From Boom to Bust Recession Hits New Development Hard

A short distance away from this writer’s “regular,” non-Cooperator job in Downtown Brooklyn is a large, empty edifice, a former industrial building. A year or so ago, the conversion of this building to condos was a big deal—a sales office was opened, colorful signs were put up, and construction workers were seen on the site every day.

Today, for reasons not entirely clear, the site is quiet. The foundation initially dug for an annex is covered over with wooden planks, presumably for safety reasons. The sales office is closed, and the only work that has been done in recent months was an emergency roof repair.

A building project stopping in the middle of construction may be unusual — but it is not unique. Some projects are proposed and heavily promoted, but never even get off the ground, leaving just an empty lot. An article by David Amsden in the July 12th, 2009 edition of New York magazine titled The Billyburg Bust says that the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood “[now has] so many vacant lots and half-completed buildings—(the current number in all of Brooklyn is 237)—that large swaths of the neighborhood have come to resemble a city after an air raid.”

The problem has become so prevalent that the DOB began tracking stalled construction projects over the summer and set up a task force to deal with the issue. According to The New York Building Congress, which has analyzed the DOB information, currently there are 515 stalled construction projects in the five boroughs.

The Northern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, East Williamsburg, Greenpoint and North Side-South Side, which have been the focus of intense residential development in recent years, are home to 30 percent of the stalled Brooklyn projects.


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