Friends’ Expansion Making Enemies on State?

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As you may recall, IBEC, the developer behind the State Renaissance Court, recently floated the idea of building six multi-million-dollar new townhomes on an empty lot they still own on State Street between Hoyt and Bond; while some people question the viability of the high-end project in this market, the neighbors are generally happy with the use for the space. But the developer also owns a second empty lot on that block, on the corner of Hoyt, and its plans for it aren’t sitting as well with some homeowners in the community. According to a letter we received, the developer is apparently close to doing a deal with Brooklyn Friends School, which wants to build a five-story, 55,000-square-foot academic building on the site. In order to do this, however, IBEC needs New York State to void the restrictions it placed on the property when it sold the land to IBEC in 2004. As part of that deal, lots along State Street were to be low-rise residential. Here’s how the opposition put it:

A school won’t have the positive impact that housing will on a neighborhood likes ours, rebuilding after years of blight and hemmed in by downtown Brooklyn and Atlantic Avenue to the north and south, and the jail and courts to the west. Unlike a nonprofit private school, residents pay property taxes that support our public schools. Residents patronize local businesses morning and evening, weekdays and weekends, summer and winter. They help keep the street safe at night. Homes make a neighborhood more cohesive and more desirable.

The group thinks that one of the nearby lots on Schermerhorn Street would be more appropriate. Do you agree? The group is reachable at keepstatestreetresidential@gmail.com.
Six More New Brownstones for State Street? [Brownstoner]

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  • you build more housing you need more schools. Schools are part of a community.

  • 1. “…the developer is apparently close to doing a deal with Brooklyn Friends School….”

    2. “In order to do this, however, IBEC needs New York State to void the restrictions it placed on the property when it sold the land to IBEC in 2004.”

    These two statements seem to contradict each other.

  • I couldn’t imagine a more benign neighbor than Brooklyn Friends School. Their community service is well conceived and executed. Students work in meaningful ways with nursing homes, homeless shelters, environmental projects, etc to name a few. And Brooklyn Friends has sporting events, activities, etc going on weekends and evenings as well. The opposition argument does not hold up in my opinion. If they felt the scale of the school was out of proportion to the neighborhood, I might understand…but this is not an organization like NYU.

  • I agree with that. The Friends are a wonderful group and this would be a plus. there is plenty of housing going up so I just don’t understand the opposition.

  • Seems like people will oppose anything these days…..even pacifists who seek to expand their educational facilities. Probably has more to do with feelings toward the developer.

  • they are called CAVE people. Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

  • G Man, regarding your point – developer would have to have a deal set up and agreed upon before getting State to change the restrictions, how it works.

    I have a lot of friends on State and can understand their concerns. However, school is a great use, one that would have been permitted if developers put in for it. I am biased as my dad went to BK friends and so did my daughter.
    Wonderful institution. Be kinda convenience for those boerum hill familes…..

  • Just taking a shot in the dark, but I think the problem is not that its a school, but that its a private school for the hyper-wealthy. While the Quakers may once have been open to educating all and welcoming all, its now a school that charges $18,000 for pre-school tuition and a whopping $29,500 for high school. While there aren’t a lot of poor people left on State Street, I bet there are plenty who can’t afford to drop an amount equivalent to their housing costs on an annual basis for school.

    I’m in no way, shape, or form anti-private school, but I do think that in a neighborhood that lacks many things, neighbors have a right to voice their opinions about who their new neighbors will be.

  • Sure, they have a right, but I have a right to say look again. Brooklyn Friends does much to help the disadvantaged, including long-term programs that intensively work with educating underpriveleged kids. The current residents could do far worse in a multitude of ways for neighbors.

  • BK Friends may have some ‘hyper wealthy’ families but it is the most or one of the most diverse private schools in USA,
    has many middle class students and gives much scholarships
    least ‘fancy’ of the three in downtown/Heights, by far

  • I am right near this corner. If the choice is between another 8 $2.5 and up million townhouses, and a school with a halfway decent commitment to maintaining its immediate environment, I’d say go with the school. (Also the issue about the school not paying taxes — that’s going to be true no matter where it sets up. It’s not as if the taxes on State Street townhouses go to support only PS 261 or PS 38.)

    There is already one school on the next block down on State — the Coy L Cox school which is part of the District 75 special needs system. I don’t think it really detracts from the residential feel of that block.

    Schermerhorn would also be a fine place, but obviously the developers in control of the lots there are not interested in floating this. I’d speculate that this is because the developers can build higher buildings on Schermerhorn (I think they can go to 6 or 8 stories on the south side and maybe higher on the norht side) that would be too large for Friends’ needs.

