Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CoWNA Seeks Nominations for Officers

Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association seeks nominations for the following executive positions in our organization: President, Vice President, Secretary.

Please submit an email or letter of interest with a short, one-paragraph bio and statement of interest. We will hold elections at a general meeting to be scheduled for spring 2012. For submittal or more information:  contact@cowna.org

A brief overview of our activities is available here.

New Building on Columbia - continued

We've received two comments on our earlier post about the proposed new building on Columbia Street (see below).  A clarification of the criticism of the original post is in order:  nowhere is it indicated that the new building should be designed using a traditional or historic vocabulary.  The Waterfront District is indeed a 'mixed bag' of styles (as are most New York neighborhoods, actually) and of course contemporary design can coexist successfully with historic buildings.

The problem with Loading Dock 5's project is just that it is not very good, not that it is 'contemporary'.  And being 'green' does not compensate for clumsiness.  Unfortunately one can't refer to it any longer.  That the image of the building was removed from their website indicates that either they or their client was not happy about it being seen by the public.  Why would that be, if the designers and the developer were confident of their work? 

I am encouraged that there is some discussion about this project! I hope that others, plus the developer and designers (with plans and images, hopefully) join in: we'd love to see a lively exchange about this: it would help all of us clarify what kind of city we hope to live in and signal our expectations to the inevitable future developers.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Redistricting Blues

Every 10 years, after the census, the Assembly, State Senate and Congressional maps are redrawn. This process is called redistricting. Yesterday, we saw the first--and possibly last--draft of the new Assembly and Senate maps. (The Congressional ones aren't done yet.)

So, how does the Columbia Waterfront fare?

Not well.

Our Senate district may get a new name, but that's no big deal. We're in the 25th. We may become the 26th. Still, it's basically the same district now represented by State Senator Daniel Squadron.

The rub is the Assembly.

Right now, our whole neighborhood is in the 52nd Assembly District. Joan Millman is our assemblywoman. But under the proposed maps, we get divided between the 52nd and the 51st. That's the Red Hook-Sunset Park district now held by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

Take a look:

Now, this is only a draft. A lot could happen between now and ... well, redistricting is contentious, and it has a way of dragging on. Let's just say a lot could happen. Then again, maybe not.

This point is this: If the final maps look like the proposed ones, then the voting power of the Columbia Waterfront, such as it is, will be diluted. When Assemblymember 52 looks at our neighborhood, or Assemblymember 51, they're going to see a lot fewer votes than Assemblymember 52 sees now.

This may or may not matter in the short run. But in the long run, two Assemblymembers are not better than one.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brad Lander to Present Overview of Port Changes

As most in the community know, there has recently been a change in operations at the Red Hook Terminal.  The departure of American Stevedoring as operator and the imminent threat by U. S. Customs to cease servicing the port are events that could have a profound impact on our neighborhood.  Council member Brad Lander has organized a meeting to update the neighborhood on these developments and, hopefully, help us understand what the future may hold.

Date: 9 February 2012
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: Postgraduate Center, 177 Columbia Street

Our neighborhood is uniquely affected by the port: idling ships pollute our air, truck traffic on our local streets contributes to pollution and is a safety concern, and the salt pile is a corrosive nuisance.  However, the port is also a valuable and essential resource: it has the capacity to accommodate a wide variety of activities, from cruise ships to water taxis, shipping, recreational boating, cultural and educational centers to maintenance facilities.   Whether the port remains a viable enterprise for years to come should be a major concern for all in the Waterfront.  If it does not, then we will witness an all-to-familiar real estate free-for-all as agencies and developers rush to exploit what is one of the most desirable locations in Brooklyn.  Please join us, meet your neighbors and learn more about the port.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Columbia Waterfront Park Meeting

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative has scheduled a report-back meeting for the planned park along Columbia Street  between and Kane and Degraw.  Preliminary renderings will be presented and the community will be invited to comment.  Visit the BGI website regarding the meeting here and RSVP.

Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Time: 6:30p - 8:30p
Location: Union Street Star Theater, 101 Union Street

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

7 Story Building Planned for Columbia Street

An application for a new 7 story building at 255 Columbia Street (the former furniture store) has been filed at the Department of Buildings.  The proposed building will reach a height of 70 feet and contain 13 apartments.  The designer's blog includes a brief description of the building and an image of the street front. [Update 1/14/12 - the image on the designer's blog has apparently been removed].

Although we applaud the developer's commitment to constructing to Passive House standard, we are displeased with lack of sensitivity to the character of the neighborhood the image of the project reveals.  Our hope is that the drawing is a very early sketch and that further refinement of composition, proportions, and detailing is forthcoming.  As it is presented, this structure unfortunately resembles many of the mediocre contemporary infill buildings scattered throughout Williamsburg.

We welcome responsible development in our neighborhood and the influx of new residents who will be customers for our local businesses.  We urge the developer of this project to demand of his designers a more sophisticated design.  One that evinces a sensitivity to context and demonstrates an understanding of the meaningful differences in composition of building elements relative to the street, the property line, the building silhouette.  With a little care, we believe that this site could hold a building that both its owners and its neighbors will love.