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Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan won’t bring affordable units to low-income areas but it will destroy the character of the most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said housing experts — including real estate execs — in a Wall Street Journal article yesterday. Here are the deets:

*In low-income areas such as East New York, no one is building market-rate housing now and no one will build market-rate housing in the future, even if the mayor succeeds with his plan to upzone the area to allow bigger and taller buildings, because the math just doesn’t pencil out.

*Meanwhile, the mayor’s plan would work beautifully in higher-income areas such as Park Slope and Williamsburg — except that Bloomberg-mandated “contextual zoning” height caps make it impossible.

Mayor de Blasio is pushing to wipe out those hard-won height caps with a “text amendment” to the building zoning code (as we mentioned in yesterday’s article about the zoning controversy in Prospect Lefferts Gardens). If he succeeds, new buildings and additions 15 to 30 percent higher than what is allowed now will quickly sprout throughout Brooklyn’s most expensive and tony areas and beyond, from Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens — anywhere land is expensive and prices and rents support luxury development. (more…)

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After a year of drama and disruption, last night’s Community Board 9 meeting was relatively sane and productive, but the highly anticipated vote on the controversial letter to City Planning to request a zoning study of Prospect Lefferts Gardens did not happen. Here is what did happen:

*The letter was sent back to the land-use committee for a vote because the previous vote turned out to be invalid. People were voting who weren’t actually members of the committee, and the vote was taken after the meeting had already been adjourned, which is against the rules. We were expecting a presentation on the land-use committee’s recommendation, but perhaps because the matter was sent back to committee for a vote, there was none.

*Acting chair Laura Imperiale and MTOPP leader and activist Alicia Boyd agreed on something: Now there is a new threat to the existing character of the neighborhood — and all neighborhoods in Brooklyn and New York City. A “text amendment” to the building code, buried in Mayor de Blasio’s “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan, would effectively wipe out hard-won height limits in “contextual zoning neighborhoods,” allowing new development 20 to 30 percent higher across the board. The board has two weeks to comment.

Also, City Planning plans to meet on the topic today at 4 pm at Spector Hall at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan. A community rally is scheduled to take place before the meeting, at 3 pm at City Hall.

*MTOPP has asked the D.A. to investigate Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (more…)

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Industry City’s $1 billion plan to rezone and remake the Sunset Park waterfront area into a thriving destination for retail, Brooklyn “makers” and hotels is already encountering deep and powerful opposition. The community board, local elected officials from City Council to the U.S. House of Representatives, and community groups say they want heavy industry with its high-paying jobs, according to stories in Crain’s and The Wall Street Journal. (And just to be clear, no one is asking for housing.) Community group Uprose is planning a rally Sunday.

In Sunset Park, Doubts About Development Plan [WSJ]
Two Pols May Block $1 Billion Hipster Industrial Complex [Crain's]
Industry City Coverage [Brownstoner]
Rendering from Industry City via Crain’s

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The letter has been drafted. After about a year of chaos and protests, a subcommittee of Community Board 9 voted Monday to send a letter to City Planning requesting a zoning study of Prospect Lefferts Gardens. (That’s Nostrand Avenue, above.) The letter will move to the full board on Tuesday, March 24, for a yay or nay vote. The move came after CB9 chair Dwayne Nicholson resigned last week, and we wouldn’t be surprised if his stepping down somehow paved the way for this to happen.

Community member and MTOPP leader Alicia Boyd and a handful of MTOPP members attended and spent the evening protesting that the entire meeting could not take place because the CB had no chair, DNAinfo reported. They were removed from the meeting by police.

We feel it’s not our place to say what residents of PLG should do regarding zoning, but we have been concerned about whether there has been an opportunity for adequate public input. At the one meeting we were able to attend and others we have read about, no public comment was permitted. A board member we spoke to assures us there was a chance for comment, at one of the subcommittee meetings, although the discussion was mostly about the letter.

“Yes, the Committee meeting gave everyone in the room time to comment. It was a fairly wide-ranging conversation, though totally dominated by screaming and finger-pointing. A few people actually got to comment on the general merits!” the member told us.

Please click through to the jump to read the draft letter. Local blog Q at Parkside also has more detail about what’s in it here and here. What do you think of it?

