Council votes down rezoning for Bed-Stuy site

Citing a need for jobs, Council rejects proposal to rezone manufacturing site for 49 new housing units. On October 27,2005, the City Council overturned the Planning Commission’s approval of an application to rezone a vacant, 19,680-square foot site from manufacturing to residential to facilitate the development of 49 units of housing in Bedford -Stuyvesant.

The applicant, Middleland Inc., argued at the hearing before the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises that the site was unique. It was surrounded by residential uses and had been residentially- zoned until 1975, when it was rezoned for use as a parking lot for IBM’s adjacent factory. A declaration restricting its use to parking for IBM remains recorded on the property. Since IBM closed the factory in 1 993, the site has remained fenced and vacant. Middleland planned to construct seven separate buildings on the site with seven units in each building.

Middleland’s attorney, Richard Lobel, told the Subcommittee that the Community Board had accused the developer of proposing “segregated housing.” Lobel pointed out that Middleland had committed to making 20 percent of the units affordable and was working with HDC. Lobel asked the Subcommittee to delay the vote on the rezoning until specifics with HDC could be presented to the Council. If the Subcommittee did vote to deny the rezoning, Lobel urged that at the very least the Council vote to remove the restrictive declaration limiting the site’s use to parking.

Cynthia Pinn, from Brooklyn Community Board 3, testified in opposition, explaining that the Board had unanimously voted to disapprove the application. Citing a 40 percent unemployment rate for Bedford-Stuyvesant residents, Pinn argued that the site should be maintained for manufacturing use to provide needed job opportunities for Bedford-Stuyvesant’s unemployed. Pinn made no mention of the Board’s opposition to the type of residential housing.

At the close of the public hearing, Council Member Albert Vann, the Bedford-Stuyvesant representative, urged the Subcommittee’s disapproval, arguing that maintaining the site’s manufacturing zoning was necessary to job creation. Vann added that the need for jobs was “even greater than the need for housing.”

Calling the application “a unique situation,” Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz stated that she supported disapproval because she was unaware of a time when an application faced the unanimous disapproval of the Community Board and the Borough President. The Subcommittee and the full Land Use Committee disapproved on October 24, 2005, sending it to the full Council, which disapproved on October 27th. The Council was required to vote on the application before November 3, 2005 or the rezoning would have been deemed approved based on the Planning Commission’s approval.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on August 8, 2005 and recorded a declaration on the property requiring additional hazardous materials tests.

Community Board 3 unanimously voted against the rezoning. Borough President Marty Markowitz also disapproved, noting that the project would not meet the community ‘s goal of job creation. Markowitz suggested that retail or commercial uses be added.

The Planning Commission approved on September 1 4, 2005, finding that the project would create needed housing on a primarily residential block. The Commission noted that the lot’s 1 975 rezoning was solely for IBM’s use and, responding to Markowitz’s denial, stressed that the site has remained vacant since IBM vacated in 1993.

Council: Spencer Street/DeKalb Ave. Rezoning (October 27, 2005); CPC: Spencer Street/DeKalb Ave. Rezoning (C 030276 ZMK – map amendment) (September 14, 2005) (Marci Lobel-Esrig, Richard S. Lobel, Sheldon Lobel P.c., for Middleland) . CITYADMIN

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