Real Estate, Waterfront

Thor Equities’ vacant Richards Street site keeps Red Hook in suspense, by Sarah Matusek

Ethan Goodman, Director of New York Planning & Project Management at Fox Rothschild (land use council to Thor Equities), and Catherine Dannenbring, Director of Development at Thor Equities., present to CB6 on December 1. (photo by Noah Phillips)

During a public meeting at the Miccio Center on December 1, 2016, Thor Equities and their land use council, Fox Rothschild, revealed glossy development plans for 270-280 Richards Street. Spanning 7.7 acres atop the former site of the Revere Sugar Factory, Thor’s office and retail complex dubbed “Red Hoek Point” would jut 700 feet into the Erie Basin.

“Thor has come up with this project not only because it’s economically feasible, which for any developer is a number one consideration,” said Ethan Goodman, Fox Rothschild’s Director of New York Planning & Project Management, “but also because among all the potential uses out there, Thor believes this is one that will be met with the most positive reception and success, not only with the office market but also in terms of the community.”

The presentation was impressive. Still, locals found it odd that 11 years after Thor’s 2005 purchase of the property for $40 million, not one lease had been signed.

Flash-forward to a summer day in 2017: Piles of rubble tower over the razed refinery site. A battered American flag tilts out of the ground.

Thor still has no construction permits issued from the Department of Buildings (DOB) to develop on Richards Street, though they filed a permit application for the construction of the five-story office complex in June 2016.

However, the following month, the DOB disapproved the application on the grounds of incompletion at the time of Thor’s scheduled plan exam.

“The owners may schedule a new plan exam with the Department and return with a completed application if they intend to move forward with the project,” writes DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky.

Will Thor flip?
Red Hoek Point is set to open in 2019, according to the Commercial Observer, but some Red Hookers suspect that Thor will eventually flip the property without building – a card the firm has played before.

Helmed by CEO Joseph Sitt, Thor infamously sold off Downtown Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall after a lucrative rezoning that he supported. Thor bought the property in 2001 for $25 million and profited $100 million from the sale in 2007.

Thor’s property exposing contaminants?
John McGettrick, who heads the Red Hook Civic Association, has voiced concern about the towering debris piles that sit abandoned on the permitless construction site.

“The mounds may well contain material that was dredge, and parts thereof contaminated,” says McGettrick. “As the weather gets warmer and the dirt gets drier, it can be subject to dispersion by wind.”

Surprisingly, neither the city nor the state consider Thor’s undeveloped waterfront plot a brownfield site.

The former sugar factory property falls under the jurisdiction of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Though not involved with New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), it is located next to the U.S. Dredging Shipyard, a formerly contaminated BCP site. Following the shipyard’s cleanup, Ikea moved in.

Thor’s pile of dirt

Thor may have dodged brownfield status, but 270-280 Richards Street does have an open petroleum spill that dates back to 2009 – three years into the refinery’s demolition.

The spill involved No. 6 fuel oil, according to the DEC’s website. The amount and cause of the spill are listed as unknown.

Under Mayor Bloomberg in 2011, NYC began to phase out No. 6 heating oil to help curb air pollution.

As No. 6 oil removal requires excavation, DEC oversees the cleanup of what seems to be a relatively small impacted portion of the 270-280 Richards Street site.

Roux Associates, an environmental consulting and management firm, serves as the consultant on the remediation.

It is unclear whether the piles of debris left uncovered on the construction site are affected by the open oil spill.

Neither Thor Equities nor Roux Associates responded to repeated requests for comment.

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