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Developer Sam Boymelgreen last week filed permits for a 162-room hotel at 255 Butler Street in Gowanus. The building will not be new, but rather an enlargement of the four-story factory to seven stories. The density (square footage) will remain the same, according to New York YIMBY, which first reported on the plans.

Boymelgreen does not own the property but rather has a 49-year lease, as we reported previously. In February, a story in The Real Deal about Boymelgreen’s Windsor Terrace development The Kestrel noted 255 Butler Street would be a hotel or office. Not quite a decade ago, the city refused a variance that would have permitted the owner to convert the property to residential.

On the first floor will be stores, a restaurant, coffee shop, terrace, gym, library and event space, according to the application. Rooms will be located on the second through seventh floors, with another restaurant, a pool and terrace on the fifth floor. The applicant of record is SBLM Architects.

Also, the site, an old printing plant, is contaminated. We’re not sure if this alteration requires a brownfield cleanup.

Plans to rezone the area were put on hold pending the EPA cleanup but could be revived following a year-long series of public meetings about the future of Gowanus in which residents said they did not want tall buildings but the report said they did.

Hotels are a popular type of development in industrial areas where residential development is not permitted. In an effort to preserve factory jobs and the character of industrial neighborhoods, the City Council recently recommended a change to city’s factory zoning that would not permit hotels.

Permits Filed: 162-Key Hotel at 255 Butler Street in Gowanus [NYY]
255 Butler Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Kate Leonova for PropertyShark

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At a highly anticipated meeting of Community Board 9 Tuesday with potential for controversy over hot-button issues such as zoning, much time was given over to presentations on flu shots and personal finance tips.

Community Board Chairman Dwayne Nicholson, pictured speaking above, admitted a controversial vote in September over zoning was miscounted, and blamed noise and disruption of the meeting by MTOPP protestors for the error. (Community group MTOPP has accused the board of incompetence or fraud.)

Nicholson seemed at pains to avoid discussing the issue further, and would not allow any public comment at the meeting. At the last minute, just as Nicholson was wrapping up, board member and Q at Parkside blogger Tim Thomas raised the subject again and attempted to vote in a revised request for a zoning study. (We published his revision last week.) But his motion was quickly quashed, to the cheers of MTOPP, which has called for public meetings on the matter.

Nicholson said there will be a zoning training workshop for board members, followed by one public meeting of the land use committee to rework the zoning study request. Both will take place before January 28, he promised. The land-use committee has not met all year, said attendees, although all committees are required to meet at least five times. The housing committee has also not met recently.

At issue is whether or not buildings over six stories will be permitted in the largely low-rise neighborhood. Community Board 9 covers Prospect Lefferts Gardens and the south side of Crown Heights. Residents and community groups have blamed high-rise luxury buildings for gentrification and rising housing costs in the area.

There was a moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting for the victims of the stabbing incident Monday at 770 Eastern Parkway, the synagogue and headquarters for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Council Member Laurie Cumbo gave an impassioned speech about it, in which she also addressed the zoning controversy.

“We have to give this community board a chance. If this continues, we will not move forward effectively,” she said, referring to disruptions at community board meetings. “I want to ensure we all have a voice. But we need to be respectful of each other.”

Three members of MTOPP had signed up in advance to speak at the meeting, but were not permitted. “They don’t want to hear our voices,” shouted MTOPP leader Alicia Boyd.

MTOPP Coverage [Brownstoner]

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Community Board 9 District Manager Pearl Miles will “address the mistaken vote count” from September at a Community Board 9 meeting Tuesday, according to an email we just received from board member and Q at Parkside blogger Tim Thomas.

He and other board members also propose to rewrite the controversial resolution calling for a zoning study that was the subject of the miscounted vote. The details of which committee would rewrite the request and in which meeting have yet to be hashed out.

Meanwhile, MTOPP members have been emailing the board asking it to “correct the vote.” MTOPP has also asked the board’s land use review committee to call a series of public meetings to revise the zoning study request.

Tim Thomas has already put together a proposed rewrite. His version would limit building height to six stories throughout the neighborhood, but leave open the door for low-rise residential on Empire Boulevard. MTOPP has in the past said it opposes housing on Empire (or any rezoning of Empire) because it is likely to lead to high rises, so we’ll be interested to hear what the group thinks of Thomas’ proposal.

