Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee rejected a proposed 23-story mixed-use tower that would include more than 100 new housing units and an expansion of the Brooklyn Music School at 130 St. Felix Street, saying the proposed development is too large and doesn’t have enough affordable housing.
“This doesn’t even belong here,” said committee member Ernest Augustus at a Wednesday virtual hearing. “This is massive, it impinges on the historic district.”
Manhattan-based developers Gotham Organization applied for a rezoning to allow them to build the 267-foot-tall structure in the vacant lot right next to the iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, until recently the tallest building in the borough. The proposed tower is just over half the height of its landmarked 512-foot-high Art Deco neighbor and would top out at 20 feet below the larger building’s shoulder.
The scheme, first unveiled in late 2019, came before the board a year ago for a prior application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and LPC gave their nod of approval in August after Gotham and architects with FXCollaborative cut the height by 20 feet and moved the bulk back 40 feet from St. Felix Street to be less imposing on the row of brownstones across the street.
They needed LPC’s approval to build in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District, but now also need to go through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to get the right zoning.
If they get their ULURP application approved, Gotham plans to break ground in the first quarter of 2022 and wrap by mid-2024.
The development would allow the expansion of the adjacent Brooklyn Music School on the building’s lower two floors and in the basement, and would host 120 new housing units above, some 36 of which would be income-restricted condos.
A dozen of those will target folks making 70 to 90 percent of the Area Median Income, which equates to a salary of $58,653 to 116,348 a year, depending on the size of the household. The remaining 24 affordable units will be set aside for people making 100 percent of the AMI, or about $83,790 to $129,276 a year.
CB2 members said at the May 19 hearing they want to help out the music school, whose leaders said they are bursting at the seams in their current building, but that the new campus shouldn’t come at the cost of a predominantly luxury apartment tower.
“I like the fact that we’re looking out for BAM [sic] and that we’re trying to help them out,” said Bill Flounoy. “The affordable housing truly is not affordable for our Brooklyn district.”
However, the affordable units overwhelmingly target lower incomes than the median household income for Community Board 2, which in 2018 was $110,230, according to figures by New York University’s Furman Center.
Another longtime member worried that the subway lines running beneath St. Felix Street and adjacent Ashland Place would cause the street to not be able to hold the big new building, citing an incident in 1997 when a water main break caused the soil to shift and forced several residents to vacate their homes.
“They can’t give me enough substantiation that they’re going to build something like that when the block fell in with nothing like that,” said John Dew.
Gotham exec Bryan Kelly said he wouldn’t take those concerns lightly and noted that the developer will enter into an agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and that both the private company and the transit agency will send their engineers into the tunnels to study the loads and review the design of the building.
Prior to the committee’s vote, members of the public testified for more than an hour and a half about the development.
One 11-year local urged the board to not turn their nose up at the project, which could offer longtime renters like him a shot at homeownership in a well-off area.
“What benefit does the no-action condition offer to the community,” asked Shaurav Datta. “Does it offer BMS exercising expanded influence on the cultural footprint of the district? No. Does it offer 36 new affordable homes with a path to homeownership? No. As an 11-year lifelong renter, that is something that is something I am really excited by but we’re not going to get any of that in the no-action option.”
Nevertheless, the committee voted nine in favor, three against to recommend the city reject the ULURP application. CB2 will hold another vote at an upcoming full board or executive committee meeting to issue their advisory recommendation before the proposal heads to Borough President Eric Adams’s office for another advisory vote.
The beep will hold his virtual hearing on the project on Wednesday, June 2, at 6 p.m., a spokeswoman said.
Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.
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