Council Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Grand Ave and Pacific St Rezoning

979-985 Pacific Street Rendering Image Credit: City Planning

Council Member Cumbo applauds Community Board for involvement in zoning process. On February 12, 2020, the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing on EMP Capital Group’s rezoning on the northeast and southeast corners of Grand Ave and Pacific Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The rezoning would facilitate the construction of a nine-story mixed use development on the northeast corner at 979-985 Pacific Street. Read CityLand’s prior coverage of this rezoning and proposed development here.

The proposed rezoning would change the manufacturing zoned district to a residential zoning with a commercial overlay. The proposed development would be a nine-story mixed use building with approximately 64 residential units above the ground floor commercial space. The residential units will be offered according to Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1 which requires that twenty-five percent of the units offered be affordable to households making an average of 60 percent Area Median Income. For a family of three, 60 percent AMI equates to approximately $57,660 per year. The proposed rezoning is intentionally similar to the Brooklyn Community Board 8’s proposed M-Crown rezoning.

The proposed development is currently on a vacant lot in an M1-1 zoned district. Brooklyn Community Board 8 refers to this area as the “M-Crown” zoning area. Community Board 8’s M-Crown rezoning proposal essentially seeks to revitalize and encourage investment into an area that is predominantly zoned manufacturing and contains significant vacancies. The board believes they can do this by injecting residential and commercial uses in the area. The M-Crown rezoning is not currently complete but discussions have continued with the City.

Elie Pariente of EMP Capital Group and Richard Lobel of Sheldon Lobel P.C. presented the application to the subcommittee. Subcommittee Chair Francisco Moya asked the applicants to expound on the decision to use an R7D designation.  The applicants explained how they consulted with the Community Board and were aware of the M-Crown resolution as a general guideline. They also explained that a mixed use development would make sense considering the lot’s vacancy and because there is a general need and desire for affordable housing in the area. Both during the presentation and during questioning, Lobel explained the decision to choose the R7D residential district over the slightly smaller R7A residential district. Lobel stated “the existence of an R7A [rezoned area] already on Pacific Street and given this [proposed development’s] location on Pacific Street and Grand Avenue, a block away from Atlantic Avenue…the added density was appropriate,” adding “greater street access would allow for slightly higher density.”

The community board purportedly conditioned their support of the application, on a signed agreement with the developer. The applicants explained that the morning of the hearing they entered into a binding agreement with the community board and that declaration would be recorded against the property. The declaration would mandate that 25 percent of the ground floor commercial uses would be dedicated to M-Crown uses in perpetuity. M-Crown uses include community facility space, some business establishments (i.e. caterers, commercial kitchens) and other light industrial uses. In responding to Subcommittee Chair Moya, the applicants explained that the agreement also restricts the height of the development to the nine-stories already proposed. The R7D district would otherwise permit the developer to build ten to eleven-stories “as-of-right.”

Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo who represents District 35 in Brooklyn, where the development is proposed, took a moment to recognize the Community Board’s efforts. Cumbo stated “Rezonings usually come down from City Planning, but this community planned out what a rezoning should look like…the reversal of roles is very exciting,” adding, these efforts will help “set a precedent throughout the city.” Council Member Cumbo also questioned the applicants on the proposed ground floor M-Crown space, their commitment to local hiring and the development’s sustainability and resiliency efforts. The applicants were happy to acquiesce to all of the Council Member’s requests and stated they are working on sustainability and resiliency measures. Per the M-Crown space, Pariente said it was still early in the process to determine a ground-floor tenant but that EMP Capital Group is looking at a “Pre-K” facility or a wholesale kitchen. Cumbo was in favor of the Pre-K option.

The Subcommittee vote was originally schedule for February 26, 2020 but was unexpectedly pushed back. The vote is now expected sometime in March, 2020.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)

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