City Planning Approves Modified Rezoning of Summit Street in Brooklyn

Rendering of applicant’s proposed seven-story building at 41 Summit Street in Brooklyn. Image Credit: CPC.

The applicant’s proposed rezoning received strong pushback from the community. On January 9, 2019, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on a proposed rezoning in the Columbia Street Waterfront District in Brooklyn. The applicant, 41 Summit Street LLC, sought a zoning map and a zoning text change to facilitate the development of a seven-story, approximately 10,000 square foot residential building at 41 Summit Street. The application was presented to the City Planning Commission by several members of Sheldon Lobel, including Richard Lobel and Sandy Hornick.

More than half of the block on which the applicant’s property is located is zoned for residential uses with some commercial overlay, allowing buildings with heights up to approximately four stories. The western portion of the block, where the applicant’s property is located, is still zoned for manufacturing uses. The applicant proposed to rezone the applicant’s lot along with two adjoining lots from manufacturing to a mix of residential and commercial uses that would allow seven- to nine-story buildings. The block is currently dominated by three-story buildings.

The three properties that would be effected by the rezoning are the applicant’s 41 Summit Street property as well as adjacent 75 and 79 Hamilton Street properties. The properties face the intersection of Summit Street and Hamilton Avenue and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel exhaust facility.

Currently, the applicant’s site supports a two-story building that was formerly used for manufacturing and is vacant. The 75 Hamilton Street property supports a three story building that has a commercial ground floor and two residential units that violate existing zoning. The 79 Hamilton Avenue property is home to a two-story building owned by Chase Bank. The proposed new mixed-use residential and commercial zoning will allow these buildings to retain the commercial uses on the ground floors, which a residential zoning alone would not do.

The properties are located in a mixed use area, which also contains several community gardens, including the Backyard Community Garden, abutting the proposed rezoning area. Public transportation options are limited with the closest train station almost a mile away, and the B61 bus running along Columbia Street.

The applicant proposed to have the properties designated as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires permanently affordable housing set-asides for residential developments with over ten units or 12,500 square feet. Given the applicant’s proposed 10,000 square foot building, however, the threshold for MIH would not be met making the applicant exempt from the program. Similarly, if 75 Hamilton Street is ever redeveloped for residences, given its small size, it would not meet the 12,500 square foot requirement under MIH, making it also exempt from the program unless it is joined into one lot with 79 Hamilton Ave.

On November 14, 2018, the application received an unfavorable recommendation from Brooklyn Community Board 6, with a vote of 28 against, zero in favor, and one abstaining.

At the January 9, 2019, City Planning hearing over a dozen area residents spoke in opposition to the proposed rezoning and the applicant’s proposed seven-story building. Residents thought the applicant’s building would be out of context on the block largely characterized by three-story buildings and many were concerned with the amount of shadow that would be cast on the neighboring Community Backyard Garden. Residents testified that they were not opposed to a rezoning that would be contextual with existing residential zoning on the block.

In response to City Planning Commissioners’ questions as to appropriateness of a residential rezoning that would allow the seven story building, Lobel stated that rezoning these properties to a residential zoning that would cap their heights to a maximum of four stories would not be feasible given these properties’ orientation toward Hamilton Avenue and the Battery Tunnel exhaust facility. Lobel pointed out that the height of the applicant’s new building would be limited under the proposed rezoning to 65 feet, even though the rezoning allows buildings as high as 90 feet with MIH. This is the result of the Zoning Resolution’s transition rule which limits the heights of buildings in higher-density districts when they adjoin certain lower density-districts.

On January 14, 2019, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams issued a recommendation of approval conditioned on a rezoning of the three lots to the kind of residential zoning as already exists on majority of the block.

Following the City Planning public hearing, the applicant submitted documentation to City Planning evaluating development potential of its site under two alternate types of residential rezonings that would mandate different building envelopes. Each was accompanied with a corresponding shadow analysis showing the impact of the potential new building on the surrounding area, including the garden.

On February 27, 2019, the City Planning Commission modified the rezoning and approved the application. Upon review, the City Planning Commission approved a residential rezoning that typically allows buildings between six and eight stories high. Under the approved rezoning, the applicant’s property will likely be developed into a five-story building, as the transition rule will now limit the maximum height of the building to 55 feet. The 79 Hamilton Ave site could have a building as tall as 80 feet with MIH, while a new building at 75 Hamilton Ave would likely have a building with a maximum height of 70 feet.

The modified application will now proceed to the City Council for review and final approval.


By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).


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