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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
- City Planning Votes in Favor of Rezoning for Controversial 80 Flatbush Avenue Development
- Borough President Wants Height Reduction at Controversial 80 Flatbush Development
- Community Board Votes Against Controversial Towers at 80 Flatbush Avenue in Boerum Hill