Developer of 14-story tower fought to delay rezoning; residents urged speedy approval. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone 13 blocks along Grand Street and adjoining areas in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The area overlaps with the southern boundary of the extensive Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning, which the City adopted in 2005. 2 CityLand 67 (June 15, 2005).
Currently, the rezoning area is characterized by low-rise, mixed-use three- and four-story attached apartment buildings and rowhouses. Most of these buildings have ground-floor commercial uses— ranging from restaurants and boutiques to bicycle repair shops and printing offices—on the lower floors, and a substantial residential presence on the upper floors. City Planning drafted the proposal after Brooklyn Community Board 1 expressed concern that, under the current R6 zoning, developers could build out-of-character towers two-and four-times the height of existing buildings in the area.
To protect the character of the neighborhood, City Planning drafted a proposal to rezone all blocks along Grand Street and north of Metropolitan Avenue to an R6B district, which would require buildings to line up with adjacent structures and limit their heights to either 40 feet at the street or 50 feet with a setback. For the block bounded by Berry Street, Metropolitan Avenue, Bedford Avenue and North 1st Street, City Planning proposed an R6A zoning, which would limit building heights to either 60 feet at the street or 70 feet with a setback. The proposed rezoning would also change the commercial overlays for the area, increasing the range of permitted uses while lowering parking requirements.
At the public hearing on February 13, 2008, residents urged the Commission to quickly adopt the proposal in order to prevent the developer of a 15-story tower, to be located at 227 Grand Street, to evade the rezoning and claim a vested right to complete construction. The residents claimed that the developer is working at all hours of the day to vest such a right. Peter Gillespie, Executive Director of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, noted that Board 1 fast-tracked its review of the rezoning to preclude this from happening.
The attorney for the developer, Kenneth Fisher, argued that the Commission should delay approval of the rezoning because his client was close to reaching an agreement with Borough President Marty Markowitz and Board 1 that would address the community’s concerns and reduce the height of the tower.
Commission Chair Amanda Burden stated that upon approving the 2005 rezoning, the Commission “had no idea there would be such an assault on the area by developers,” who showed “disrespect” to the neighborhood by constructing out-of-context buildings. Commissioner Irwin G. Cantor, citing the residents’ allegations, criticized the developer of 227 Grand Street for working overtime solely to skirt the rezoning and vest its right to complete construction.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan on February 27, 2008, sending it to City Council for review.
Lead Agency: CPC, Neg.
Dec. Comm. Bd.: App’d, 23-2-0
Boro. Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-2
CPC: Grand Street Rezoning (C080213ZMK) (Feb. 27, 2008).