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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. (more…)

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As rents surge in Crown Heights, pressure is mounting on Community Board 8 to rezone again to permit housing in the industrial-only area there, if we read between the lines of a story by WNYC correctly. The story quotes one area business owner and one community board member who support the idea of permitting residential housing on top of factories. (more…)

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Several community groups dissatisfied with Brad Lander’s “Bridging Gowanus” planning meetings are organizing their own forum, called “Take Back Gowanus,” Wednesday night. Katia Kelly of Pardon Me for Asking writes that the purpose of the meeting is to “bring local residents, business owners, and manufacturers together for a true democratic discussion on the future of Gowanus. The goal of ‘Take Back Gowanus’ is to create a manifesto of what the community wants to see in the neighborhood they live and work in.” Neighbors and community groups felt that Lander’s meetings were “highly curated affairs” where facilitators stuck to scripts and didn’t engage in a real discussion, according to Kelly.

(more…)

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A surprising group of allies, in particular housing advocates, are urging Mayor de Blasio not to turn the city’s protected industrial zones — including hotspots in Gowanus, above, Williamsburg and Bushwick — into housing. There has been a tug of war over these areas for years, particularly in areas such as Bushwick and Williamsburg where illegal loft dwellings are common, and in Gowanus, over new developments in industrial areas. (more…)

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As the city contemplates rezoning in East New York and elsewhere, City Planning has released a study that recommends increasing density along major thoroughfares there while keeping residential side streets as they are — not unlike the rezonings along 4th Avenue or in Crown Heights.

The report bills itself as a study of how to increase safety, jobs and affordable housing in East New York, rather than being a guide to upzoning. The report notes that “the area’s existing rowhouses and small apartment buildings, located on the residential side streets between the neighborhood’s retail corridors, have been a source of stability” for the neighborhood. The report recommends “contextual zoning” to retain and promote these buildings and to “ensure that new infill development complements the existing built residential character.”

Meanwhile, the report recommends new, mixed-income housing and mixed-use development “along key transit corridors,” especially Atlantic Avenue. Vacant, derelict and under-used sites there are ripe for development, according to the report:

Provide opportunities for thousands of new housing units as well as for jobs on vacant or underutilized sites along key transit corridors in East New York. Atlantic Avenue offers the greatest potential for higher-density, mixed-use development with several large strategic sites. New housing and neighborhood stores could also be supported by the existing transit lines along Pitkin Avenue and Fulton Street. A wide range of resources, including housing subsidies and zoning mechanisms, could ensure that this new housing would be affordable to households at a range of income levels.

The City Planning Department also wants to bring jobs and higher-density housing to Broadway Junction. It hopes to increase safety on the streets for pedestrians with better sidewalks, traffic lights and other improvements. NY YIMBY was the first to cover the report; it recommended more density than City Planning calls for.

Do you think a rezoning and more density is the key to improving the quality of life in East New York?

Image by City Planning

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A reader sent in these photographs of the rally in Manhattan Friday calling for a temporary moratorium on high-rise construction along the east side of Prospect Park in Prospect Lefferts Gardens while residents try to downzone the area. Our tipster said she counted at least 75 people in attendance, although the photos seem to show fewer.

Speakers at the event included City Councilman Mathieu Eugene and Community Board 9 member Diana Richardson. The protest was organized by the Prospect Park East Network and cosponsored by the Lefferts Manor Association, Flatbush Tenants Coalition, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association.

(more…)

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The New York Times spoke to a few people in the areas most likely to be affected by Mayor de Blasio’s plan to upzone Brooklyn to construct more affordable housing. The gist of it is that people welcome new buildings if they are truly affordable, create jobs and are a reasonable height — four stories, not 40.

New housing should not overwhelm the neighborhood’s character, one resident, Tommy Smiling, said as he stood outside a bodega on Pitkin Avenue. In swiftly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn like Clinton Hill, where Mr. Smiling’s son lives, “it’s all brownstones, and then you have this skyscraper,” he said. “I’m not into that. Four stories? O.K., that’s not bad.”

Pardon Me for Asking Blogger Katia Kelly believes the plan is a giveaway to developers under the guise of affordable housing. “It’s, ‘The developers want to build — let’s tack on a couple of apartments here that are affordable,’” she said. Most interviewed said construction must be accompanied by appropriate increases in transportation, schools and sewers. The de Blasio plan allows for that, according to the Times.

For our part, we are concerned the plan could Manhattanize the outer boroughs without making a dent in affordability. Rezonings could produce a ton of ultra-expensive high-rise housing that will vastly increase housing costs in ungentrified areas such as along Atlantic Avenue and Broadway from Barclays Center and the BQE into East New York. (Above, Broadway Junction, where Broadway, Fulton and Atlantic intersect on the borders of Bushwick, Ocean Hill, Brownsville and East New York.) With no set proportion of affordable units, there could be opportunities for abuse and corruption. There’s also a practicality issue: How will the city have time to review every as-of-right development?

What’s your opinion?

With Caution, a Poor Corner of Brooklyn Welcomes an Affordable Housing Plan [NY Times]

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Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who grew up on Gates near Broadway, wants to upzone Broadway from Williamsburg to East New York. The proposal was buried in a recommendation to the City Council about a review of a six-story mixed-use housing project called Henry Apartments in Ocean Hill, reported The New York Daily News.

