Update on Carroll Gardens Development Issues

Carroll Gardens is home to one of the most vocal community activist groups in all of Brooklyn, and it seems like the constant clamor about development issues in the neighborhood is starting to have an effect. For starters, Council Member Bill de Blasio is going to officially call for a downzoning of Carroll Gardens at a rally on January 29th. De Blasio will introduce a resolution to limit new building height in the neighborhood to 50 feet, a restriction that the he wants to see go into effect immediately while City Planning conducts a downzoning study. Meanwhile, as Gowanus Lounge reported, the Borough President wrote a letter to Planning Director Amanda Burden highlighting concerns about out-of-context development in Carroll Gardens. There has also been news recently about some of the more controversial developments in the area. Most interesting, perhaps, is the tidbit that Robert Scarano is no longer the architect of record for 333 Carroll Street. It’s unclear whether new plans for the building will retain the current hulking rooftop addition. And demolition is slated to begin soon on a property nearby that has also raised concerns, 340 Court Street. At that site, the Clarett Group (a Brownstoner advertiser) has pledged to cap building heights at six or seven stories, but many residents have fretted about what Clarett will actually build.
de Blasio Calls For Downzoning of Carroll Gardens [BSCG]
Borough President Writes Planning Director About Carroll Gardens Rezoning [GL]
333 Carroll Street Update: Scarano Out! [PMFA]

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  • A 50 foot height restriction is pure lunacy.

  • I agree, it should be lower.

  • It may happen, but it’s getting to the point where these ridiculous zoning heights can be challenged on constitutional grounds. The law does not exist to create enclaves for the rich, but to create a stable society for all citizens.

    Every time extreme zoning changes like this are made, the case becomes ever stronger that the law benefits the few at the expense of the many.

    50 feet barely accomodates a 4-story building. How many townhouses in most of urban NYC are 5-stories? Many, even in Brooklyn.

    Why not make it 30 feet? How about 5 feet?

    By selecting a building height that is already below what is normal and standard, they have exposed their motivations. They aren’t interested in “contextual” development. They want to make it infeasible to do any kind of development.

  • 333 is going up right in the way of my rooftop view of the statue of liberty. hate that thing.

  • Polemicist, you are talking out of your ass. Go get yourself a law degree (or even take a few classes on constitional takings law).

    Your ignorance of the law is a wonder to behold.

  • Seems to me that when any ‘downzoning’ occurs – that there is compensating ‘upzoning’ in area also.
    Each of these projects – and none of them are of any signicant height – are in locations that would be considered for ‘upzoning’ because they are on commercial strips or former industrial locations.
    Somehow it seems that some vocalists in CG (but certainly not the whole community) thinks they can get this blanket rule across very wide swath of area. Not likely.
    It is also a bit ironic that next meeting of Carroll Gardens association will not be at Scotto’s funeral home – but in a building that if were proposed today – they would be fighting.

  • 12:03

    It is a sad state of affairs if understanding the ethical implications of the law requires expert knowledge.

    I really don’t see what condemnation law has to do with this issue. Will the city compensate property owners when they reduce the FAR for the site? No, of course they will not. That alone should tell you your position is an incorrect one.

    What is even more comical is if you followed condemnation cases for even something like the 2nd Avenue subway, you’d find that there are many instances where a partial taking occurs and the landowner is not compensated for the excess FAR if it can be transferred to an adjacent site. It happens all the time in Manhattan.

    The constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. What if rather than rezoning “rich” neighborhoods to a law FAR, the city instead rezoned only neighborhoods where white people are the majority of the citizens? That would certainly be wrong, yet in this particular instance – the effect is the same.

    Your attitude is all too common. You don’t really know what you are talking about, as your condemnation comment makes clear.

    Rather than think critically about the nature of law and the effects of this specific law, you instead defer judgment to so-called experts whose loyalty lies not with justice, but with abusing the legal system for profit.

