On Thursday, shareholders of Whitman Owner Corp. at 75 Henry St. voted against allowing the board to investigate the sale of their Pineapple Walk property to a developer.
The tally was 191 against versus 112 for. The negative vote was especially stunning considering that shareholders stood to personally benefit from the sale. Each shareholder would have received in excess of $120,000 if the property was sold to Anbau Enterprises, which develops and invests in luxury residential properties. Anbau had raised its opening bid from roughly $75 million to a whopping $130 million for the 387,000-square-foot parcel, which runs from Henry Street to Cadman Plaza West.
It is not likely that the Whitman board will entertain further offers from developers, at least in the near future. Board president Doug Wexler had said at a shareholder meeting before the vote that should shareholders vote no, it would indicate to the board how it should respond to future offers. A yes vote would have allowed the board to seek offers from other developers besides Anbau.
75 Henry St. resident Beverly Closs told the Brooklyn Eagle, “Our co-op voted to keep the integrity of our neighborhood, and sensibility rules over greed.” Her husband Bill Closs added that he felt the building voted no because of “all of the concerns about schools and quality of life.”
Residents in Brooklyn Heights, especially neighbors to the south of Whitman at Cadman Towers (101 Clark St.), were jubilant, as they had vociferously opposed the development. The proposed tower would go up less than 100 feet north of 101 Clark St., blocking the view of half of its residents.
Toba Potosky, president of Cadman Towers, said on Friday, “On behalf of everyone at Cadman Towers I want to express our deep appreciation to our friends and neighbors at 75 Henry. Our homes were in jeopardy and your supreme act of kindness and selflessness protected us. We will not soon forget this. We will be forever grateful.”
The proposal had also triggered the opposition of residents of the neighboring residential tower at140 Cadman Plaza West, along with the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), which had worked to convince Whitman shareholders that rejecting the developer’s offer was “the best decision for them and the community.”
On Sunday BHA said in a statement, “The BHA commends the shareholders of 75 Henry Street for the courage of their convictions. Their rejection of Anbau Enterprise’s $130 million offer to purchase Pineapple Walk for a luxury condominium tower that would have added to the neighborhood’s congestion and school overcrowding and blocked their neighbors’ views is a dramatic statement that some things, such as what it means to be part of a community, are truly priceless. They placed a higher value on preserving the integrity of their community than on the cash they would have received, and for that, we are sincerely and deeply appreciative. Brooklyn Heights is fortunate to have them as our neighbors.”
“I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this vote must have been for the residents of 75 Henry St,” said Susan Raboy, a resident of 10 Clinton St., part of the Cadman Towers complex.
She added, “This area does not have the services to support yet another 40-story residential building. While many surely would have benefited from the monetary offers they voted no and by doing so preserved our community.”
Heights, Downtown Residents Respond to the Vote
Compiled by Scott Enman, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Many Brooklynites have taken to the streets — or rather to Disqus, a blog comment hosting service — to sound off on this decision and to converse over the implications the verdict has for the Brooklyn Heights library.
“Bravo!” wrote Roberto Gautier. “Don Quixote would be proud to tilt with those at 75 Henry who passed on the offer. Quite unusual. Quite admirable. Apparently, money isn’t everything to everyone.”
Andrew Porter agreed.
“I am happily astounded by this news,” Porter wrote. “Sometimes the pursuit of money apparently loses out to neighborhood and community.”
Marsha Rimler applauded the Pineapple Walk decision but encouraged other members of the community to use this momentum going forward.
“I agree. Our neighbors did the right thing,” wrote Rimler. “Maybe it’s not too late to teach Councilman Levin to do the right thing. The library project has not yet been approved. [The project] will be going before the borough board the first week in February.
“Call Levin and tell him to stop the library destruction plan at the borough board. He can fix his endorsement of this plan at the City Council,” Rimler continued.
A member of Disqus identified as “Reggie” responded to Rimler. “Let’s see,” he wrote. “The Borough Board is made up of the Borough President, who opposed the library deal, the Brooklyn council members, who already voted for it once, and the chair of the community board, which was also in favor. Is the outcome really in question?”
Rimler replied to Reggie, raising some contentious points. “Why was the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) against the 75 henry St. development and for the library tower? Ask them. Was it the St. Ann’s benefit of getting millions and millions from the library deal? Ask them. There is still time to stop the sale.
“It will soon be revealed that Councilman Levin was neglectful in not fully vetting the library proposal. Was this because he signed on to the deal at the behest of his patron Lander and Mayor [de Blasio] was not an honest broker,” she continued.
“Or was it all those lunches at Peter Ashkansky’s home? Peter is Brooklyn Public Library treasurer and the only member of the Brooklyn Heights community on the library developer selection committee. Peter is also a member of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. that gave us Pierhouse.”
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