Community Board 9 Coverage [Brownstoner]

(more…)

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Developer Rabsky’s push to rezone two blocks in the Broadway Triangle area could have some very interesting unintended consequences, according to an article in Crain’s yesterday. Development there has been all but frozen for years, thanks to clashes between various stakeholders, controversy and lawsuits. Rabsky’s request will reopen that debate and, although Rabsky is only asking for 12-story buildings, could pave the way for the entire area to be covered in massive low-income towers, according to Crain’s.

(more…)

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The formal land-use review for the mayor’s proposed East New York rezoning could kick off soon. City Planning Commission expects to certify the rezoning application “this spring,” according to Capital New York, which technically begins March 20. During a City Hall budget meeting this week, City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod said, “I do anticipate we will be entering the formal [land use] process this spring.”

Once the ULURP process begins, it could take up to a year. The process starts with review at the community board level, then moves to the borough president, City Planning and the City Council. The mayor’s rezoning plan aims to bring 7,000 new apartments to the area by allowing housing and taller buildings along commercial and industrial corridors. Above, the 1935 Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church at the corner of Glenmore and Pennsylvania Avenue, in the proposed rezoning area.

Timing of City’s Rezonings Still up in the Air [Capital NY via TRD]
East New York Rezoning Coverage [Brownstoner]

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Community Board 5 has cancelled all presentations by developers and city agencies and requested an emergency meeting with the mayor’s office and local pols as part of an effort to slow down the mayor’s plan to rezone East New York, we were intrigued to read in DNAinfo.

“We still have a lot of questions that have gone unanswered. That’s why the board reached this decision,” CB5 Chair Andre Mitchell said. The biggest mystery is the percentage of affordable units vs. market rate. About a year ago, the de Blasio administration said the ratio would be different for each neighborhood. City Planning has issued its environmental impact documents but did not specify the mix, a surprising omission so late in the process. The publication of those documents kicked off the official uniform land review process, or ULURP. The first stage is review at the community board level.

We know from our own sources that the board opposes any aspect of the rezoning that would increase rents in the area and displace current residents or businesses, but welcomes revitalization, and would like to see a balanced mix of income levels in any new housing that is built.

DNAinfo portrayed the slowdown as coming from longtime East New York City Councilman Charles Barron, whose wife Inez Barron now holds that office, because both the chair of CB5 and the head of the land use committee are longtime Barron associates.

It’s our understanding of the ULURP process that each agency gets a set time of about two months to review, and if they don’t, the process moves on without them. But can the community — or anyone — legitimately review the plan without knowing the mix of affordable vs. market units? What do you think?

Charles Barron’s Associates Lead Push to Slow Down East New York Rezoning [DNA]
Map by City Planning

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MTOPP leader Alicia Boyd and another woman who appeared to be a member of the group were handcuffed and removed shortly after the beginning of Community Board 9′s second land-use committee meeting about zoning in Prospect Lefferts Gardens Wednesday, DNAinfo reported. City Council Member Laurie Cumbo wrote an open letter disparaging the group’s tactics and supporting a controversial zoning study. She said in the letter that she fears gentrification and displacement of residents in the area by luxury towers and that she has not yet reached a conclusion about how the area should be rezoned or if it should be rezoned. Above, Empire Boulevard, currently zoned for commercial only.

From what we have gathered, it does not appear as if the two meetings so far have been sufficient for the committee to make a recommendation to the full board about the zoning study at the next meeting, as was the plan. Apparently some board members agree: “With little consensus among residents, some board members expressed concern about holding a vote on the letter’s contents [about the zoning study] at the next CB9 full board meeting on February 24,” said the story. “It is unclear how the board will move forward on the issue.”

Video: Police Remove Activist Leader From Crown Heights Rezoning Meeting [DNA]

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City Planning Tuesday revealed more details of the mayor’s plan to rezone East New York and Ocean Hill in two environmental impact statement documents. By changing commercial-only zones to mixed-use and allowing slightly taller and denser buildings than what is there today, as well as making investments in the area such as streetscape improvements, the rezoning could bring new life and retail to the area and improve public safety.

We were pleasantly surprised to read the details of the plans, because they sound as if they will work. However, still missing is a crucial detail: We still don’t know the percentage of affordable units — and the plan could be put into action as soon as April!