  • What annoys me almost more than anything else about developers is how they cloak their greed in feigned altruistic motives. All I want to do is create a stable society for all New Yorkers. All I want to do is solve the housing shortage. All i want to do is build affordable housing.

    Why don’t you try being honest, if not to us, to yourselves. All you want to do is make money. It is so transparent.

  • I disagree with Polemecist about the “nature of the law” – zoning restrictions, be it height limits, use restrictions, whatever – have long been established as constitutional.

    However, such zoning actions usually occur as the result of a PROCESS, and it is that process that provides the due process. An arbitrary action by the Council (whether it is right or wrong) to impose height limits does not afford such due process, and thus seems to me (like Polemecist, not a lawyer) open to challenge on constitutional grounds. I’m not even sure the Council is empowered to make such land use changes (another avenue of challenge). Of course by the time such a challenge runs its course, its quite likely that the “legal” zoning changes will have implemented.

    (Regarding the 50′ limit, that is certainly reasonable for a neighborhood with a “rowhouse context”. R6B, which is typically implemented in such neighborhoods (or on the side streets) is 40′ plus an additional 10′ set back.)

  • 12:03 here. The difference between you and I, Polemicist, is that I have a law degree and a working knowledge of the constitutional issues implicated here (FYI – none).

    You have your angry feelings. But we both get to post our thoughts, so there’s that.

  • 12:03 – So the City Council can bypass the entire land use review process and enact its own zoning restrictions, and there are no issues of due process, takings, etc.? (This is a serious question.)

  • 1:34

    Good post – although I don’t agree. Thanks for the rational rebuttal. For the record, zoning changes do require the City Council to act. City Planning can only make recommendations, not law.

    That said, the constitutionality of zoning laws is very much due for review. A lot has happened since the days of Euclid and Nectow, which pertained more to land use than the byzantine regulations we have today. In NYC, it is very easy to prove precisely how the zoning code is discriminatory and harmful to the majority of the city’s citizens. In both cases, the legality of zoning laws in reference to the 14th amendment were based upon the rationality of said zoning laws. As government exists to promote the common good, law that disproportionately harms the majority of the citizenry to benefit the few is inherently irrational. Such an argument has yet to reach the highest court in the land, as the negative effects of zoning laws have only recently become acute.


    Please, you have no idea what my educational background is. This is not your personal diary. If you have something constructive to add, go for it. Otherwise, your status and your “thoughts” are ultimately irrelevant.

  • 1:27

    All people want to make money. Society is not a charity. Do you complain that the farmer wishes to make money on the food he feeds you? Do you believe the doctor should not make a profit on the services he offers you?

    This is no different. You can certainly move to a communist country and live in state owned housing. Hell, you can sign up for the 20-year waiting list to get into a public housing project.

    At the moment, ours is a nation of capitalism. People don’t build homes for free. They build them for money. As long as that is the case, we should give everyone the opportunity to do so.

    The big developer families in this city absolutely LOVE the current zoning laws. Do not underestimate their financial influence in this regard. It raises the barrier to entry to a level unattainable by most citizens. This keeps prices high, supply low, and risk minimal. The truly wealthy don’t need to make the big bucks, they care more about ensuring a good return with no risk. A perpetual shortage of housing ensures just this scenario.

  • Polemicist, this isn’t your diary either.

    I don’t know your educational background, but I’ll hazard a guess that you are no lawyer.

    You imply that changing a neighborhood’s zoning from R-6 to R-6B would implicate takings law. That is your libertarian capitalist fantasy. You believe your own bullshit, which makes you a fool – no harm there. But here you’re injecting confusion about well settled law, which makes you a nuisance.

    I welcome your amicus brief once we’ve downzoned our neighborhood, armchair legal expert.

  • Polemicist, your holier than the rest of us polemics reeks of a personal agenda that I would guess has very little to do with creating a stable society for all citizens.

  • God Bless CORD Long live Carroll Gardens what a great NABE>