Council signs off on Karl Fischer-designed condos

City Council approved Martin Wydra’s condominium development, designed by architect Karl Fischer. Image: Karl Fischer Architecture PLLC.

City Council approved rezoning despite Council Member Tony Avella’s objection. On February 27, 2008, the City Council approved developer Martin Wydra’s rezoning and special permit proposal to build an eight-story mixed-use building and a 259space parking garage at 886 Dahill Road in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Currently, one- and two-story vacant industrial buildings occupy the 66,000-square-foot site, which is located on Dahill Road between 50th Street and Avenue I. The proposal would rezone the site from an M1-1 and R5 designation to a C4-5X.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on Wydra’s proposal in December 2007. State Assemblyman James F. Brennan and Council Member Simcha Felder, both of whom represent Borough Park residents, supported Wydra and claimed that the proposal would provide the area with desperately needed housing. Local residents, however, testified against the proposal, criticizing it for what they saw as the building’s out-of-context height and adverse effect on traffic and congestion. The Commission approved the proposal on January 28, 2008, but not without modifying it to address the residents’ concerns. The Commission also required Wydra to work with the Department of Transportation on traffic mitigation measures.

When the applications reached the Council’s subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises a month later, Wydra announced that he had met with local residents on several occasions and further revised the plans in order to address the concerns raised at the Commission’s public hearing. He agreed to shrink the building’s retail floor area by 95 percent and cut its height from 12 to eight stories.

Wydra also claimed that he had custom-designed the building’s residential units to accommodate Borough Park’s Orthodox Jewish community with its larger families and households: eighty percent of the residential units would have at least three bedrooms. Local residents, however, remained opposed to the proposal, arguing that the building’s units are market-rate, not affordable, and the development would still exacerbate local traffic congestion.

Council Member Tony Avella, Chair of the subcommittee, expressed concern over how emergency vehicles would access the building, as the proposal did not appear to provide adequate street access. Wydra’s architect, Karl Fischer, responded that the building would be set back from the street by a landscaped esplanade “buffer,” which would be reinforced to withstand use by emergency vehicles.

Council Member Kendall Stewart asked Wydra if any of the building’s residential units would be affordable, or if he still planned to offer all of them at market-rate. Wydra responded that they will still be market-rate units, but that he had agreed to set aside a $1 million fund to assist families in making down payments on the units. Council Member Felder claimed that most of the residents in the affected neighborhood favored the project; and went on to say that while he personally would not want the building in his backyard, it represented a unique opportunity to improve homeownership in the community.

The subcommittee approved the applications with only Avella, who called the proposal “woefully out of character,” voting in opposition. Two days later, the full Council approved.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: CPC, Neg. Dec.
Comm. Bd.: BK 12, Against, 31-0-0
Boro. Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-1
Council: App’d, 44-2-4

Council: Dahill Road Rezoning, Brooklyn (Feb. 27, 2008).

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