By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Waterside’s owner and developer Richard Ravitch revealed on Tuesday that he would like to see the bookend parcel of the proposed sanitation garage on East 25th Street become housing for seniors.
Ravitch discussed the issue at a meeting held by the Waterside Tenants Association, saying that some kind of affordable housing option would be the most compatible use of the Brookdale site for the community.
“There’s no reason that the interests of the landlord should be different from those of the people at Waterside,” he said.
Ravitch, who’s an octogenarian himself, said that he has been talking with nonprofit organizations to come up with a plan for some kind of development that would offer both housing and services for seniors, although nothing is solidified at the moment. He emphasized that what he would like to prevent is a tall commercial building on what is now the CUNY Brookdale site, and would prefer the addition of services for tenants at Waterside.
“Having services that are easily accessible for the elderly is an important part of what we would like for the community,” he said. “Some tenants have lived here since the beginning, which is why I feel so strongly about it.”
He added that another one of his concerns, even more specific to Waterside Plaza residents, is the fate of the footbridge over the FDR Drive that connects the property to East 25th Street. He said that there is a possibility that the property is put to competitive bidding and if that happens, the possibility of making the bridge accessible seems even more uncertain.
“It’s an outrage that this bridge is still not accessible,” he said. “They won’t tell us what happens to the bridge if the property out to competitive bidding.”
Many in the community remain opposed to the entire plan that would site the garage in the area in the first place but the Economic Development Corporation, which has begun working with DSNY on the project specifically to address the bookend parcels of the site, has been collaborating with a working group to solicit ideas for the space and one idea mentioned frequently is affordable housing.
City Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, said that he was relieved the community has ultimately convinced the city to slow down on its proposal for the garage.
“They wanted to do it quickly, and we did not,” he said. “We potentially have an opportunity to develop an entire city block and that does not happen often. It wasn’t until the new administration came in that we got them to say that they understood there was a community perspective that needed to be addressed.”
He added that East 25th Street is currently in need of a “makeover,” and this project is one way to get that started, adding that there is opportunity for any number of community uses, such as open space, a school or some kind of affordable housing.
Community Board 6 Chair Sandro Sherrod said that the working group has been helpful in getting ideas about what the community’s needs are, but noted that the Land Use and Waterfront Committee postponed the resolution because committee members didn’t want to solidify any plans for the space just yet.
“The community board has said in the past that there’s a great desire to see things that are contextually appropriate,” he said. “The community board wanted to see something broader before committing to a resolution. What has been helpful from this whole process is that there’s been a lot of feedback so we were looking at what this area really needs, like better access to the waterfront, better open space and better transportation-related improvements.”