Archive | November, 2014

Hallets Point

14 Nov

Okay, let’s get back to looking back at some of my older posts – but let’s look back while simultaneously staying in the present.  Despite its ominous name, the treacherous body of water known as Hell Gate actually took its moniker from the Dutch word “helleget,” which means beautiful passage, and it looks like that interpretation is coming back into vogue today, with two major developments slated to go up along Hell Gate’s shores, on Hallets Point.  It’s a little hard to keep the two of them straight, which is which, (and anyway that’s what Curbed is for right?) though at the same time it’s kind of fascinating to try.  I mean, this is what the “real world” is all about right?  Really complicated legal and financial arrangements that require a boatload of money and legal representation and political connections to bring to fruition?  Though have you noticed how it’s always the people that have boatloads of money and legal representation and political connections that want to tell you how that’s the real world – something the rest of us couldn’t possible understand?  Well, sorry to tell you, but everythings the real world people!

Anyway, whatever.  The two developments are known as Hallets Point and Astoria Cove.  The Hallets Point development was conceived by Lincoln Equities, though the Durst Organization recently bought a 90% stake in the project, so it seems like they’re in charge now.  The development will include some 2,404 new units (483 of them “affordable”), plus all the requisite public trade offs like open space and public schools (since, you know, government isn’t allowed to build those kinds of things anymore) and has already been approved by the City Council.  Astoria Cove is an Alma Realty project totaling some 1,723 units.  There was some hope among its critics that the City Planning Commission would reject the Astoria Cove project unless it included more than 20% affordable housing, but that didn’t come to pass.  When I started writing this it was still up in the air whether the City Council would approve, as the local councilman (Costa Constantinides) was opposed, and the City Council tends to (though not always) follow the lead of the local councilperson in these matters.  But it turns out just yesterday the Council’s Land Use Committee approved the project, with Constantinides’ support, so it seems like it’s a done deal.  The project is amongst the first to run into the city’s new rules regarding new developments in medium to high density areas that have been up-zoned (that is, rezoned to allow for more square footage) – namely that they have to include at least 20% affordable housing, and that there will not be city subsidies to make that happen (though tax abatements, yes, are still in action).


So there’s a rendering of one of them – Astoria Cove I think – though honestly it could be Hallets Point, or any other waterfront development taking place in the city.  I know that this city is always changing, and I know I’ve said as much before, but at the same time it’s kind of my problem with developments like Astoria Cove and Hallets Point and really pretty much all the giant projects getting built these days: they all look like each other and they don’t look like New York City.  Seriously!  I mean, sure, the trees are nice.  I’ve asked this question before I think, in a less coherent way, but I wonder of the people who want to live in these developments, why do you want to live in New York City?

So anyway, whatever again.  I was thinking it would be interesting to look into these various developers who are involved: Lincoln Equities, Alma Realty, and especially the Durst Organization (as I believe they’ve been around the longest) but I’m already pretty tired from trying to look at all this “real world” stuff – so let’s look at some old history instead.  It seems so much cleaner doesn’t it?

Hallets Point takes its name from the Hallet Family – owners of a large estate along the shores of Hell Gate (in present day Astoria) from at least as early as 1655.  That date is known because it was the year their house was burned to the ground by Indians (part of the short lived Peach Tree War? who knows!).  The estate was founded by one William Hallet, an Englishman (born in 1616) who emigrated to Bridgeport Connecticut no later than 1647 (and maybe well before) before moving to Long Island with his wife and two young sons.  After their house was burned downed they settled in Flushing, where William was appointed sheriff in 1656.  That same year he was also fined and briefly imprisoned by the New Netherland Director-General (and all around dictator) Peter Stuyvesant – who, you might recall from last time – was still fresh from his conquest of the Swedish colony of New Sweden in present day Delaware (the Swedish in Delaware! Not quite as well known as the Pilgrims right?).  William Hallet was imprisoned for allowing the Reverend William Wickenden of Rhode Island to preach in his house.  Wickenden was a Baptist, and by preaching in the colony was breaking Stuyvesant’s ban on practicing any religion in the colony outside of the Dutch Reformed Church (ooh, I wonder how the Dutch Reformed Church differs from Presbyterianism, aka the Reformed Church).  And I thought the Dutch were supposed to be known for their religious freedom.

William Hallet didn’t stay imprisoned for long at least; at some point later in his life he moved back to an estate along Hell Gate – dividing it between his two sons – William Jr. and Samuel – in 1688.  William Jr. went on to have ten children himself and presumably divided his land between some of them.  The eldest, William Hallet III, had his own estate in the area when he was murdered in 1708 – along with his wife and their five children – by two of his slaves (back when slaves made up about 18% of New York City’s population).  The murders were apparently in retaliation for Hallet not allowing his slaves to “go abroad on the Sabbath day,” though I’m sure the fact that they were, you know, slaves probably had something to do with it.  The culprits were caught and executed after being “put to all the torment possible for a terror to others.”  That didn’t stop a full on slave rebellion from taking place some 4 years later in Manhattan however, in 1712, when nine (white) people where killed in the uprising – leading to the execution of over 20 slaves in response.


So anyway, just some cheery thoughts as you’re moving into your new development.  Enjoy the trees!