Monday, July 20, 2009

EDC and developers in talks to develop former Staten Island Navy Homeport

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is talking to developers about redeveloping a prime stretch of Staten Island waterfront -- a project that’s been discussed by local business leaders and city officials for years, but has seen little action.

The EDC isn’t ready to disclose any details, however, about the proposed makeover of the former Navy Homeport on a 36-acre site in the Stapleton section on Staten Island’s northeastern side.

“We’re talking to the development community,” said Janel Patterson, spokesperson for the EDC, declining to comment further.

The Applied Development Company of Hoboken, NJ, which built the W Hotel and Residence on the Hudson in New Jersey, has been mentioned as a possible developer of the site. Applied is considering building at least 350 units of housing and is reviewing a contract as part of a 30-day review period, the Staten Island Advance reported last month. Officials from Applied did not return calls for comment.

Local observers on Staten Island expressed skepticism about the likelihood of any project moving forward at the waterfront in the current economic climate.

One real estate agent noted the problems Brooklyn developer Leib Puretz has encountered selling new luxury condominiums in St. George, a stone’s throw north of Stapleton.

Some believe the size of EDC’s proposed project for Stapleton is also a problem.

A bigger mid-rise or high-rise project would be more enticing to developers, said Anthony Licciardello, a sales associate with Neuhaus Realty in New Dorp Heights.

“It’s not the type of housing that would drive a good market price,” said Licciardello, who, from 2002 to 2006, was the city’s community affairs director for Staten Island and also served on the Staten Island Growth Management Task Force. “Most people are wondering if it’s viable at this point, with the current real estate conditions. It’s hard to say in this current climate what’ll work there if anything.”

Local leaders consider the site a crown jewel along the borough’s waterfront. The area offers sweeping views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Manhattan skyline.

“It’s got great potential,” said Linda Baran, president of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and a member of the city’s Homeport task force committee. “When people come to Staten Island, they can’t believe it hasn’t been developed.”

For a while, actor Danny Aiello operated Stapleton Studios on the site. The city evicted the film studio around 2002 and in 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to revitalize the area. Two years later, the New York City Council approved a project that called for turning the waterfront section into a complex with commercial space, a banquet hall, recreation center, waterfront esplanade and 350 apartments. Other sections of the borough’s waterfront have seen new developments sprout up, including the Tides at Charleston, a gated community for adults 55 and older on the south shore, and Sailor’s Key, a luxury townhome development in Great Kills Harbor on the eastern shore.

In his 2005 state of the city address, Bloomberg compared the Homeport to Mark Twain’s description of the weather: “Everybody talks about it … but nobody does anything about it.”

- By Lynne Miller of The Real Deal

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