Improved ground transportation access is also needed for these waterfront communities. A short-term goal should be placing CitiBike stations at all ferry docks, all sites we visited and throughout the surrounding community as well as at nearby G and L train subway stations to allow intermodal trips to the waterfront via subway and CitiBike. Travel options are also required for those who don’t want to ride bikes down to the waterfront. The MTA has just begun a new waterfront bus route, the B32 along the stretch of the waterfront we visited, traveling via the nearest through streets. In the future this bus route could be converted to a streetcar line to serve the entire waterfront. This line could run all the way from Greenpoint to Red Hook tying the entire waterfront together. The use of streetcar technology would allow for tracks to be street running, in shared traffic or dedicated lanes along Kent Avenue and Franklin Street (perhaps rerouted via West Street directly in Greenpoint). The Streetcar tracks could also go directly through redevelopment sites, perhaps even passing through the first story of new buildings with stops providing direct access. Streetcar ROWs can be as narrow as a single track in places at about 10 feet wide. The streetcar could become both a local transit option as well as a tourist touring option along the waterfront. The system can be built primarily by special assessment taxes on new developments as well as a special property taxes on land adjacent to the tracks who’s values will increase from the building this new permanent rail option. The reason we propose a streetcar line is that it is permanent, instead of just new bus routes that are at the whims of all MTA budget shortfalls.

Greenpoint Walking Tour Group Activity

Group: Laura, Soyeon, Zoya, Inna

We were assigned the role of “Developer,” and our group priorities were to: “create a profitable project luxury apartment complex,” “develop spaces that are easily marketable,” and “maximize long-term gains.” After reviewing all of the locations on the walking tour, we decided that our selected site is the Sludge Tank/site of Greenpoint Landing. Although many of the sites we visited were desirable from the perspective of potential development, the Sludge Tank site’s 2005 rezoning makes developing much easier because it seems to require a less stringent approval process (as evidenced by the upcoming Greenpoint Landing project). It seems that the property is prime for a luxury development because of its waterfront location, views of Manhattan, and proximity to the East River Ferry. Further, the Greenpoint area is much less developed than Williamsburg’s waterfront at this time, offering the potential for maximizing long-term profits since land will be cheaper in the short term. We anticipate that the value of the property will increase greatly over the next 10 years, following the trend that has been seen in Williamsburg. In addition to the value of the land, Greenpoint’s relative lack of development means that the community may have not developed organized advocacy groups yet, meaning that we might meet less resistance to developing the waterfront area in a manner that would maximize our profits.

Continental Iron Works site

Image of the launch of the USS Monitor

Image of the launch of the USS Monitor, published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862

Shipbuilding was one of the largest industries along New York’s waterfront throughout the 19th century. Established in 1859, the Continental Iron Works built the first Ironclad battleship, the USS Monitor, famous for fighting in the Battle of Hampton Roads. Assembled at this site and launched nearby, the remains of the ship are on display at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA. The Continental Iron Works received several contracts to build more ironclad battleships. After the decline of the shipbuilding industry, the Continental Iron Works specialized in other metalwork for marine and military uses.

The 2005 rezoning called for a continuous waterfront esplanade and several parks; the Greenpoint Monitor Museum site is in the path of the planned open space. Advocates for the museum were awarded a parcel of land for the museum, yet the land is in the footprint of the planned park.

Eberhard Faber Pencil Works and Historic District

According to the city’s historic district designation report, pencil manufacturing took place here from 1872 until 1956. The buildings were partially converted to condos in 2010; some units remain commercial lofts. 61 Greenpoint Avenue, a later addition to the factory complex, has decorative panels that display the star and diamond motif that was impressed on every pencil, as well as oversize terra-cotta pencils. Early 20th century photos of the factory interiors show a predominance of women workers.

Women at work in the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory, ca. 1915. Brooklyn Historical Society Collection.

Women at work in the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory, ca. 1915. Brooklyn Historical Society Collection.

American Manufacturing Company/Greenpoint Terminal

Importing of sisal, manila and jute from south Asia and the Far East gave some area streets their names: India Street, Java Street. These raw materials were made into rope, which was in demand from the many shipyards that dominated industry here in the 19th century. Founded in the 1890s, the American Manufacturing Company grew quickly and was the second largest industrial employer in Brooklyn at the turn of the 19th century. After World War II, the now-sprawling yet obsolete facility became a warehouse, Greenpoint Terminal.

Greenpoint Terminal Market fire, May 2006. flickr user MGChan

Greenpoint Terminal Market fire, May 2006. flickr user MGChan

After the 2005 zoning, preservationists wanted to landmark some of the significant industrial buildings of the complex. Many of its 19 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged in a suspicious 2006 fire.

Bushwick Inlet and Astral Oil Works

The Astral Oil Works, at North 12th Street and the East River, refined oil into kerosene, which was the main illuminating oil used in lamps before electric lighting. The company used the slogan “the hoastraloilly lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil,” suggesting that this product dominated the kerosene market. The facility was devastated by fire in 1873, and suffered serious damage by fire several times thereafter: accounts in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle date from 1880, 1884, and 1887.GreatOilFireNYTimes

The topography of this area has been dramatically altered. Bushwick Creek extended over a mile inland and provided waterwheel power to early industries. It was completely filled in by the turn of the last century. Bushwick Inlet is the site of a proposed waterfront park, created in the 2005 rezoning; only the southernmost part of the park has been built.

The sewage, the playground, and the tower

The 800,000 gallon sludge tank stored treated wastewater. It is scheduled for demolition to make way for waterfront condo towers.

The 800,000 gallon sludge tank stored treated wastewater. It is scheduled for demolition to make way for waterfront condo towers.

The corner of Commercial Street and Dupont Street offers a view of the past, present, and future of Greenpoint. The Newtown Barge playground occupies the former site of the Newtown Creek Barge Terminal and, with the adjacent Greenpoint Playground, is one of the few open recreation spaces in the neighborhood.

The prominent sludge tank, which stored treated sewage from the nearby wastewater treatment plant, is slated for demolition in early 2014. Under the terms of the 2005 rezoning, the land it occupies was FireShot Screen Capture #046 - 'greenpoint_landing_save_greenpoint I Greenpointers' - greenpointers_com_2013_09_16_ulurp-meeting-tomorrow-917_greenpoint_landing_save_greenpoint

Rendering of 77 Commercial Street and Greenpoint Landing from savegreenpoint.org

to become part of a waterfront park. Two massive new housing developments consisting of a dozen 30 to 40 story buildings, known as Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial Street, are planned for this site.