    Does anyone know exaclty what type of facility Friends is thinking about here?

    Also, how much school can you really fit in 55,000 square feet? Just asking — I have no idea.

  • I understand the process Chris (Your comment at 11:34). But based on the people I’ve been talking to, selling the idea of a school to the community hasn’t gone so well, at least so far. That’s why I questioned the characterization, “the developer is apparently close to doing a deal.”

  • denton

    CAVE for sure.

    Friends was always the most granola school around. And the most diverse. Most of the kids in the upper school were there on financial aid.

    Da kid went there from maybe 1988 thru 1990. School was horrible. Moved from the Heights to PS then to put her in 321, had to get her tutoring to catch up. Might have changed by now.

  • The argument that the residents of a handful of housing units will somehow contribute more to the local economy than hundreds of students, employees, families and caregivers seems particularly misplaced.

  • perhaps it’s something as simple as people not wanting to live near a school? have you ever seen a block when school is let out? gaaaaaaah

    *rob*

  • When I lived on Schermerhorn the building net to us was a school, now a medical building. One of the buildings across the street was turned into a school also. Never had any problems. (and I was also around the corner from Friend’s. 3 schools in the immediate area, 2 on my block- never any problems.

  • I live across from a school and like it. No need to have drapes, shades at night …nobody across street to peer in and watch me enjoy porn videos.

  • While I have nothing bad to say about Brooklyn Friends, as a resident on State Street, I would much rather have more houses built on that street to ensure that it keeps its beautiful residential appeal vs being an extension of the higher building explosion that happening all over Downtown Brooklyn. State St is the buffer between Downtown Brooklyn and the rest of Boerum and Cobble Hill. We clearly want to protect this environment and ensure that State St does not become another street being eaten by large construction projects.

  • Building a school on Schermerhorn will kill any chance of the commercial revitalization of Schermerhorn Street, as it will break the continuity of the retail strip. Presently the only viable retail activity is at State Renaissance Court, but without critical mass, the businesses there (including the desperately needed supermarket) will not survive. The community has grown and evolved beyond the handful of townhouse owners on State Street, and the interests of the new residents (with the two thousand or more apartments coming soon) and the community as a whole must also be kept in mind.

  • Boerumresident, regarding your question about the facility Brooklyn Friends is planning, it is for the relocation of their Lower School for a projected 350 Lower School students. The proposed building would comply 100% with the existing R6-B Zoning which was created to protect the low rise residential character of the block.

    The site on Schermerhorn would increase BFS’ engineering and construction costs by close to $3 million and delay start of construction by at least 1 year because it is situated above the Hoyt Schermerhorn Subway Station and tracks.

  • I believe the two comments above are from the developers who want to sell to BFS. After the ESDC awarded them almost 90,000 square feet of the block for 3.5 million–yes, you heard it right–with the promise to build residential on State, the developers will walk away from their commitment with MANY, MANY MILLIONS if they sell to BFS– for doing absolutely nothing. Maybe this was their plan all along.I have some doubt they ever intended to build on these lots. The big rental bldg on Schermerhorn would provide them with a perpetual stream of income, while the State Street lots were pure gravy. The developers point out that there’s another lot being offered to BFS just a block away. BFS has oodles of money to build, and tons of space here–they can go up, sideways, whatever. But the really big problem with this site is that the Brahimys don’t own it and they won’t walk away with a pile of cash! Babysitters and pick up parents will bring plenty of business to Brooklyn Fare–even more! The school’s presence will enhance businesses on that street and further into the neighborhood without having to impose its traffic, bulk and noise on State. By the way, no one has anything against Friends or Quakers (small number of parents are actually Quakers, by the way, and school is no longer affiliated with the Meeting) or even private schools. It’s a lovely school. But the issue is traffic, foot traffic, noise, etc. Residents of neighborhoods everywhere have a right to resist new kinds of development if they are just wrong for the character and physical limitations of the neighborhood. This is one of them.

  • Boerumhiller, Thank you so much for clarifying Heskel’s and Sbrahimy’s status as the developers of the discussed project. I would love to know where the people that are for this project live. Clearly not on our blocks.

    Let’s get opne thing straight: no one is against BFS as a school. If there was to be a school built here, we would all be lucky to have BFS here.

    But that is not the question here.