Above, a view of Nostrand Avenue near Empire Boulevard, one of the areas in PLG that could potentially be affected by a rezoning. Click through to see the emails and Tim Thomas’ proposal for a new request for a zoning study.

MTOPP Coverage [Brownstoner]
(more…)

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Despite being accused of outrageous tactics, Prospect Lefferts Gardens community group MTOPP, or The Movement to Protect the People, has been largely successful in its efforts so far. Now that the group has succeeded in rescinding Community Board 9′s request for a zoning study, as we reported last week, it is calling for a new zoning study of the area as well as a series of public meetings to come up with a new resolution to send to City Planning asking for the zoning study.

The group has always contended the resolution Community Board 9 sent to City Planning was written without adequate public input and did not reflect the wishes of the community, a charge Community Board 9 has denied.

“The resolution called for increased residential and retail density on commercial and transit corridors, putting 101 blocks of the study area (half of our district) on the table for upzoning,” MTOPP member Elizabeth Mackin told us. “Our community has repeatedly called for contextual zoning and downzoning. This was not reflected in the resolution at all.”

In fact, the resolution did call for zoning to preserve the “existing character of the neighborhood,” specifically to “prevent/limit of context i.e. high-rise development in the R7-1 zoned areas of the district.” But, as Mackin said, it also called for increased density and “contextual mixed-use developments along commercial corridors, including Empire Boulevard.” (You can read the whole thing on Community Board 9′s website.) In the past, MTOPP’s Alicia Boyd told us MTOPP opposes any rezoning of Empire Boulevard. The street, pictured above, is zoned for commercial only, so land values and development so far have not become heated as they have in other parts of the borough.

“MTOPP maintains that a large scale upzoning of our community will invite rapid development of luxury residential housing that will, in turn, cause massive direct and indirect displacement, as we have seen in Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope’s 4th Avenue,” Mackin continued.

She added, “MTOPP is also not anti-development or anti-gentrification,” which confused us — we thought they were anti-gentrification. “MTOPP is fighting to preserve the affordable rental housing in Community District 9, almost 94 percent of which is rent-stabilized or otherwise subsidized,” she said.

Meanwhile, the group is allegedly considering a lawsuit to remove current members of Community Board 9 on the grounds of fraud or incompetence concerning the miscount of the vote to rescind the resolution calling for a zoning study, according to published reports. We asked, but MTOPP did not say anything about its plans.

What are your thoughts on a downsizing of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a change of the guard for Community Board 9, and a zoning study of the neighborhood?

MTOPP Coverage [Brownstoner]

Update: Check out Alicia Boyd discussing the original zoning proposal in great detail in this MTOPP video here. Boyd convincingly argues in the video that the resolution as drafted could result in the upzoning of much of the neighborhood that is not already a designated historic district. She also puts forth an appealing vision of Empire Boulevard remade with sidewalk cafes, boutiques, garden stores, and parking.

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At the final Bridging Gowanus meeting Monday night, reaction was mixed to a presentation of findings after a years-long series of meetings about the future of Gowanus, but many residents said they do not want tall buildings.

Some attendees thanked Council Member Brad Lander and the Pratt Institute facilitators, and some said the process was better than they had expected. Others said the process was manipulative and designed to build a false appearance of consensus in favor of a rezoning that would allow luxury high rise buildings in exchange for much-needed infrastructure improvements that should be made anyway.

About 100 local residents and representatives from community groups and nonprofits gathered at P.S. 36 in Carroll Gardens to hear Pratt Institute facilitators summarize findings about sewage infrastructure, the economy, mandatory mixed-use zones, historic preservation, and affordable housing, among other things.

The report and Councilmen Brad Lander, Steve Levin and others acknowledged past rezonings in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and 4th Avenue had favored developers to the detriment of neighborhoods. (more…)

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A controversial and confusing vote to rescind a request for a zoning study of Prospect Lefferts Gardens did in fact pass, according to PLG community group MTOPP, or The Movement to Protect the People. The group, which has been a thorn in the side of Community Board 9, is alleging the board is “corrupt,” that it “falsified” the document, and “broke the law” on its website.

