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AREW panel talks waterfront.


When thinking of New York City's waterfront, a lost love is probably the last comparison on the minds of most, but according to one developer, reviving the waterfront's heyday is going to take a great amount of wooing--although flowers and candy are not required.

"Like a lover that's gone, if you wait for them to come back, it's going to be a long, long time," Jeffrey E. Levine, president of Levine Builders/Douglaston Development, said.

Levine, who is currently developing the one million square foot, mixed-use "The Edge" on Williamsburg's waterfront, said he had to be persistent in convincing the city to rezone the industrial property to residential three years ago. And because the city was on his side, the waterfront's transition is full steam ahead.

"We had a good wind on our backs," he said at the Association of Real Estate Women's Nov. 6 luncheon and program.

Levine joined Tom Fox, founder and chief executive officer of New York Water Taxi, and Roland Lewis, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, in the panel discussion entitled "Visions for the Waterfront" to discuss the transformation of New York and New Jersey's harbors and waterways. The panel was moderated by The New York Sun's Julie Satow, and encouraged members to become more educated and involved in decisions that could affect the waterfront for several generations to come.

"In many ways it's a desert and we need to fill it up and make it flourish," said Lewis, who heads the Alliance that consists of 321 diverse organizations joined to reconfigure the waterfront, which according to the Project for Public Spaces is the worst, most squandered, in the world. "We should be able to tell political officials that we shouldn't be rated last."

Fox, whose goal is to bring people back onto the waterfront, said the biggest problem with current proposals--parks and luxury high-rises--is that although the public is able to get near the water, they can't interact with it. He wants to make the waterfront more accessible. "I started the taxi to connect parks and neighborhoods."

In order to further integrate the waterfront into residents' daily lives, Fox believes significant renovations need to be made to the transportation infrastructure. Also, a "tri-partnership" needs to be made between the government, transportation providers and developers.

"The development of the waterfront needs to be diverse because row after row of high-rises gets pretty boring. You can see that on 6th Avenue," Fox said. "We're a diverse city; the waterfront should be as diverse as we are. The last great frontier is the waterfront."
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Author:Hawryluk, Maggie
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 14, 2007
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