By C. J. Hughes
New York City has a history of reinventing industrial neighborhoods as luxury enclaves.
But the north side of Greenpoint, Brooklyn — which once cranked out ships, boilers, sheet metal, vinyl siding, pencils, rope and refined oil — may have the most work cut out for it. Shrugging off a legacy of pollution and overlooking the area’s scruffiness, developers in recent years have focused their efforts in the area, which nuzzles up against Newtown Creek and the East River at the northwest tip of Brooklyn.
The latest apartment building to arrive is One Blue Slip, a 30-story, high-end rental from the developer Brookfield Property Partners, in partnership with Park Tower Group. Part of Greenpoint Landing, a 22-acre, $1 billion mixed-use waterfront project that plans 10 buildings and 5,500 units over a decade, One Blue Slip is the first market-rate apartment building to rise at the site. With 359 apartments, it’s also one of the biggest wagers yet on a turnaround for a long-neglected area that could appeal to renters squeezed out of another once-rundown waterfront neighborhood: Williamsburg.
“It’s a neighborhood with a unique blend of grit and charm,” said Gary E. Handel, the founding partner of Handel Architects, which designed One Blue Slip and other Greenpoint Landing residences; he also created the project’s master plan, about a decade ago. “And that character has been generated by an industrial past.”
More so than some sleek high-rises nearby, One Blue Slip appears to have absorbed that history. Its facade, with red brick and segmented windows, recalls a factory, a look it shares with Greenpoint Landing’s other completed buildings — 33 Eagle Street, Five Blue Slip and Seven Blue Slip. Built by L&M Development Partners and Park Tower, the buildings, which opened over the last two years, offer only below-market-rate units.
The exterior walls of One Blue Slip slope in and out, like a cupcake wrapper. Positioning the units that way helped ensure that 90 percent of them had water views, even the ones closer to inland Commercial Street, Mr. Handel said. Skylights — specifically the kind that have angular shapes and are found in rows on factory roofs — provided inspiration, he added.
One Blue Slip’s apartments, which range from studios averaging 520 square feet to three-bedrooms averaging 1,350 square feet, have quartz counters, stainless-steel appliances and washers and dryers. Some units in the building, whose interiors were styled by Gachot Studios, also have walk-in closets.
The building’s amenities include a co-working lounge, a yoga terrace and gym, and a 1.5-acre, lawn-lined waterfront public park slated to open later in August. Eventually, Greenpoint Landing plans to add four acres’ worth of new parks, which, combined with new and improved local public spaces, are meant to allow people to promenade from Manhattan Avenue to Green Street.
One-bedrooms at One Blue Slip, which began leasing this month, are priced from $3,225, and Brookfield is offering a free month’s rent with some of the apartments. As of Aug. 1, new one-bedrooms in the neighborhood averaged $2,900 a month, according to Streeteasy.com. But older one-bedrooms could be had for $2,000 a month.
While northern Greenpoint is dotted with stylish new multifamily projects — others include Eleven33, a seven-story rental on Manhattan Avenue, and the Greenpoint, a riverfront condo-rental on India Street — a commercial vibe still permeates the area. Indeed, parts of Greenpoint Landing’s site remain active parking lots, with trucks and cranes tucked inside on a recent afternoon.
Some industries left scars on the neighborhood. The waters of Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens, are so heavily polluted from oil spills through the decades — up to 30 million gallons, by some estimates — that in 2010, the waterway was named a federal Superfund site. But the bulk of the refineries blamed for those spills are on the opposite side of the neighborhood from One Blue Slip. While Exxon Mobil continues to mop up the spills, city and environmental groups are also working to clean the waterway. Similarly, a factory complex across from Greenpoint Landing on Dupont Street, which once made vinyl siding, is listed as a state Superfund site.
But proximity to pollution does not always deter developers, as has been evident at Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. Despite the fact that it, too, has been designated a Superfund site since 2010, the canal has welcomed new apartment buildings, such as 365 Bond Street.
“Pollution was not really a concern for us,” said Ric Clark, the chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, who previously built the Eugene in the Hudson Yards section of Manhattan but has never before constructed apartment buildings in Brooklyn.
He added that the East River, which embraces most of Greenpoint Landing, is in good shape, and anyway, the city’s industrial age seems to be drawing to a close. “I don’t really expect a resurgence,” Mr. Clark said, “and it would be a shame, because I don’t think industrial is an ideal use of a waterfront.”
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