There was a consensus in the room, if only slightly.
Residents who gathered in the Crown Gardens Community Room in Crown Heights for Community Board 9’s ULURP Committee meeting Tuesday night were unanimous about their displeasure regarding the main topic on the agenda, which was the redevelopment of the old spice factory, originally Consumer’s Park Brewery, at 960 Franklin Avenue in south Crown Heights.
For the redevelopment to happen, the developer is seeking a rezoning of the site under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program.
“This is the equivalent of a neighborhood rezoning,” Esteban Giron, a member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union and part of CB9’s land use committee, told the audience. “This is major.”
The current proposal comprises six towers, ranging from 15 to 37 stories high. Included will be 1,500 apartments, half of which will be affordable, with 300 of those at 50 percent of the area median income, according to Michael Liburd, chair of Brooklyn Community Board 9’s ULURP committee, which considers land use and zoning variances.
Continuum, the developer, said they will have a new proposal in the new couple of weeks, Liburd told the crowd. “I doubt that the new plan calls for reducing the size of these buildings,” he added. “I expressed that this community is looking to downzone, so 37 stories is a nonstarter.”
Everybody who spoke was in agreement, even if some took issue with exactly how they should proceed. When Liburd began, his words signaled a compromise between the community and the developer.
“What should we be asking for around this project?” he asked.
“Nothing!” a number of people shouted back.
Liburd attempted to quiet down the crowd numerous times, some of whom expressed they were becoming increasingly frustrated at what they felt was a discussion that was going in circles and a general lack of input from the public. At times, minor arguments derailed conversations, and a general confusion over the details being discussed caused the meeting to quickly lose focus.
“We do not need to engage the public at these meetings,” Liburd said at one point, seemingly out of frustration, to the dismissive shouts of those who felt they were not able to speak.
While Liburd attempted to unite the crowd by reminding them that they were all on the same page in terms of their rejection of the proposal, others such as Tim Thomas, a CB9 member and author of the Q at Parkside blog, remained skeptical. “My cynicism just keeps growing,” he said. “Basically, the die has been cast on most of this stuff. But I think keeping up the fight is important.”
The activist Alicia Boyd, who for most of the meeting stood in the corner, filming the proceedings, thunderously spoke of the proposed development’s relationship to the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.
“We are now considering the idea that we can negotiate to have a 40-story building impede on the garden when the whole reason it was downzoned was to protect it,” she said. “This is our neighborhood. That is our garden.”
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