Press | October 2, 2007

Stapleton Co-op Plan Seen as Key to Rebirth

By Karen O’Shea
Staten Island Advance


The developer who created housing in Manhattan’s East Village and Harlem, helping those neighborhoods become magnets for hip, young professionals is now set to prove that Stapleton has the same kind of “it” factor to support a $63-million development of new co-ops on Bay Street.


The City Planning Commission yesterday certified as complete BFC Partners’ application to build Stapleton Court, a planned affordable development of 160 co-ops on what is now a little-used municipal parking lot on Bay Street across from the old Paramount Theater in a waterfront neighborhood that has been waiting for a catalyst for revitalization.


Certification starts the public review and approval process, and Joe Ferrara, a partner in BFC, said yesterday that he hopes to break ground by spring.


The average price for a two-bedroom co-op at Stapleton Court is expected to range between $250,000 and $300,000. Studios are likely to be priced at around $100,000, with three-bedroom units closer to $500,000. All the units will be targeted to moderate- and middle-income buyers who meet certain income limits under a city plan to develop more affordable housing.


The development also is expected to establish a residential market for the nearby former Stapleton home port, where a major redevelopment is planned and another 350 new homes are proposed. City Planning already rezoned much of the waterfront surrounding the home port to encourage the creation of stores and homes in what is now mostly a quiet, post-industrial waterfront.


“It fits,” Ferrara said yesterday of the plan to convert the parking lot to housing. “I think it’s a project that is necessary to spark the Bay Street revitalization that all the people are looking for.”


Community Concerns
But community concern about the need for parking to accommodate such a revitalization sent BFC Partners back to the drawing board several times to come up with ways to replace parking in the new development when the city parking lot is bulldozed.


Juan Barahona, a BFC associate, said yesterday that  156 parking spots will be included behind the two buildings, on the rear of the lot located near the Staten Island Railway. Another 51 metered spots will be provided for public parking, and that amount could be expanded with stackable parking if the need arises, he added. The residential parking could also be accessed by the public for a fee and expanded, if needed.


”We tried to replace as much parking as we could,” Barahona said in an interview yesterday before a planner made a presentation to the commission.


In addition to purchasing the city parking lot on Bay Street, BFC Partners also has entered into an agreement with Citibank to acquire the bank’s adjacent Bay Street property. In exchange, Citibank will take space on the ground floor of one of the new residential buildings to become an anchor commercial tenant for the new housing development. A price for the city-owned lot has not yet been negotiated.


Panel Praises Project
All that seemed to satisfy City Planning and Commissioners, who praised the project and noted that the current
128-car parking lot right now is underutilized.


“This is such a critical location on Bay Street, and as an empty lot it does not help Bay Street,” City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden said.


“Its connectivity to the home port site is really important as we begin to execute a pIan there,” she added.


Damel Marotta, a member of the board of directors of the Downtown Staten Island Council, said that’s just why parking remains a key concern for business leaders in the area.


“We would anticipate that there would be a need for more parking, since [BFC Partners’] work seems to be contemporaneous with the build-out of the home port,” said Marotta.


“New development in Stapleton is a good thing, but we want to make sure that we do not overlook the important things, like parking,” he added.


Stapleton Court is one of the few private-public affordable housing developments in the borough that fall under the mayor’s plan to create thousands of such units around the city by 2013 with funding from the city’s Housing Development Corp.


Stapleton Court will tap funding from the Housing Development Corp.’s Affordable Cooperative Housing Program, which issues taxable bonds and direct subsides to developers of affordable housing. Buyer income requirements are expected to range from $4l,000 for an individual to as much as $163,000 annually for a family of four.


BFC Partners has invested in transitional places in the past only to hit on the next hot areas. The company has built housing in areas such as Harlem and the East Village and is currently building a $200 million condominium in Downtown Brooklyn. Twenty percent of the units will be set aside as affordable housing in the new building, which was designed by the same architectural firm that worked on the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.


BFC Partners is also in discussions with the New York City Housing Authority about developing a portion of a parking lot at the Stapleton Houses with senior housing.