    The question, that clearly the developers involved in the project and subject to make millions can not be objective about, is whether this is good for the blocks and the local residents involved, ESPECIALLY when another option to build the school is available on the corner of Hoyt and Schemerhorn.
    Schemerhorn offers a lot more space to allow drop-offs as this is a 4 times wider street than State St is. To say that having the school on Schmerhorn would not have a positive impact on that street is absolutely ridiculous.
    Whatever positive impact building the school at the corner of State and Hoyt would have, the same positive impact would apply with the school being built at the corner of Hoyt and Schemerhorn.
    However, the impact on the quality of life on State St will be considerable. Not something that the developers would really care about as they do not live on the Street.

    But those of us that are concerned do live on that street. We want this area and this street to flourish but for the right reasons. We love the idea of BFS moving in the area. We think this can have a positive impact on the neighborhood as a whole but anyone with a little objectivity will see that setting a school with over 300 kids on a residential street makes no practical sense: the cross of Hoyt and State is already a very busy corner with traffic.

    Just last week (Sept 18th), as two cars were blocking both State and Hoyt Sts and arguing, a woman was hit by another car that got tired of waiting in line at the light on Hoyt and decided to pass on the side. As a parent of small children, I do NOT want this street to become a parking lot or worse a street were drivers will get so frustrated that they will put pedestrians in danger, including my own children.

    So please, do us a favor, mister developers: I understand your willingness to make a (very large) profit by getting out of your previous obligations to build additional townhouses on State St and selling this lot to BFS. But do not make it sounds that people against this project are the bad guys here. We are concerned and want the actual resident of that street to have a say in this decision because at the end of the day, we will have to live with whatever gets built on that corner. You won’t.

  • I dunno. I think I’d be happy something is being built…and I’d be even happier and working toward something being built at Smith and State/Schermerhorn…

  • Whoaa…this blog is starting to get crowded…I guess Residents want to be heard now.

    I agreed with the Boerum Hill and State street, the issue is not the school but rather the fact that the developers were awarded the empty lot on State and Hoyt with the understanding that they would build townhouses to maintain the residential charactere of State street. State street is the last charming and residential street before Downtown Brooklyn. High rise and commercial buildings are coming out everywhere. What happen to the initial project of 8 beautiful townhouses. What happened to your promises, Mr developers ?

    If you check the following website http://www.jamesmccullar.com
    and then clik on staterenaissance project, you can check the initial and great proposal for state street with townhouses.

    extract from the website
    Phase 1
    “The proposed design for Site B in the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Urban Renewal Plan is planned in two phases: Phase 1 includes an 8-story mixed-use building with 158 apartments, retail stores, and indoor parking at Schermerhorn Street. Phase 2 includes the design of new infill townhouses on State Street. The development team was selected in a competitive RFP by the Empire State Development Corporation with community based design guidelines.

    The building designs are intended to form a transition in scale from the commercial activity of downtown Brooklyn to the residential character of “brownstone Brooklyn”. (phase 1) The 8-story building is located above the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station which was designed to support a future building. … The Phase 2 townhouses will be a market-rate condominium”

    PHASE 2 was supposed to be TOWNHOUSES !!

    Last ….
    I read couple times above that a school (helping children,sporting events etc..) would be better for the community than 8 $2.5m townhouse…but why then , the same developers are now proposing to build 6 townhouses worth 4m $.. . yes you heard correctly 4mios dollar touwnhouse next to the St Nicholas church on….on State street.

  • Just in case none of you noticed, there is a glut of housing in the neighborhood and no support services. For your information we poured $55.0m into the neighborhood and did more than our share to create a viable community. With our rental building we are committed to the neighborhood for a long time to come. You will all profit handsomely when you flip your townhouses. Isn’t this what it is all about?

  • The neighborhood has definetely improved with all the new townhouses and local business. Nobody is saying the contrary. Every resident enjoys it.

    What we dont want is more traffic accidents (2 deaths already at the corner or Atlantic and Hoyt), and more car honking at the cross of state and hoyt due to doubel parking. I dont believe that traffic jam and noise will make the area more pleasant. Lastly, State street has a lot of new owners that bought at the highs so the issue is not profit to be made here but rather a question of maintaining the quality of life.

  • Dear Heskel,

    Do not confuse YOUR interest in making quick money with our desire to grow and live in this neighborhood for the long term. You have made it really clear that you are here to make as much money as you possibly can with a complete disregard to the local folks. Do not try to associate us with your own motives. We bought because we love this neighborhood and because we want to see it grow in a healthy and constructive way.

    If you are so concerned about the area, why don’t you complete phase two of your construction project and build the townhouses that you were supposed to build in the first place on all of State St?

  • Do the IBEC developers own or control the “empty lot” at Hoyt and Schermerhorn (actually now used as a surface parking lot)? I thought this was part of the developments being managed by the group that did the 14 townhouses and the new building with the ballet school?