bridging-gowanus-1-112514

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…)

empire-boulevard-112414

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…)

630-flushing-pfizer-112114

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]

3rd-street-gowanus-112114

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…)

957-marcy-avenue-1-103014

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

flatbush-avenue-072914

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]

camba-gardens-flatbush-100314

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

805-east-new-york-ave-affordable

The mayor’s affordable housing and rezoning plan seems to be causing real estate speculation, which could make the plan difficult to carry out. Land prices for development properties in East New York have nearly tripled in one year, from $32 a square foot to $93 a square foot, reported The Wall Street Journal. (Though a careful look at the Journal’s accompanying graphic seems to show an unexplained spike in 2011.) The sample size was very small, as both the Journal and Gothamist pointed out, but affordable housing developers said land is already too expensive for them. Even if affordable housing is built, it could have unintended consequences, according to the story.

“The de Blasio administration wants to create significant new development in East New York but without price increases that push out existing residents. That could be hard to do. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment has risen 10% to more than $1,200 a month from $1,082 a month in 2012, according to Nancy Packes, a development consultant.”

Higher Land Prices Test Affordable-Housing Plan [WSJ]
City’s East New York Study Included Only Five Properties [Gothamist]

cb9-empire-rezoning-092514

By all accounts, Tuesday’s Community Board 9 meeting was a doozy. From what we can piece together from some half dozen accounts in the media and what others have told us, since we weren’t present, in short, a huge number of opponents of upzoning Empire Boulevard disrupted the meeting, and Community Board 9 members responded in kind. Total chaos reigned, with lots of shouting and name calling; the board could not keep order and fanned the flames.

CB9 District Manager Pearl Miles yelled “shut up” at the crowd repeatedly (there is a video), District Leader Geoffrey Davis refused to relinquish the microphone, and the police were summoned multiple times to keep order. (For a play-by-play, including an outrageous exchange between the crowd and District Leader for the 43rd Assembly Diana Richardson, read the story on Brooklyn Brief.)

Eventually, under pressure, the board took a vote on whether or not to rescind an earlier decision to study the rezoning. The vote to rescind passed, but then it turned out that it really didn’t, according to New York City rules for community board votes.

In the words of Q at Parkside blogger Tim Thomas, who favors the rezoning (or at least is not opposed to it):

Karim Camara and reps from every major official, from the Mayor on down, were there and they were absolutely floored, speechless. The guy from Yvette Clarke’s followed me out to the parking lot with eyes wide saying “how could you let this happen? this was INSANE!” I told him L’shanah Tova and rode home.

Meanwhile, upzoning opponent and MTOPP member Adrian Untermyer filed suit yesterday to get a copy of the community board’s bylaws.

At issue is whether Prospect Lefferts Gardens will rezone to end high-rise development, which has recently taken off in the neighborhood. Some residents blame tall buildings for gentrification while others say high-rise development will bring much needed affordable housing to the area.

CB9: Chaos and Cacophony Leave Empire Boulevard Vulnerable and Fate Uncertain [BK Brief]
If You Want To Know How Things Got Outa Hand…[Q at Parkside]
Wow. That Was Weird [Q at Parkside]
Correct That. The Motion Didn’t Pass [Q at Parkside]
Alicia Boyd: Proud Townhome Owner, Anti-Gentrification Activist [Q at Parkside]
Vote to Rescind Crown Heights Rezoning Study Sparks Confusion [DNA]
Residents Rip Proposed “Upzoning” on PLG-Crown Heights Border [NY Daily News]
Prospect Lefferts Gardens Residents Fight Rezoning on Empire Boulevard [Brownstoner]
Photo by DNAinfo

broadway-junction-station-092414

The area around the massive Broadway Junction transit hub in East New York is desolate and dangerous. For the neighborhood to flourish, it needs more people on the street, according to yet another report on the area calling for its redevelopment.

Specific recommendations include:

*Create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
*Close some roads.
*Consolidate land ownership.
*Repurpose the empty Long Island Rail Road substation into manufacturing and office space for “creative” companies a la Industry City in Sunset Park.
*Spur mixed-use development.

Redevelopment of the area would help the de Blasio administration meet its affordable housing goals, according to the report. Crain’s was the first to write about the report and its recommendations.

The document was authored by Urban Land Institute New York, a chapter of a D.C. think tank, and sponsored by the New York City Department of City Planning. The report stemmed from ULINY panels held over the summer.

Do you think this will work? And if it does work, who will benefit?

Broadway Junction Report [ULINY]
Dismal Bronx, Brooklyn Areas Have Potential [Crain's]

flatbush-avenue-072914

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. (more…)