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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…)

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After months of suspense, then a postponed meeting due to this week’s snowstorm, now Prospect Lefferts Gardens and southern Crown Heights’s Community Board 9 has scheduled three public meetings to hash out its controversial request for a zoning study.

On Wednesday, February 4, the ULURP committee will have its first meeting in about a year to “review and discuss” the rewording of the controversial request, according to a notice on the board’s website. Then a second meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 11, to go over the specific wording of the request and vote on it, prior to presenting it to the full board. (If we read the notice correctly, the actual writing of the request will take place in private somewhere between the two meetings. This could also be controversial, though efficient.) The full board will consider the wording of the request on Tuesday, February 24.

Above, Empire Boulevard, one of the areas that might be included in a zoning study.

Community Board 9 Coverage [Brownstoner]

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The new housing generated by the de Blasio’s rezoning of East New York will be mostly subsidized, according to new details revealed by the administration Saturday. Other than that, the plan follows the same pattern carved out by Amanda Burden and the Bloomberg administration, as New York YIMBY pointed out: Upzone the avenues, downzone the residential side streets.

That means an upzone for Atlantic Avenue from Sheffield Avenue to Euclid Avenue, with buildings as high as 12 stories. It looks less sweeping than we were expecting, a much smaller area. Surprisingly, a wedge of Ocean Hill is also included.

The area, nestled around Atlantic between Broadway, Eastern Parkway and New York Avenue, will be upzoned and downzoned on a block-by-block basis, with affordable housing up to 12 stories going in along Broadway but downzoning planned for several blocks of low-density, 19th century houses between Herkimer and Atlantic. Interestingly, no rezoning for the manufacturing areas is planned, according to YIMBY.

Click here to see the map in more detail.

We’re wondering which particular projects and developers will benefit from the plan, but so far it looks good to us. What do you think of it?

De Blasio Administration Unveils Details of East New York Plan [NYY]

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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…)