How high is too high?
This was the question that was repeatedly raised at a community meeting hosted by the Fort Greene Association on Monday night to discuss the proposal for 80 Flatbush Avenue, a controversial development plan at the nexus of Boerum Hill, Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn.
What most of the residents were certain of is that 74 stories, which is the height of the highest tower of the proposed pair, is too much. There is also the problem that the towers don’t fit in to the surrounding brownstone neighborhood, are too glassy, and cut off views of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower across the street, aka 1 Hanson Place, they said.
“We’ve done a lot to address a lot of these concerns,” said AJ Pires, the president of Alloy. He said that the former rendering is not representative of the current design. “Not everything we agree on, but we continue to improve the project with community input.”
But for many of the dozens in attendance, there was still a host of other issues to address. Ben Richardson, a board member of the 1 Hanson Place condo in Fort Greene, gave a detailed presentation that stressed the “fairly unprecedented” proposed floor area ratio, also known as FAR, of 18, among other concerns, and reminded everyone that this was still a proposal and had not even begun the official public review process, or ULURP, expected to kick off in a month or so.
The development, which will occupy a whole block, calls for two towers, 900 apartments — including 200 affordable units — and two schools. Two historic buildings will be retained, although not the fairly ordinary two buildings covered in artist Katie Merz’s recently completed murals.
The Boerum Hill Association has circulated a petition against the project.
Alloy began amassing property on the block some years ago. In 2015, it leased ground rights to 80 Flatbush from owner Kimaqu Corporation for $49,778,320, according to public records. In 2016, the city’s Educational Construction Fund (ECF) called for a request for proposals for schools on city-owned land on the block and Alloy was selected for the project this year, according to a timeline on the developer’s website.
Dwight Smith of the Boerum Hill Association questioned the developer’s experience. “Why doesn’t this developer have a track record with large-scale projects?” he asked. Alloy’s developments include 1 John Street in Dumbo and the Dumbo Townhouses at 55 Water Street, whose somewhat Brutalist design was a hit with architecture buffs and critics.
Other residents expressed concerns over the lack of open space, more transparency in the financial dealings regarding the development, and a lack of assurance that the affordable housing, which will arrive in the second phase of the project scheduled for completion in 2025, will actually be built.
The proposal is part of a trend of large developments that locals say is out of scale with low-rise Brooklyn, such as the coming supertall at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension next to the landmarked Dime Savings Bank and Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH), which Mayor de Blasio campaigned against and ultimately did not receive a rezoning.
The Downtown Brooklyn block was rezoned as part of the Special Downtown Brooklyn District in 2001, which allows residential buildings of approximately 210 feet high.
The as-of-right zoning has no height limit, and an as-of-right development would likely be more than 400 feet tall, a spokesman for Alloy told Brownstoner. It would contain far fewer apartments — about 280 — and no affordable units, according to the project’s website.
For most of the 20th century, the landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower was the tallest building in Brooklyn and could be seen from miles around.
At the end, the questions came back to the sheer size of the buildings, which many felt overshadowed some of the project’s other benefits. “This is an immense building in the middle of brownstone neighborhoods,” one man pleaded.
Or, as one woman yelled, “Take your freaky building somewhere else!”
- Watch Artist Katie Merz Create a Mural on Future Site of Controversial DoBro Tower on Flatbush
- How Six Controversial Proposed Skyscrapers Will Radically Transform Brooklyn’s Skyline
- Hipsters or Height? Brooklyn-the-Brand Versus Brooklyn-the-Megacity