In late 2015, Anbau Enterprises, a Manhattan-based developer of high-end residential properties, offered $75 million to the Whitman Owners Corporation, with the intent of acquiring Pineapple Walk to build a 40-story luxury condo with new retail spaces. The funds would significantly augment Whitman’s ability to maintain 75 Henry Street, and each of its 374 shareholders would benefit personally from the sale. To the amazement and delight of the Brooklyn Heights community, the shareholders rejected Anbau’s offer by a decisive margin, 191 to 112. As a result, the Whitman board has stated that it will not consider further offers from developers in the foreseeable future.
In the current construction boom, developers are leaving no plot of land unexamined in their search for available building sites. Brooklyn Heights is particularly attractive to developers eager to cash in on its location, quality of life, and spectacular views, so it did not come as a surprise when Anbau Enterprises identified Pineapple Walk as ripe for redevelopment.
The co-op board established a process to enable its shareholders the opportunity to decide whether to proceed with assessing the offer, or to reject it outright. The shareholders met January 11, 2016, to discuss the offer and their votes were tallied on January 15th.
The shareholders’ rejection of Anbau’s offer was even more surprising given that Anbau increased its offer from $75 million to $130 million days before the scheduled vote.
The community expressed its concerns prior to the vote at a public forum attended by hundreds of residents, including some from 75 Henry Street. Many resided at 140 Cadman Plaza, 101 Clark Street, and 10 Clinton Street, which, along with 75 Henry, were originally built in the 1960s as middle-income apartments under the Mitchell Lama Program when the site underwent “slum clearance” as part of the federal urban renewal program. Of these buildings, only 75 Henry Street had voted against extending their participation in the Mitchell Lama Program, which enables their shareholders to sell their shares at market rate.
The BHA, which addressed the community forum, provided a letter (See below) to the Whitman shareholders and released the following statement after their vote: “The BHA commends the shareholders of 75 Henry Street for the courage of their convictions. Their rejection of Anbau Enterprises’ offer to purchase Pineapple Walk for a luxury condominium that would have added to the neighborhood’s congestion and school overcrowding and blocked their neighbor’s views is a dramatic statement that some things, such as what it means to be part of a community, are truly priceless. They placed a higher value on preserving the integrity of their community than on the cash they would have received, and for that, we are sincerely and deeply appreciative. Brooklyn Heights is fortunate to have them as our neighbors.”
The BHA’s letter to the Whitman Owner Corporation shareholders encouraged them to consider rejecting the offer.
At its 2016 Annual meeting, the BHA recognized the Whitman Owners Corporation with its Good Neighbor Award.
Coverage of this story in The Brooklyn Eagle can be found here.