Nov. 24, 2015 By Christian Murray
The owners of the Paragon Paint building are seeking a zoning variance so they can develop three residential buildings alongside the well-known factory that would in total create 334 apartments, about 14,000-square-feet of retail space and a public park.
The owners, Brent Carrier and Simon Baron Development, filed an application with the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals on Oct. 2, as they aim to get permission to build the dwelling units on property zoned for manufacturing. The application is currently being reviewed by Community Board 2.
The developers plan to keep the front section of the Paragon Paint building, located at 45-40 Vernon Blvd., and add three additional buildings of varying heights across three contiguous parcels they own.
One building would be 28 stories and would be attached to the existing Paragon Paint building, while the two others would be 13 stories and eight stories respectively. They are also requesting variances for height.
The 28-story building would be set back about 50 feet from the front of Vernon Boulevard. The 13-story building would be located next to it on Vernon Boulevard, with a public space separating the two buildings going down to a half-acre park by Anable Basin for public use.
The development would also bring an eight-story building to 46th Avenue.
The owners spoke before Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee last Wednesday and claimed that the development would be beneficial to the community since they would create a public park, cleanup a toxic site and bring 103 affordable apartments (30 percent of the units) to the neighborhood. The affordable apartments would be priced at 130 percent of Area Median Income.
In order to obtain the variance, the developers have to show that existing zoning regulations pose an unnecessary hardship to their project at this site.
The primary hardship the developers’ claim they face is the cost of environmental mediation, which is expected to cost about $20 million over and above what a normal cleanup would cost.
“I acquired this building in 2011 and at the time we knew it needed a significant cleanup… but it was much more extreme than anyone ever alluded too,” Carrier said at the meeting.
The Paragon Paint factory, which was constructed in 1935, was used to manufacture paint and varnish for decades.
The developers are in the midst of a remediation program where they are clearing the site of contaminated soil and treating the ground water. A significant portion of the building is now safe, with $16 million already having been spent.
The site, when it was taken over by Carrier, was deemed “a significant threat to human life” by the New York State Department of Health.
The remediation plan still involves the replacement of the timber bulkhead/seawall that touches Anable Basin. The bulkhead is viewed as porous and hazardous materials are leaking from the ground and ground water into the basin and the East River.
The remediation plan would require the replacement of the wooden bulkhead with a metal bulkhead.
“It’s a nice feeling to take an old blighted place and turn it into something the community can enjoy,” Carrier said.
The developers, however, are likely to recoup as much as $10 million of their remediation costs through New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The exact amount has yet to be determined.
The Community Board is scheduled to hear the plan at its next full board meeting on Dec. 3. The Board’s opinion is merely advisory.
Lisa Deller, chair of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, said the height of the development could pose a problem. “The height could get scaled back,” she said. “People are concerned about setting a precedent for that area.”
The developers are required by the BSA to hold a public hearing as part of the application process. The decision, however, is ultimately made by the BSA.
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