Blogger Tim Thomas of The Q at Parkside, who is on the board (and who, unlike MTOPP, favors development of Empire Boulevard) agreed with the group’s assessment that the vote passed. However, he chalked it up to a mistake.

It’s a long story but to briefly summarize: MTOPP opposes any residential development of Empire Boulevard, above, and also opposes a zoning study of the broader area. We are reaching out to Community Board 9 for comment now and will update when we hear from them. Click through to see a screenshot of MTOPP’s allegations.

Eric Adam’s Corrupt Executive Board [MTOPP]
Finally…the Smoking Gun! [Q Parkside]
MTOPP Coverage [Brownstoner]

(more…)

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The New York City Council Wednesday released a report proposing three new types of zoning that could dramatically affect jobs, real estate values and the use of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, particularly in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Gowanus and Sunset Park.

The three proposed new zoning types are:

*Industrial Employment Districts  – A rewriting of the rules to close loopholes that have been driving out manufacturers in protected industrial zones.

*Creative Economy Districts — A new combination of industrial and commercial office space. Mini storage, nightclubs and warehousing of empty property would not be allowed.

*Real Mixed Use Districts — Commercial and “compatible” industrial spaces would be required alongside residential, rather than merely allowed, so that more-lucrative residential development does not displace the other uses.

Above, the Pfizer complex at 630 Flushing in Bed Stuy has been proposed as a protected industrial site and is currently being redeveloped as office and manufacturing space for “creative economy” businesses.

Potentially, the new zoning could dramatically change such areas as the protected industrial zone around the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, where hotels and nightclubs have been driving out manufacturers, and the Bushwick loft area, because it would allow residential development to take off while preserving manufacturing jobs and commercial space at the same time. It could also affect the character of development on Empire Boulevard in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a hot-button issue in the neighborhood.

We think this is one of the best proposals we have heard in years, with the potential to benefit many now-competing groups and protect many desirable aspects of Brooklyn that are in danger of being lost to purely residential development. What do you think of it?

Engines of Opportunity [City Council]

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High-rise apartment buildings with affordable housing, more parks, more schools, protected artists’ spaces, a special “super manufacturing zone” to protect factories — these are all part of a plan to redevelop Gowanus that Council Member Brad Lander will unveil Monday, according to a story in DNAinfo. “The Bridging Gowanus plan lays out a broad set of goals including flood-fighting infrastructure upgrades, affordable housing and a rezoning that would bolster manufacturing and allow new residential development, including high-rises in some places, for the first time since 1961,” the story said.

The vision, which Lander plans to present to the de Blasio administration, came out of a series of public meetings Lander convened over the last year called Bridging Gowanus. Most area residents support tall buildings from eight to 18 stories if other criteria are met, according to Lander. (more…)

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The Burger King at the corner of Marcy and Fulton across from Restoration Plaza has closed. (In July, a new Burger King was setting up shop at Nostrand and Fulton, as we reported.) This lot at 957 Marcy has not recently traded hands, but an application for a permit to demolish the existing building was filed in August.

A permit to build a one-story bank building with a drive-through and curb cut has been in the works since 2012 but has not yet been granted and is waiting for zoning approval. We think a taller mixed-use building would be a better use of the space here. What do you think?

Thanks to a reader for a tip about the closing. GMAP (more…)

Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams wants to revive the affordable housing development on a 30-acre piece of land known as the Broadway Triangle. Sandwiched between Bed Stuy, Williamsburg and Bushwick along Broadway near Flushing, the controversial development was halted by a judge’s injunction following a lawsuit by community groups arguing the plans and a rezoning of the area favored Hasidic families and discriminated against blacks and Latinos. In a written review of an unrelated project at 695 Grand Street in Williamsburg, Adams called on the de Blasio administration to resolve the legal dispute so housing can be built, Crain’s reported.

He also called on HPD to get on with the redevelopment of the Greenpoint Hospital site at 300 Skillman Avenue in East Williamsburg, which stalled in 2012 after the developer dropped out. The city planned to create about 250 affordable apartments at the site, which has been shuttered since 1982. The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition told Crain’s it has recently been talking with the city about the rezoning. The Triangle project could add another 600 affordable units, according to Crain’s.

