RED HOOK – Until Thor Equities resolves a number of concerns raised by neighbors, Brooklyn Community Board 6’s Landmarks/Land Use Committee voted to hold off on approving modified plans for the developer’s Red Hoek Point project.
At a committee meeting Thursday evening, representatives for Thor presented modified plans to the project’s waterfront public access area and visual corridor.
Chris Barnes, a Landscape Architect with Scape presented the proposal which includes “dynamic water experiences and ecosystems,” a public walkway, views of and interactions with the waterfront, an elevated esplanade, a courtyard, and the repurposing of the hoppers preserved and salvaged from the demolished sugar refinery that was previously situated on the 280 Richards Street site.
Thor Equities has agreed to provide a shuttle bus from the site to the subway as part of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) resolution to Thor’s request to reduce the number of required parking spaces at the site, according to Eric Knowles, a Land Use Attorney with Fox Rothschild. Thor has also agreed to add a public restroom along the waterfront esplanade, as previously requested by the Community Board.
After the presentation of the revised plans, Environmental Lawyer Michael Bogin from Sive, Paget & Riesel addressed the concerns of the many Red Hook residents filling the meeting hall.
Large mounds of dirt piled on the site for months have been worrying neighbors who fear that they are being exposed to toxic materials when the dirt blows around in the wind.
While Bogin assured them that Thor is working with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on dust control, he added, “It’s not toxic dust.”
He explained that the soil needs to be screened because the developer wants to reuse it in the Red Hoek Point project, however he added that after a meeting with DEC approximately two weeks ago, the agency advised Thor not to reuse the material to fill in the area between recently installed sheet piling.
“DEC has a general view about recycling concrete aggregate and not using it close to the water,” Bogin explained when a community member asked him why DEC advised against using the dirt for this purpose.
“Soil samples have been done,” he assured the meeting attendees. “I don’t know if they’ve been provided to DEC, but to the extent that they have, they’re public documents and I’d be happy to make them available.”
“If there was toxic material sitting around this property, you can be fairly confident that DEC would have taken action by now,” Bogin continued. “This is construction demolition debris. It is not material that was brought on to the site. It’s material from the site that was excavated when the new bulkhead was put in. It’s typical New York City construction demolition fill material. There’s nothing especially toxic about it.”
The discussion then moved on to the flooding that’s been occurring on Beard Street, located on the eastern border of the site, after the sheet piling was installed.
“The only reason I can think of is that there must be a clogged storm drain,” Bogin said.
“DEP [NYC Department of Environmental Protection] has been out several times to check the storm drains and that hasn’t been it,” a community member responded.
Many locals suspect that the flooding might have been caused by the construction disrupting underground drain systems.
“We’re going to address this with our engineers,” Bogin promised.
“The reduction in the visual corridor and the waterfront access doesn’t take into account all the valid points presented tonight,” said Jerry Armer, CB6’s Landmarks Co-Chair.
Armer presented the motion to “recommend to the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) conditional approval of the plan to modify the waterfront access area and visual corridor requirements at 280 Richards Street. The conditions are as follows:
1. That Thor Equities commit in writing before a City Planning hearing to City Planning their commitment to have a bathroom for public use somewhere on the facility accessible from the promenade or the central area.
2. That they enter into a consent decree with NYC DEC as soon as possible for the continued remediation of the site including the removal of the mounds of dirt which DEC will not approve for reuse, and any other DEC consent decrees that they are asking for.”
The motion included covering the dirt mounds in the interim as well as a thorough investigation behind the cause of the flooding on Beard Street prior to the approval.
The motion passed 10 in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstention.
Thor Equities purchased the former Revere Sugar Refinery site located next to IKEA for $40 million in 2005. Thor demolished the refinery in 2007 even though the 1910 building was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Red Hoek Point project consists of a 7.7 acre waterfront campus featuring two buildings with more than 795,000 square feet of office space spanning three floors and approximately 23,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Thor Equities is currently working with CBRE to find tenants for the project, Knowles stated. He added that the developer is invested in the project and does not plan to sell the property or flip it, as many neighbors believe.