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Luxury flats rise on NY's industrial backyard

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Developers have been focusing their efforts on Greenpoint, which nuzzles up against Newtown Creek and the East River (above).

New York

NEW York City has a history of reinventing industrial neighbourhoods as luxury enclaves.

But the north side of Greenpoint, Brooklyn - which once cranked out ships, boilers, sheet metal, vinyl siding, pencils, rope and refined oil - may have the most work cut out for it. Shrugging off a legacy of pollution and overlooking the area's scruffiness, developers in recent years have focused their efforts in the area, which nuzzles up against Newtown Creek and the East River at the northwest tip of Brooklyn.

The latest apartment building to arrive is One Blue Slip, a 30-story, high-end rental from developer Brookfield Property Partners, in partnership with Park Tower Group. Part of Greenpoint Landing, a 22-acre, US$1 billion mixed-use waterfront project that plans 10 buildings and 5,500 units over a decade, One Blue Slip is the first market-rate apartment building to rise at the site. With 359 apartments, it's also one of the biggest wagers yet on a turnaround for a long-neglected area that could appeal to renters squeezed out of another once-rundown waterfront neighbourhood: Williamsburg.

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"It's a neighbourhood with a unique blend of grit and charm," said Gary E Handel, founding partner of Handel Architects, which designed One Blue Slip and other Greenpoint Landing residences; he also created the project's master plan, about a decade ago. "And that character has been generated by an industrial past." More so than some sleek high-rises nearby, One Blue Slip appears to have absorbed that history. Its facade, with red brick and segmented windows, recalls a factory, a look it shares with Greenpoint Landing's other completed buildings - 33 Eagle St, Five Blue Slip and Seven Blue Slip. Built by L&M Development Partners and Park Tower, the buildings, which opened over the past two years, offer only below-market-rate units.

The exterior walls of One Blue Slip slope in and out, like a cupcake wrapper. Positioning the units that way helped ensure that 90 percent of them had water views, even the ones closer to inland Commercial Street, Handel said. Skylights - specifically the kind that have angular shapes and are found in rows on factory roofs - provided inspiration, he added.

One Blue Slip's apartments, which range from studios averaging 520 square feet to three-bedrooms averaging 1,350 square feet, have quartz counters, stainless-steel appliances and washers and dryers. Some units, whose interiors were styled by Gachot Studios, also have walk-in closets.

The building's amenities include a co-working lounge, a yoga terrace and gym, and a 1.5-acre, lawn-lined waterfront public park slated to open later in August. Eventually, Greenpoint Landing plans to add 4 acres' worth of new parks, which, combined with new and improved local public spaces, are meant to allow people to promenade from Manhattan Avenue to Green Street.

One-bedrooms at One Blue Slip, which began leasing this month, are priced from US$3,225, and Brookfield is offering a free month's rent with some of the apartments. As of Aug 1, new one-bedrooms in the neighbourhood averaged US$2,900 a month, according to Streeteasy.com. But older one-bedrooms could be had for US$2,000 a month.

While northern Greenpoint is dotted with stylish new multifamily projects - others include Eleven33, a seven-story rental on Manhattan Avenue, and the Greenpoint, a riverfront condo-rental on India Street - a commercial vibe still permeates the area. Indeed, parts of Greenpoint Landing's site remain active parking lots, with trucks and cranes tucked inside on a recent afternoon.

Some industries left scars on the neighbourhood. The waters of Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens, are so heavily polluted from oil spills through the decades. But the bulk of the refineries blamed for those spills are on the opposite side of the neighbourhood from One Blue Slip. While Exxon Mobil continues to mop up the spills, city and environmental groups are also working to clean the waterway. NYTIMES

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