Adams envisions 10 story buildings with 50 percent market rate apartments, 30 percent middle income and 20 percent low income. The upzoned area would stretch for four miles from where the BQE crosses Broadway at Marcy in South Williamsburg to Broadway Junction in East New York, cutting through Bushwick, Bed Stuy, and Ocean Hill along the way. The stretch through Bushwick, Bed Stuy and Ocean Hill is dotted with empty lots from arson fires, looting and blackouts of the 1970s.

If the proposal succeeds, it will set off a huge land rush of development and gentrification along the corridor. However, we just don’t see how it would be possible to build comfortable apartments here. The J, M and Z trains run on an elevated track along exactly this path. Triple-paned glass and other measures don’t seem like they would offset the incredible noise and vibrations. Today, even with skyrocketing property values and rents pushing people into every imaginable cranny, there is still virtually no residential use of the corridor today, legal or illegal. Above the retail street level, the buildings are almost all used for storage or simply empty.

Above, an empty lot on Broadway in Bushwick. After the jump, another empty lot on Broadway in Ocean Hill/Bed Stuy.

What do you think of the idea? (more…)

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New York Daily News has annointed Williamsburg’s Wythe Avenue the new Meatpacking District, which will probably sound like pretty old news to anyone who’s visited the area in the last few years. It’s only going to get more so, predicted the story, which ran down three of the hotel projects planned for the street, which The Real Deal also profiled last week.

The gravitational pull of Brooklyn’s new nightlife district is giving new meaning to the old term “bridge and tunnel,” according to the story.

“The whole bridge-and-tunnel terminology is becoming outdated,” said Brooklyn Bowl cofounder Charley Ryan. “There are people who live in Brooklyn and think of people in Manhattan as bridge and tunnel.” The Daily News also found a Brazilian tourist who said he spent 90 percent of his visit in Brooklyn. “Williamsburg has a better version of everything I come to New York for. Better people, better food, better clubs and better views of Manhattan,” he said.

Opening soon at the far end of Wythe is the club in Kinfolk Studios, to be called Kinfolk 94. “Made of exposed wood and shaped like a hippie eco-lodge in the Pacific Northwest, 94 is slated to become a rocking dance and performance club when it opens next month,” said the News. Its cedar geodesic dome was praised by the Times in February as an exception to the trend of monotonous architecture in Williamsburg.

“Every year this block gets more tourists,” said Kinfolk spokesman Felipe Delerme. “By 2020, it’s going to be Times Square,” he said, only partly joking.

Wythe Avenue Soars as Global Nightlife Mecca [NY Daily News]

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Community group Prospect East Network has arranged a town hall meeting with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams about high-rise development near Prospect Park in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

PEN has said it wants Hudson Companies to lower the height of its planned 23-story tower at 626 Flatbush to nine stories, which it says is “the current zoning limit for new development in all the other neighborhoods surrounding Prospect Park,” and make 30 percent of the units affordable. They also want to downzone Flatbush and Ocean avenues so new developments would not rise higher than 80 feet.

When we stopped by a week ago at 626 Flatbush, above, the site had been cleared but construction had not yet started. The planned development is as-of-right, which means it complies with existing zoning and does not need any variances.

The meeting will take place from 7 to 9 pm on Monday, April 7 at the John Hus Moravian Church at 153 Ocean Avenue. Locals are also planning a prayer vigil before the meeting, at 6:15 pm in front of 626 Flatbush Avenue. Click through to the jump to see the meeting flyer and another photo of the building site. (more…)

The City Council voted yesterday to rezone the former site of the Rheingold Brewery in Bushwick, where developer Read Property plans to build a massive complex of about 10 buildings spanning about five blocks, DNAinfo reported. The mixed-use buildings will rise seven and eight stories high and house 977 rental apartments and 54,000 square feet of retail.

Councilwoman Diana Reyna and local housing advocates negotiated with the developer to increase the number of affordable units from 20 percent to 30 percent of the development. However, as DNAinfo pointed out, the deal with Read is not legally binding and not part of the plan approved by City Council.

Rezoning of Rheingold Brewery Site in Bushwick Approved by City Council [DNAinfo]
Bushwick Community Groups Call for Deal With Rheingold Brewery Developer [Brownstoner]
Rendering from Read Property via New York Daily News

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A larger than anticipated crowd of over 200 people showed up to discuss their concerns and wishes and help plan the future of Gowanus development Monday night at The Children’s School on Carroll Street. The meeting was the first of a series of public planning forums called Bridging Gowanus convened by local politicians about the ongoing development of and cleanup plan for Gowanus. The Pratt Center for Community Development moderated and presented findings from previous invitation-only meetings held over the summer.

City Council Member Brad Lander remarked that with the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site and the impending transition at City Hall, it’s an important moment for the community to come together and establish a shared vision for the infrastructure of the low-lying and industrially polluted Gowanus area before planning begins. The consensus of the crowd was that every effort should be made to preserve the area’s socioeconomic diversity and keep it affordable for the mixed uses (manufacturing, residential, commercial, artistic) that currently exist. A number of local artists in attendance expressed fears of gentrification and said they felt threatened by the diminishing affordability of studio space. In brief, locals called for a rezoning to preserve affordability and Gowanus’ eclectic identity as a community with vibrant street life and activity.

Other issues raised included the need for a permanent protection plan against coastal disasters; it was noted that the current recovery infrastructure is insufficient to handle even regular rain. The group also said another priority is more schools and suitable health care facilities to accommodate the area’s growing residential population. They would also like the canal to be opened up as a recreational public waterway.

A series of followup meetings will be held early in 2014. In the meantime, anyone interested in joining a working group can contact info@BridgingGowanus.org.

Gowanus Residents Meeting to Create Development Plan [Brownstoner]