You’re probably asking yourself: Who the hell is David Walentas? Well, the real estate tycoon is the reason the Dumbo we know and love exists, having bought up 2 million square feet of the area in 1979 and utterly transforming it into the hot neighborhood it is today. Now he’s playing an equally big role in the development of South Williamsburg’s waterfront. Yesterday, Forbes published a profile on Walentas and his role as founder of the Two Trees Management Co. There were a few Brooklyn-related tidbits that piqued our interest.
When Walentas began buying huge swaths of Dumbo, it was a dilapidated area known as Fulton Landing.
Thirty-five years ago Walentas borrowed $12 million to buy 2 million square feet of this neighborhood–the lion’s share of what was then a dying industrial district filled with under-used warehouses.
For those of you who work in Dumbo’s Two Trees building at 45 Main Street (including yours truly), Walentas hates that Starbucks at the corner of Front & Main.
He scoffs at a Starbucks that anchors a building near Two Trees’ offices, brought in by a new developer. “I’d never put a Starbucks in here,” he says, even though the storefront is almost always full.
Walentas and his son, Jed, are at the center of the Williamsburg waterfront controversy…
After a drawn-out fight between its previous owners, Two Trees bought the Domino Sugar refinery and its surrounding 11 acres in October 2012 for $185 million, $30 million more than its initial bid.
…and they’re showing a bit of compassion toward those already living in the area.
Walentas pére et fils spent a year refining and tweaking their designs for the new development, incorporating feedback from the community, departing from the previous owners’ plan for five clusters of shorter towers to four taller, roughly 50-story skyscrapers, a public waterfront park and a new public square. The towers will…come in Tetris shapes, one in the form of an “O,” another in an inverted “L,” designed to allow more evening sunlight to the neighborhood behind.
The Domino Sugar refinery building isn’t going anywhere, but in a few years you’ll probably know a lot of people who work there.
The original Domino Sugar refinery will be kept intact, including its iconic sign, and converted into office space.
Still, Walentas admits that the whole waterfront deal would be an easier task under Bloomberg than it will be under De Blasio. He even threw some shade the new mayor’s way.
(“I wanted Bloomberg for life,” says Walentas.) “Hopefully we’ll survive our new mayor,” he says. “…[De Blasio] has never run anything. Running New York City is a business. He can’t put political cronies in. But maybe he’s smart enough not to do that.”
And the most interesting tidbit: A pint of blood used to go a long way back in the day.
The ship landed at a pier on Brooklyn’s west shoreline in 1962. Walentas says he made his first $10 in the city selling a pint of blood; he used it to pay for a meal, fill up his car and return to Rochester.
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk