Friday, July 18, 2008

Incredible, Amazing, Unbelievable Waterfront Plans For Roosevelt lsland's Southpoint Park - But With Big Problems Too

Aerial View of Southpoint Park image from SSJ Development

Filed under the category of how did I miss this.

The July 1 Daily News published an article about Brooklyn real estate developer Stephen Jemal's plan for revitalizing abandoned and environmentally unsafe areas of South Brooklyn in Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin and Gerritsen Beach. According to the Daily News article:
"I'm taking blighted land filled with warehouses, factories and abandoned marinas and bringing them back to life so people can live there," says Jemal, a brand builder who trademarked the name Riviera for his visionary waterfront revitalization strategy that he'll take global in its final phase. "Real estate might be cyclical, but the one constant in this world, historically speaking, even in a down market, is that waterfront property does not go down in value. They're not building it anymore. I just had to find it and improve it.
What does this have to do with Roosevelt Island and Southpoint Park? The Daily News article reports:
Phase two of Jemal's master plan for the Riviera residential real estate brand includes building the south side of Roosevelt Island and several large skyscrapers for mixed-use hotel, residential, retail and commercial facilities in Long Island City, Jersey City and South Street Seaport
In his first foray after selling the Wiz, a plan Jemal conceived himself won a Request for Proposal bid to develop Roosevelt Island's southern tip. He beat out some of the world's most prestigious development companies.
"It takes a long time to build something like the Roosevelt Island project," says Jemal, who has spent more than $50 million without earning one dollar back. "I wanted to learn the ropes and get my feet wet out in Brooklyn first, so to speak."
According to the web site for Jemal's development company SSJ Development LLC:
The Riviera® at Roosevelt Island will actualize a long standing vision residents have had for the entire southern portion of the island. With its amazing views, tranquil setting and close proximity to Midtown this site is the most desirable, glorious and unparalleled piece of land in the city.

... Located slightly north of the Queensboro Bridge and extending to the south side of the bridge, this six-acre site takes up the entire width of the island from Main Street to East Road. SSJ Development's vision encompasses the Tram Site, the existing Goldwater Hospital Site, the Former City Hospital Site and embraces the Master Plan for a New Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island as prepared by the Trust For Public Land. SSJ Development proposes creating a vibrant and lively community centered around a newly created transportation hub. A nchored by a new ferry terminal on each side of the island, a new pedestrian promenade is proposed just south of the tram. Complete with kiosks selling newspapers, coffee and snacks and benches offering the amazing views of the water, the city, the bridge and the tram, this space would serve as an urban gathering place. The tram station itself would be renovated by creating a glass enclosure on both sides of the tram so residents can enjoy the views while they wait. Just north of the site SSJ Development would also renovate the existing subway station.
Here are some preliminary images of the proposed Roosevelt Island Southpoint project.

This image is the most troubling and is what frightens those Roosevelt Islanders who see the Louis Kahn memorial (incorrectly labeled as a FDR memorial) as the only way to stop such condo development at Southpoint Park. Mr. Jemal says that his development plan:
embraces the Master Plan for a New Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island as prepared by the Trust For Public Land
but it is hard to see how given this image below.

All Image from SSJ Development

Here is 1999 Main Street Wire column about the last time developer Jemal came to Roosevelt Island with a project for Southpoint Park:
Stephen Jemal is the principal of SSJ, the developer of the proposed Marriott project. He has met with the separate Planning and Development Committees of both RIOC and RIRA. He seems genuinely puzzled over why we wouldn't want a two-tower resort (26 stories each) with 350 first-class hotel rooms and 50 condominiums in a gated community in our back yard.
Blogger Gerritsen Beach has some information about Jemal's Brooklyn waterfront development projects.
The investment companies that fund the Jemal’s Brooklyn projects in Mill Basin, Gerritsen beach and Sheepshead Bay have filed a civil suit against Stephen S Jemal and Sharon E Jemal in Texas Northern District Court.

The companies “Gerritsen Beach Investments Ltd” and “Riviera Investments I Ltd” filed their complaint on 7/14/2008 the cause is stated as a “Contract Dispute“.

Image of developer Stephen Jemal from Daily News

And more from blogger Sheepshead Bites:
I'm no development naysayer. I have nothing against Jemal. In fact, I know surprisingly little about his work, and from what I read of his plans, they're not nearly as terrible, destructive or garish as some of the other work going on in the area. My problem here is with the Daily News. To the residents of Brooklyn's southern coast, development is one of the top issues. It's not to be taken lightly. But, unfortunately, the press too often serves as the number one cheerleader for the developers.
Let the fun begin.

UPDATE - 4PM: Forgot to include link to another skyscraper proposal for Southpoint Park - The Roosevelt Island Tower of Death

UPDATE - 7/23: Lawyers for the developer sent a letter to Blogger Gerritsen Beach demanding post linked to here be removed. More here.


RI 360 said...

Somehow I doubt this will happen BUT if it did happen RIOC and NYC better REQUIRE, I repeat REQUIRE any developer that EVER gets permission to do anything like this to BUILD and FUND access to BOTH subway tubes (1) the QB Bridge (N,R, W) and (2) also the 53rd Street Tunnel (E,V). And the subway should be built before any bldgs are built too. Pretty wild.

Unknown said...

The first photo is extremely beautiful and exciting and makes me want to endorse the project (not that I have any endorsing powers). However, the thought of yet MORE buildings on the island...that's just terrible. Basically, they will be tearing down the bubble, hospital and more for the one thing the island needs less of: more people!

Rep the Rock: a Roosevelt Island Merchandise and Fan Site

Anonymous said...

sounds awesome. i think new buildings may fund another subway station. either way, it would tip the balance away from the sickly and dying old commies on the island anyway. huzzah!

Dan Chen said...

Not so sure this guy is quite at the point of breaking ground yet. He seems like a reckless marketer. How exactly does he know that a Whole Foods will want to be located here? How does he know a Multiplex will fit in some yet-to-be-seen unground construct? I like the idea of a new E/V station, but still, alot of this stuff seems like pie-in-the-sky.

What I find hilarious is that he plans a "boutique hotel, spa and conference center" at the Renwick Ruin.

A quick browse through his other projects shows lots of ideas - but not yet lots of execution. It's pretty much the opposite of the operating model of Hudson/Related, which have many multibillion projects done, and where the Riverwalk buildings are a postscript - Jemal, on the other hand, looks like he has over a dozen planned projects and has barely begun breaking ground on his first one.