Prospect Lefferts Gardens Residents Fight Rezoning on Empire Boulevard

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After years of getting the brush off on requests to limit building heights in Prospect Lefferts Gardens to six stories, PLG residents, activists and community board members are now meeting with City Planning to consider how the neighborhood should be rezoned.

In addition to supporting a rezoning of Flatbush Avenue, pictured above during this past winter, that would limit building heights there to six stories, neighborhood group The Movement to Protect the People (MTOPP) opposes a brand-new move to rezone commercial district Empire Boulevard to allow residential, MTOPP President and PLG homeowner Alicia Boyd told us.

We had not heard that any proposal to rezone Empire Boulevard was in the works, but Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke in favor of it at an impromptu appearance at a Crown Heights tenant association meeting June 8 and the PLG community board also requested it, Boyd said.

MTOPP opposes market-rate luxury housing and development over six stories, even “under the guise of affordability,” as Boyd put it, because PLG already has the highest population density of any neighborhood in Brooklyn. As well, expensive new market-rate buildings, even with a large percentage of “affordable” units, will cause a wave of rent increases across the neighborhood, displacing current residents, MTOPP believes.

“We don’t need more people in this community,” said Boyd. “We wait three or four buses to get a seat. We wait three or four lights to go one block.”

21 Comment

  • I questioned the statement that PLG has the highest population density in Brooklyn. But it’s true:
    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/census/mappl1.pdf

    Regardless, Empire Blvd is screaming to be redeveloped. It’s close to the park, trains, and existing retail.

  • A lot of people in PLG welcome (responsible) development of Empire with open arms. MTOPP does not represent everyone by a long shot.

  • Bob Marvin

    There are two groups recently formed in PLG to work on zoning and building height restrictions ; MTOPP seems to be far more extreme that the Prospect Park East Network.

    • If I am not mistaken, MTOPP is the group defending dollar van driving, citing economic injustice when they get tickets for running red lights and other traffic violations. I am not sure why they don’t make the connection that safe/legal driving = no fines.

  • What fantasy land mentality puts PLG in the highest population density, no less the top 3 highest densely populated areas in Brooklyn?

    I found one map from 2011 indicating that part of flatbush was very densely populated but flatbush isn’t PLG.

    It’s also worth noting that this map didn’t have any of the new development data because it didn’t exist yet. I would put downtown BK, williamsburg, and bed stuy as far more densely populated than the PLG/flatbush area now. But we will have to wait a few more years for current data.

  • The idea that a developer of nice building(s) should be blocked from doing so because it will cause a domino effect has no basis in law.

    …but it is entertaining.

  • As stated by a previous commenter, Empire Blvd is a prime site for medium density (6 to 10 story) residential development. These MTOPP folks want to prevent increasing rents by restricting development – sounds ridiculous. Show me one neighborhood in BK where this has worked.

  • babs

    As a long-term (going on 10 years now!) PLG resident, I completely disagree with this group’s position, which makes zero sense to me. Empire Blvd as it currently exists is an eyesore – lined with fast food outlets, strip malls, and many many self storage places (and more coming). It exists as an east-west speedway, with no reason for anyone to slow down, because very few people actually live there.

    Replacing these uninviting structures and business with residential construction, to include truly affordable as well as market-rate units would both help with pent-up housing demand and enhance the neighborhood’s attractiveness.

    • morralkan

      Babs, I usually agree with you, but with Empire Blvd reduced to one lane in each direction with hideous weed planters in the middle and slow moving buses thrown into the mix, I haven’t seen traffic on EB move faster than about 20 MPH in the last 5 years. EB is one of the main arteries in and out of my community, Crown Hts, as well as an important route for trucks to bring food and other commodities here.

      If you’re that concerned with eyesores, why not first tackle Flatbush Avenue from Empire down to Church? Now that’s one butt-ugly area!

      • babs

        I wasn’t speaking about the part of Empire between Rogers and Nostrand, where you do have residential buildings, but the part west of Rogers, where there are no medians (and I am so glad they were installed there, precisely because this is a residential area and traffic needed to slow down there) and nothing but the aforesaid eyesores (and no medians and fast moving traffic).

