CPC Agrees to Legalize Overbuilt Building for Expanding Non-Profit

The Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn. Image Credit: RHICenter.org

City Planning Commission approves legalization and expansion of Red Hook non-profit servicing the needs of the community. On February 22, 2017, the City Planning Commission voted to approve an overbuilt building located at 763 and 767 Hicks Street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. The site contains two one-story buildings used by the applicant, the Red Hook Initiative. The two addresses total 4,794 square feet and rise to 19 and 21 feet high. Both buildings were zoned M1-1, which allows a maximum of 1.0 floor area ratio. Therefore both buildings were previously used as warehouses prior to the Initiative’s tenancy.

The Initiative is a non-profit organization established in 2006 with the mission to address community needs with a focus on education and professional development for youth and young adults. The non-profit began to lease the buildings in 2009 and immediately began renovation, which included the construction of a 585 square-foot mezzanine level in one of the buildings. The addition of the mezzanine resulted in a 1.19 floor area ratio, an excess that violates the Zoning Resolution.

The Initiative applied to the Commission for a special permit to reclassify both buildings from an office to a community facility (Use Group 4A), which would allow a 2.4 floor area ratio. The application would also facilitate the expansion of the existing mezzanine by 470 square feet to accommodate the Initiative’s growing operational and programmatic needs. The expansion would result in a combined total of 1.25 floor area ratio.

On November 9, 2016, Brooklyn Community Board 6 voted 31-0 to approve the application on the condition that the Initiative would remove existing curb cuts on Hicks Street that are not being used by the non-profit and in their place the Initiative would plant a tree. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also supported approval of the application.

In its adopted report, the Commission found the application appropriate. The Commission noted the applicant’s testimony that “as currently configured, the space is so cramped that people have to wait outside the buildings as rooms become available for scheduled programs.” The report highlighted the Initiative’s vital service to the Red Hook community and the crucial role that it plays in providing services from its current location. The Commission did not believe reclassification would impair the neighborhood’s essential character.

The application will now move to the City Council for a hearing and consideration in the coming weeks.

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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