One thing that has changed: Former State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the king of affordable housing in the area, was heavily involved in the Triangle project, but is no longer in office. The nonprofit group he created to deliver services to constituents, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, which still exists and continues to be a big landlord and developer in Latino-heavy Bushwick, was one of two developers in the Triangle project, along with nonprofit partner United Jewish Organizations.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Adams is calling for development of Broadway Triangle now that Lopez is out of the picture?

Brooklyn BP Acts to Restart Two Rez Projects [Crain's]
Broadway Triangle Coverage [Brownstoner]
Image via Urban Omnibus

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The zoning review that Community Board 9 asked City Planning to conduct of parts of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Crown Heights is going forward after a failed attempt to rescind it at a community board meeting last month. The zoning review covers half of District 9, including Flatbush Avenue, pictured above, where a 23-story development is rising as-of-right, and Empire Boulevard, some blocks of which are currently zoned only for commercial and not residential, Laura Imperiale, first vice chair of Community Board 9, told us.

At issue is limiting high-rise development to preserve the character and affordability of the neighborhood. A number of community groups, including PPEN, have called for limits on high-rise development in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Community group MTOPP opposes both high-rise development and any rezoning of Empire Boulevard.

The board conducted several meetings with community groups and had a community listening session in March, consolidated the comments, created a resolution requesting a study, and sent in the request to City Planning in March. After that, there was one meeting of the community board and City Planning. Now the board is waiting for City Planning to conduct the study, said Imperiale. The board would have liked a broader study of the entire district, but the city said it did not have the resources, and “we only get so many bites at the apple for this,” she said.

The resolution, which has been posted on CB9′s website, asked for zoning to preserve the “existing character of the neighborhood,” specifically to “prevent/limit of context i.e. high-rise development in the R7-1 zoned areas of the district.” It also asked for “opportunities for affordable housing development” to “protect residents from displacement” and “identify areas for inclusionary zoning.” It requested increased density along transit and commercial corridors, and specifically asked that Empire Boulevard be rezoned to permit residential development — “allow contextual mixed-use developments along commercial corridors, including Empire Boulevard.”

MTOPP disrupted last month’s community board meeting and passed a resolution calling for the zoning study request to be rescinded, but then it turned out the resolution had not been passed after all. They also sued the board to get a copy of the board’s bylaws, which are also now posted on the board’s website.  

The zoning study is not on the agenda of the next board meeting, but Imperiale said she expects MTOPP to bring it up anyway. 

She also expects City Planning will hold community forums about District 9 zoning in the coming year, she said. Any events will be posted on the Community Board 9 website in advance.

Chaos at Community Board 9 Meeting on Empire Boulevard Rezoning Tuesday [Brownstoner]

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We were alarmed to read the city plans to all but eliminate design and architecture review for affordable housing, and to allow affordable housing developers to self-certify, according to a story in Capital New York. Believe it or not, some of the most beautiful new buildings in Brooklyn are found in areas such as Bed Stuy, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and East New York, and it’s all affordable housing. We’ve long wondered why that is and now we think we know. We point to award-winning buildings such as the Saratoga Community Center at 940 Hancock Street and Camba Gardens in Flatbush, above, designed by Harden + Van Arnam Architects.

So expect affordable housing to start looking like the cheapest schlock imaginable — probably not even as good as the dreck that usually gets built in Williamsburg, probably more like cement-block Fedders buildings.

Also, we’ve seen a lot of abuses of the self-certification process for much smaller scale, private developments. If they are flagrant enough, they are eventually punished (architect Robert Scarano and the overbuilt monstrosity at 1882 East 12th Street in Homecrest by architect Shlomo Wygoda are two examples), but we suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So we’re skeptical this is a good approach to take with affordable housing, where the pressure to cut costs is likely to be even greater and the beneficiaries less able to defend their interests.

We think it’s going to be a great loss for these neighborhoods, not to mention the residents. What do you think the mayor should do?

H.P.D. Plans Major Changes to Jump-Start Affordable Housing Development [Capital NY]
Rendering by Harden + Van Arnam Architects PLLC