        And since apparently you don’t live in PLG, I guess you haven’t been following the new businesses moving onto Flatbush between Empire and Parkside, including a gym, several cafes, a new gastropub opening imminently, and Playkids, voted the best toy store in NYC in 2012 by NY Magazine, or the fact that there’s a new merchants’ association working to clean it up and improve the commercial variety there.

        Empire is WAY uglier than anything on Flatbush.

        • Thanks, Babs. I am on the board of the new merchants association: The Parkside Empire – Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association. (because we are between Parkside Avenue and Empire Blvd.). We have a Facebook page that will keep everyone up do date on our progress and we encourage community input. We think that our strip of Flatbush Avenue has a lot of charm and character and urge our neighbors to check us out and shop in The Parkside Empire.

  • babs

    Also, I would imagine that a majority of the cars clogging the major thoroughfares around here are not owned by neighborhood residents but are people passing through. As I don’t have a car I’ve never had this problem.

    Ditto for crowded buses – this is realty an MTA problem. Often I’ve waited 20 minutes for a bus on Flatbush Ave when three (or more) arrive at once. Needless to say the first one is jammed, but following ones are less so – just human nature, I guess, to try to cram into the first one that arrives.

    In terms of crowding in general, has this person ever ridden the subway at rush hour? I remember when I first moved here, I thought, “Oh, great, it’s close to the end of the line (at the Junction), so I’ll always get a seat.”

    I didn’t know then how many people live in what used to be called the two fare zone and took a bus or van to the train. They hold those trains down at Brooklyn College until they’re chock full and then let them go. The only way to get on them at my stop (Sterling St) is to stand at the very front or very back of the platform.

    But the overcrowding is not due to PLG itself.

    • Totally agree, Babs. And if MTOPP directed their efforts toward educating tenants about their rights and organizing against unscrupulous landlords, they would make much more headway in preserving affordable housing than spending time protesting new developments. MTOPP could also have enormous impact by helping buildings convert to HFDC sponsored coops , which from what I understand is taking place with at least one building in the neighborhood with a long history of landlord neglect and abuse of tenants. That’s how you preserve affordable housing in NYC.

    • Not to quibble, but to do just that, I’ve taken the train to and from Brooklyn College nearly every day for years. The train is never even close to full leaving Brooklyn College.

  • Ms. Boyd is understandably concerned about the effects on her block of Sterling. But that should be what she’s talking about, not the grander issues. And she misheard the densest part of Brooklyn statement. It’s in 11226, not Lefferts Gardens, which is narrowly defined as between Empire and Clarkson, Ocean and New York Ave. If you’ve ever spent anytime near Ocean Avenue below Parkside, you’ll see just dense NYC can become.

  • Someone explain to me how the status quo of storage units, speeding cars, and general un-walkability of Empire Blvd is better than rezoning that contemplates a mix of commercial, market residential and affordable housing. I hate walking along that corridor right now. Any change would be an improvement. And with regard to Flatbush Ave, yes, a few less nail salons, take out restaurants with bullet proof windows, and 99 cent stores would be an improvement. Also, those dollar vans speeding, cutting through traffic and constantly blowing their horns is annoying and dangerous. There, I said it.

  • The headline of this story is very misleading. Anyone glancing at the story could easily infer that the opposition to rezoning is widespread among “PLG residents.” If anything, the opposite is true.
    A more accurate headline would begin “A PLG activist tries to organize opposition…” or “New PLG group takes shape to oppose…” or something along those lines.

  • Ms Boyd was in rare form tonight at the CB9 city planning meeting: “We don’t need affordable housing in this neighborhood”. Nice. Thanks for dominating the entire meeting. That’s the way to progress. And more fast food, gas stations, and self-storage.

  • dfc99

    Upzoning is one tool that deBlasio wants to use to increase housing construction. The city wants to upzone huge portions of Brooklyn and Queens in particular. Problem is in many neighborhoods people just don’t want it, especially in established communities of 1 and 2 family homes.