Crown Heights Community Board, Developer Forge Deal to Save Jobs in Rezoning

The Grand Avenue rezoning would make way for a nine-story, 64-unit building. Rendering via Archamaera

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Crown Heights’ Community Board 8 has hammered out a first-of-its-kind agreement with a private developer to set aside space for artisans and light manufacturing in a new, mixed-use development.

The agreement, which the civic panel recently brokered with EMP Capital, requires sections on the ground floor of the planned Pacific Street and Grand Avenue building to be slated only for uses compliant to the board’s vision for the so-called M-Crown rezoning — which would include space that the board deems useful for job creation.

If the developers behind the building fail to comply with the agreement, the Department of Buildings may inspect the facility and dole out fines — a first for the city’s community boards, whose agreements with developers during the rezoning process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, aren’t usually enforced by city agencies.

“It’s really pretty unique,” Gib Veconi, a member of Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee told Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t think that a community board has ever negotiated land use stipulations with a private applicant in a ULURP process in exchange for approval before.”

crown heights rezoning

A map of the rezoning, with M-districts in pink. Map via Department of City Planning

In the works for some time, the agreement requires EMP Capital to set aside 25 percent of the proposed development’s ground floor to uses such as light manufacturing or community space. EMP Capital hopes to develop a nine-story, 64-unit building at 985-979 Pacific Street and 513 Grand Avenue, currently a vacant lot.

Plans submitted to the Department of Buildings by the developer will have to include the designated space, and fines paid by the developer for noncompliance will go directly to Friends of Community Board 8, the nonprofit that supports the civic board — and the board will use the funds to support manufacturing uses in the district.

The lot is currently zoned for manufacturing use. To add apartments, the developer must go through the public review process, ULURP, in the hopes of getting the zoning changed to an R7-D.

The site lies squarely within the boundaries of the proposed M-Crown rezoning: Atlantic Avenue, Grand Avenue, Bergen Street and Franklin Avenue.

crown heights

The corner lot on Pacific Street and Grand Avenue in 2016. Photo by Joe Strini for PropertyShark

Caught up in years of debate between community members, the M-Crown rezoning aims to upzone the industrial swath of northern Crown Heights to allow for residential development — with the caveat that those developments include light industrial uses in order to preserve jobs in the area.

Until 2015, the community board opposed housing in the area on the grounds it would bring gentrification and squashed an attempt to build artists’ housing there.

Borough President Eric Adams and local Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo threw their support behind the proposal last year, with Cumbo playing a role in finalizing the deal for the Pacific Street development, according to Veconi.

“Brooklyn’s real estate market continues to put pressure not just on working people in need of housing, but also on artisan and creative sector businesses who are now facing unprecedented stress due to COVID-19,” Cumbo said in a statement. “We rely on these creative sector businesses not only to ensure New York City remains our country’s center of arts and culture but also to provide a range of employment opportunities for a diverse population in a gentrifying neighborhood.”

The proposed development will offer 25 percent of its units as “below market rate” under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, with the regulated units targeted towards tenants making 60 percent of the district Area Median Income — roughly $61,440 for a family of three.

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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