Grand St. rezoning modified

Rezoning passed despite strong opposition by developers. On March 26, 2008, the City Council modified the Department of City Planning’s proposal to downzone 13 blocks along Grand Street and adjoining areas in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The area currently consists of three- and four-story buildings, many of which have ground-floor retail and residential use on upper floors. The contextual R6B zoning would limit building heights to either 40 feet at the street or 50 feet with a setback. 5 CityLand 25 (Mar. 15, 2008). It will affect some planned developments for the area, including a 14-story tower at 227 Grand Street.

At the Zoning & Franchises subcommittee hearing on March 19th, Daniel Rivera, Executive Director of the People’s Firehouse, spoke in favor of the proposal but urged the Council to modify it to allow his group to expand and provide seniors with low-income apartments. Peter Gillespie, Executive Director of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, also supported the proposal and stated that it was in line with Brooklyn Community Board 1’s 197-a plan.

Street, Michael Lichtenstein, testified in opposition, claiming that the square footage permitted under the proposal would be unreasonable. Lichtenstein’s attorney, Kenneth Fisher, argued that the proposal was fast-tracked by Board 1 without notice to property owners, would cause developers to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, and would divert construction jobs away from the community.

Council Member Diana Reyna, whose district includes Williamsburg, noted that the Department of Buildings has received a large number of complaints from local residents about the “unscrupulous activity” of developers rushing construction in order to claim a vested right and evade the proposal’s rezoning requirements. Reyna also stated her support for the People’s Firehouse proposal to modify the rezoning in order to serve the needs of seniors. Council Member Helen Sears, however, stated that communities are “obsessed with downzoning” and that the subcommittee had a responsibility to ensure community boards were not unfairly rushing through the land use review process.

The subcommittee voted to modify the proposal, per the People’s Firehouse request, carving out a 6,500-square-foot parcel from the rezoning area in order to allow a senior center to expand. The full City Council followed suit a week later.

Council: Grand Street Rezoning (Mar. 19, 2008).

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