Councilmember Levin Tells Developers Behind 80 Flatbush That Works Still Needs to Be Done

The proposed building site. Photo by Susan De Vries

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Is there a way to strike a balance?

This is the question Councilmember Stephen Levin asked both the developers of 80 Flatbush Avenue and the community advocates who had gathered yesterday morning for the City Council’s public hearing, the latest step in the city’s ongoing ULURP process.

“What is appropriate on a lot like this?” Levin asked. While noting that the developers had made a “good faith” effort to address some of the community’s issues with their proposal, which calls for two towers, 900 apartments — including 200 affordable units — and two schools, there was still a fundamental issue left unresolved: the location.

Photo by Craig Hubert

Photo by Craig Hubert

Levin described the proposed development as existing in an area where “three zoning frameworks” collide: the high rises of Downtown Brooklyn, the brownstones and townhouses of Boerum Hill, and Schermerhorn Street.

He continued to bring this point to the front of the conversation for the rest of the hearing, mentioning a reference in the 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn to the proposed development area as a “transitional block.”

Representatives for Alloy defended their proposed spot rezoning as a response to significant growth in Brooklyn. “We need to accommodate that type of growth with more progressive zoning strategies like this,” Jared Della Valle, CEO and cofounder of Alloy, said.

“It’s important to be thinking forward,” Della Valle added. “Not just looking at the past.”

brooklyn development 80 flatbush

Photo by Susan De Vries

Representatives for Alloy also made a point of acknowledging that while the zoning request may not seem to take into account the specific elements of the “transitional block,” the design of the project does — through setbacks, lower heights and the removal of parking along State Street.

“Design is important, it’s totally important,” Levin said in response. “But there’s only so much that you can do when still working with a framework that now discards the rationale set forward in 2004 for why this is zoned the way it is.”

80 flatbush

Photo by Cara Greenberg

This is close to the argument that opponents of the project have been making for months: The proposed complex remains out of context and will overwhelm the surrounding neighborhoods. More than 50 people provided testimony on Tuesday, with about half speaking in favor and half against the proposal.

In May, the community board voted against the proposal, and in June Borough President Eric Adams recommended a height reduction. The City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises is expected to vote soon, after which the entire City Council will vote. After that, the Mayor has a five-day window to veto the City Council’s decision — or let it stand (the Mayor does not have to approve the project).

Levin had other concerns: the deal between the ECF and the developer, the breakdown of affordable units, the rationale for school seats. But in the end, he remained committed to a compromise.

“This is a transitional block under the current zoning framework,” he said. “I consider it a transitional block, therefore this is something we’re going to have to try to reconcile over the next few weeks.”

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