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Queens Chronicle

5 Pointz update

Borough prez approves zoning; councilman defends contributions

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:18 am, Thu Jul 25, 2013.

The ever-changing proposal.

The proposed development that would replace the graffiti-covered factory building known as 5 Pointz with a 1,000-unit residential building seems to change a little each week as it goes further through the official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

As of right the Wolkoff family can build a 620-unit complex on the site, but they don’t want that. Instead they are trying to get zoning changes made to allow the developer family to build two glass towers with 1,000 rental units. In exchange for a larger building, a 20,000-square-foot park must be included in the design, which it includes in the renderings in the back of the property at 45-46 Davis St.

On Tuesday Borough President Helen Marshall officially approved the zoning change, with some stipulations, which were agreed on by Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley and David Wolkoff.

The Planning Commission has until Sept. 14 to make a decision. After the vote the City Council has 50 days to vote. If the body does not hand down a decision the project is considered approved.

Often in development and other matters, Council members look to how the district’s Council member plans to vote.

So far the district’s councilman, Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), has not made a decision whether the zoning change should be made, but isn’t against the Wolkoff family demolishing 5 Pointz.

“Is keeping an abandoned and falling apart building, even if covered with art, or is creating thousands of jobs, giving several hundred families homes and construction jobs better? I clearly think that’s better for our neighborhood, which could be built as of right,” Van Bramer said.

He said he will probably push for more affordable housing than the amount the CB has asked for, but did not give a definitive answer whether he would publicize his vote on the ULURP before the City Council votes.

Some in the community question if campaign contributions from the Wolkoffs might influence his vote.

David Wolkoff contributed $2,750 to Van Bramer’s campaign and other family members donated about $3,000 more making up about 4 percent of the councilman’s $143,000 funding.

“I think any insinuation that there’s anything untoward about my campaign donation is completely without merit,” Van Bramer said. “I’m completely objective on this issue as I am with all others. I will make a decision based on what I truly believe is in the best interest of the community.”

On June 6 CB 2 members voted against the original proposal 38-0, with one person, Conley, abstaining.

They said the building would be out of character with the neighborhood and that the small amount of art studio space and lack of affordable housing, public transit help and partnerships with local cultural institutions were troubling.

Since then Wolkoff and Conley signed a compromise on June 26 stating the development will include 75 affordable housing units with preference for individuals living in CB 2’s area, civil servants, veterans and seniors; increase the square footage allotted for art studios from 4,000 to 12,000; and team with local art institutions such as PS 1 Sculpture Studio to manage the art panel that will dot the park and the side of the building that runs along Davis Street that were included in the original plan. Furthermore the stipulations ask Wolkoff to increase the art offerings, develop a car share program, encourage neighborhood retail and allow free monthly access for community groups to have a meeting space.

Marshall approved the zoning change on the condition that those stipulations are adhered to.

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