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Dirty Laundry From Shelters Stalls Development at Greenpoint Hospital Site

By Gwynne Hogan | February 11, 2016 5:40pm
 Greenpoint Hospital is one of the city-owned stalled development sites for affordable housing.
Greenpoint Hospital is one of the city-owned stalled development sites for affordable housing.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — A decades-old plan to turn remains of the defunct city-owned Greenpoint Hospital into affordable housing has stalled again — literally because of the Department of Homeless Services' dirty laundry.

North Brooklyn residents have been pushing for decades to redevelop the Greenpoint Hospital site, located just north of Cooper Park, and were expecting the city to open an application process for developers in early 2016.

Last week the city announced that the plans had been postponed again — because the site is currently being used as laundry facility for city shelters.

It can't be moved until a new place is found, the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development spokeswoman Elizabeth Rohlfing said.

"We have a mayor that is saying that he wants to move quickly...This is not moving quickly," said Jan Peterson, the chair of the Greenpoint Renaissance Enterprise Corporation (GREC), a coalition of neighborhood groups which has been fighting for housing on the site since the 1980s when the hospital closed. 

"They own that site," she said. "They can move.

Also, parts of the property are being considered for the National Registry of Historic Places so it's not yet clear what kind of protection would need to be accommodated as part of the redevelopment plan, she said.

“The Greenpoint Hospital site presents a number of technical challenges, as is common with large properties that contain historical buildings and existing uses," Rohlfing said. 

"As we shared with a local community group last week, HPD is actively working to resolve those issues before moving forward with an RFP in order to ensure a smooth and successful process.”

Last week was the first time that the community has gotten wind of these two issues, months after Mayor Bill De Blasio's administration rekindled plans for development there.

"It's all frustrating," said Eric Bruzaitis, a member of GREC who sits on the local community board. He called the latest delay in the Greenpoint Hospital saga "bureaucratic hang up." 

"We're 30 years down the road now, trying to get this thing done," he said. 

The Greenpoint Hospital Complex, built in the early 1900s and that takes up two full city blocks between Maspeth Ave. and Jackson St. in East Williamsburg, currently houses a 200-bed city shelter and laundry facility.

Neighborhood-based affordable housing developer St. Nicks Alliance owns five of the buildings that are currently used for low and moderate income housing and office space, while the last of the eight-building complex — which used to be a nurse's residence — has been abandoned for decades.

For a few years, it looked like things were turning around for the underutilized city land.

The city opened up bidding for proposals in 2008 and GREC, which had submitted plans, was narrowly squeezed out by another developer.

But in 2012, the whole plan ground to a halt when the developer was indicted for bribery.

"We were second. Your candidate went to jail," Peterson said, emphasizing that instead of starting all over the city should look at the plan GREC already had for the site. 

"That should be good enough."

Following last week's delay, the city currently has no estimate for when it will open the application process for developers, which would include three buildings on the site and a swath of land surrounding them.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the mayor's office, deferred all comments to HPD.