City Planning modified the proposed rezoning so the development would better conform with the vision for the neighborhood, which is currently undergoing a land use study. On May 2, 2019, the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted to approve an application for a rezoning that will facilitate the development of a new nine-story, mixed-use building in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The applicant initially sought to rezone an area comprised of approximately 12 lots on the northeastern portion of a block bounded by Pacific Street to the north, Dean Street to the south, Classon Avenue to the east, and Grand Avenue to the west from a manufacturing district, M1-1, to a mixed residential and commercial district, R7D/C2-4. The applicant’s proposed rezoning would have facilitated the development of an eleven-story residential building with a commercial space and a community facility on the ground floor at 1010 Pacific Street. On April 8, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the rezoning after modifying it from an R7D/C2-4 district to an R7A/C2-4 district, limiting the building to nine stories.
In 2013, an approximately 55-block area, south of the applicant’s proposed rezoning area, was rezoned as part of the Crown Heights West Rezoning to a mix of residential and commercial districts to create incentives for affordable housing development and to maintain existing retail. As part of the area-wide rezoning, higher density residential districts such as R7D, were mapped along the Bedford Avenue corridor. Residential R7A districts which permit seven- to nine-story buildings, were mapped extensively along Franklin Avenue and specific mid-block locations.
Brooklyn’s Community Board 8 has also been working with the Department of City Planning on an “M Crown Study”, a land use study to determine the rezoning potential for the area which includes the applicant’s sites but was not rezoned as part of the Crown Heights West Rezoning. The goal of the study is to determine opportunities that would foster a dynamic new mixed-use neighborhood that contains affordable housing, job-generating commercial development, and allows for the creation or preservation of industrial space.
The applicant’s development site is comprised of two lots that are located midblock. Zoned for manufacturing uses, the lots currently support a vacant two-story warehouse building and a parking lot. The applicant proposed to rezone these lots and ten other lots to R7D/C2-4, a mixed- use district that would permit an eleven-story residential building with a mandatory ground floor commercial space at 1010 Pacific Street.
The remaining ten lots that would be rezoned as part of this application currently support primarily one-, two-, and some three-story structures. More than 50 percent of the lots on this block are currently either vacant or open land, providing no context for the area which is need of housing.
The applicant’s proposed building would have featured 154 dwelling units, 39 of which would have been affordable pursuant to MIH Option 1. MIH Option 1 requires a 25 percent residential floor-area set-aside averaging at 60 percent of AMI. On the ground floor, the applicant proposed a 7,056 square foot commercial space and a 4,378 square foot community facility space to be occupied by an arts center. The ground floor would have also featured a community facility garden and 49 parking spaces at the cellar level.
Community Board Consideration
On December 13, 2018, Brooklyn Community Board 8 voted 22 in favor, none opposed, and three abstentions to adopt a recommendation disapproving the application unless changes were made by the applicant. These included reducing the size of the rezoning area, excluding the properties fronting on Classon Avenue, establishing a special district that would reduce the non-residential parking requirement, and changing the residential zoning from R7D to R7A.
Borough President Recommendation
On February 12, 2019, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams issued a recommendation to approve the application, on several conditions. The Borough President also recommended rezoning to an R7A district and for the rezoning area to excluded the Classon Avenue properties. An increase in family-sized units was also among the many other recommendations.
City Planning Commission Consideration
At the February 13, 2019 City Planning Commission public hearing, Commissioners asked the applicant team about the appropriateness of a retail and community facility spaces on the ground floor, given the new building’s location midblock and no existing retail in the immediate area. The applicant team responded that given the existing poor conditions of this block, the hope is that providing a community facility space and a commercial user on the ground floor will activate the streetscape. Applicant’s attorney Richard Lobel stated that the applicant team was confident that they would be able to find an appropriate tenant for the commercial portion of the ground floor, given that other retail exists throughout the area and there is demand for local retail. The applicant envisions a local food store but is open to a range of uses.
Several people spoke in opposition to the application, including a member of Community Board 8. The Community Board member stated that the M Crown study recommends against mid-block retail uses on side streets and instead recommends a set-aside for light industrial uses.
City Planning Commission Vote
On April 8, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the modified application, with Commissioner Cappelli voting against it and Commissioner Burney abstaining. In its report, the Commission noted that while the applicant’s rezoning would encourage a desirable mix of uses for the area, the proposed building was inappropriately tall and dense for its mid-block location, and would set an undesirable precedent.
The Commission approved rezoning the twelve lots to an R7A/C2-4 district. The modified rezoning permits seven- to nine-story building, instead of the eleven story building proposed by the applicant, and allows but does not mandate a commercial ground floor.
The Commission did not adopt the Community Board and Borough President recommendations to exclude the Classon Avenue properties from the rezoning area, finding their inclusion critical to maintaining a rational district boundary. “Modifying the boundary would have the potential to result in an irregular mid-block parcel detached from Classon Avenue, a significant north-south corridor that connects the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant.”
City Council Subcommittee Consideration and Vote
On April 16, 2019, the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing on the application. The applicant team presented revised plans for their proposed building, given the City Planning-modified rezoning to an R7A/C2-4 district. The applicant’s proposed building will now be a nine-story mixed-use building with 129 residential units, 32 of which will be affordable pursuant to MIH Option 1. The building will have 28 studios, 61 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units.
The applicant has been working closely with Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district. Cumbo spoke in support of the application at the hearing, saying that she agreed with the modification by City Planning as it will coincide with the M Crown vision for this area. On May 2, 2019, the Subcommittee voted to approve the application as modified by the City Planning Commission. The full Council will vote on the application at a later date.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).