As we and others have said, mixed-income buildings could have the unintended consequence of pushing up rents in the general area, both because the “market rate” units will be high for the area and because most of the “affordable” units will also be beyond the reach of most current residents. The more “affordable” a development is, the less likely it is to spur gentrification. Many new developments in the area for years have been 100 percent affordable (that is, subsidized), such as the Nehemiah houses, Spring Creek, and Gateway Elton II.

Some details of the plan: (more…)

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Wednesday’s Community Board 9 ULURP committee meeting — one of three planned and highly anticipated and long-awaited meetings on the topic of PLG rezoning — was disorderly and unproductive, according to bloggers and press who attended. The purpose of the meeting was a public discussion of the community board’s request to City Planning to study zoning in the area.

Long before the 23-story as-of-right tower at 626 Flatbush was even a hole in the ground (it topped out in December), residents of the area have been asking for a downzoning. But lately, the group called Movement to Protect the People, or MTOPP, has advocated no rezoning for a stretch of Empire Boulevard, above, where currently no housing is allowed. Other residents and members of the board say they would like to see housing there, as long as it’s not more than a certain number of stories, includes affordable housing, and caps are put on building heights throughout the neighborhood.

MTOPP’s leader, Alicia Boyd, says the process is corrupt and City Planning is likely to upzone most of the neighborhood if they do anything at all. MTOPP has been a thorn in the side of the board and local politicians and has drawn condemnation from some area residents for its disruptive tactics, threats of lawsuits and racially charged accusations.

Wednesday night, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo personally called out Boyd on her tactics, and the two got into a heated shouting match. “I want to say to you, personally, Alicia: What do you want to have happen here? You want to have fisticuffs right here?” Cumbo said, according to a report in DNAinfo.

We thought commenter Zach S, a self-proclaimed newcomer to the area, on local blog Q at Parkside had an interesting analysis of the situation:

MTOPP’s actions — shutting down public meetings, shouting down fellow members of the community, trying to stop a City Planning-led zoning study at all costs — are justifiable if it’s true that the city-led process can’t be trusted and that promises have been broken and can be expected to be broken again. If that’s the case, maintaining the status quo (which is bad) may be preferable to a rezoning that only accelerates the luxury units (which is even worse).

To read more, check out DNAinfo’s story, Q at Parkside’s two stories here and here, and a discussion thread on Brooklynian. Also, Truthout published a long feature on the dispute yesterday.

Racially Charged Shouting Match Heats up Crown Heights Rezoning Debate [DNA]
Notes From the ULURP Meeting [Q Parkside]
Cheap Post [Q Parkside]
CB9′s ULURP Meeting on Wednesday [Brooklynian]
“Progressive” Gentrification: One Community’s Struggle Against Affordable Housing [Truthout]

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A little storefront with lots of development potential just went up for sale at 770 Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush. TerraCRG is handling the sale. The single-story building is only 2,750 square feet, but a developer could build up to 13,640 square feet on the site.

The plot between between Woodruff and Caton avenues is only a few blocks from the 23-story rental tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue, in nearby Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

In September, the site changed hands for $699,000, public records show. Now the new owners want to flip it for $2,450,000. Also, any future development could qualify for 421a tax abatement (assuming it still exists in six months). GMAP

Photo via TerraCRG

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The mayor’s pastel-colored vision to develop East New York, above, with thousands of new units of mixed-income housing could backfire, making the area and others like it less affordable, said neighborhood residents and housing advocates quoted in a New York Times story: “Around New York, people who have watched luxury buildings and wealthy newcomers remake their streets are balking at the growth Mr. de Blasio envisions, saying the influx of market-rate apartments called for in the city’s plans could gut neighborhoods, not preserve them.”

The mayor’s affordable housing plan was the centerpiece of his State of the City speech yesterday, but it was light on specifics.

The Wall Street Journal and the Post also ran stories critical of the mayor’s plan. Some key points: Rents are unlikely to be low enough for the truly poor, union labor will increase costs, and locals will resist tall towers, said the Journal. An opinion piece in the Post called the plan “far fetched” and impractical. Residents fear an influx of higher-income newcomers, but “stagnation, not gentrification, is the more likely result,” according to the Post, because returns in low-income areas won’t be enough to offset the cost of the subsidized units. (more…)