Rabsky’s New Plans for Pfizer Mega-Project Could Bring Hundreds of Affordable Units to ‘Burg

Rabsky's plans for the site. Rendering via Rabsky Group

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    Controversial Brooklyn developer Rabsky Group Tuesday unveiled new plans for its mega-development on the old Pfizer factory site that could bring several hundred units of affordable housing to a now-desolate stretch of Williamsburg.

    Rabsky wants a rezoning to allow residential development at 249 and 334 Wallabout Street, which is now zoned for industrial use. A public hearing on the matter will take place tonight.

    249 Wallabout Street in 2015. Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

    249 Wallabout Street in 2015. Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

    First, a little background

    Development in the area, known as the Broadway Triangle, has been mired in controversy for years, long before Rabsky came on the scene. Rabsky also has a track record with rezonings and affordable housing that could dog this development.

    Community groups and politicians in nearby Bushwick have accused the developer of reneging on promises made by a former owner, Read, to deliver affordable housing in exchange for a rezoning on another mega-project, Rheingold — a charge Rabsky denies.

    What Rabsky is proposing

    Updated plans call for 1,146 rental apartments in eight buildings over two large blocks totaling 4.2 acres. The previous plan proposed 800 units total.

    On Tuesday, Rabsky promised to include affordable units in line with the city’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements, which could mean 25 percent or 30 percent of the residential space will be affordable instead of market rate, or as many as 344 apartments, depending on what the City Council decides.

    Rabsky is also promising 26,000 feet of open space, which will be a landscaped area open to the public and managed by the owners of the complex. There will also be 405 off-street parking spaces, and more than 64,000 square feet of retail.

    The buildings will have a maximum height of 14 stories and 140 feet.

    Another view of 249 Wallabout Street. Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

    Another view of 249 Wallabout Street. Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

    Rabsky on the down low

    Rabsky Group keeps a low profile, at least where the press is concerned and, par for the course, only spokespeople and representatives appeared and spoke on behalf of the developer at a press conference in Manhattan Tuesday.

    Present at the conference were Rabsky Group spokesman Lee Silberstein of press relations agency Marino PR and Harrison Realty spokesman Ray Levin, a Department of City Planning veteran and attorney with Slater & Beckerman P.C. (Rabsky is the “managing partner” of Harrison, explained Levin.)

    Also present was Jeff Reuben of Phil Habib and Associates, which is handling the environmental impact statement for the developer.

    “This site has been a long time coming,” Silberstein said.

    Rheingold Brewery Brooklyn Bushwick History

    A rendering for Rabsky’s Rheingold development in nearby Bushwick. Rendering by ODA New York

    A public hearing takes place tonight

    The press conference came a day before a public hearing on the project’s impact on the neighborhood. The hearing — a scoping meeting — will take place tonight, Wednesday, September 21, at 6 p.m. at Intermediate School 318 at 101 Walton Street in Williamsburg.

    Rabsky has called the meeting to get public feedback on a draft of the environmental impact statement. Comments are “limited to the scope of work for the EIS and any changes needed to ensure appropriate and thorough assessment of potential impacts,” said Rabsky in a prepared statement.

    Environmental impact statement

    The forthcoming environmental impact statement, required for any rezoning, will address a number of concerns, including land use, shadows created by the new 140-foot-tall buildings, noise, construction impacts, and hazardous materials.

    While the sites have been remediated for hazardous materials already, there is still work to be done, a representative of the project said during the Tuesday conference. The group said they are prepared to address any adverse impacts of the project with alternative proposals, but did not give details.

    378 wallabout street east williamsburg 22015

    Another Rabsky development nearby at 378 Wallabout Street in 2015. Photo by Rebecca Baird-Remba for Brownstoner

    The Pfizer story

    The site was formerly owned by drug manufacturing giant Pfizer and is still zoned for low-density manufacturing. Various community groups attempted to buy the property to build low-income housing there.

    Rabsky bought the parcel in 2012 for $12,750,000 and filed an application to rezone it in 2015, as we reported at the time.

    The site is located in the Broadway Triangle, which has a contentious history, as various groups have clashed over building housing in the area. Accusations that a pet project of the late politician Vito Lopez were racist and discriminatory may have played a part in his downfall, and held back public development of the area for years.

    A look to the future

    If the proposal goes through, the development will bring a great many people, cars, tall buildings, and shops to the now-ramshackle area, which borders Bushwick and Bed Stuy.

    Any rezoning will need to clear a number of hurdles, particularly the ULURP process. Ultimately, the power to rezone the site lies in the hands of the City Council and the mayor, and the first step to the redevelopment of the site begins publicly Wednesday evening.

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