Proposed Brighton Beach rezoning criticized


Brighton Beach Rezoning: Proposed Zoning used with permission of the New York City Department of City Planning. All rights reserved.

Planning’s recommendation to downzone bungalow area opposed. On May 6, 2009, the City Planning Commission listened to extensive testimony on the Department of City Planning’s rezoning proposal for Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. The plan would impact 54 blocks generally bounded by Shore Parkway, Brighton Beach Avenue, Ocean Parkway, and Corbin Place.

The proposed rezoning area is predominantly residential and characterized by large apartment buildings along wide streets and commercial corridors, and one- to three-family attached, semi-detached, and detached homes on the narrow side streets of the neighborhood. The area also includes a distinctive group of small, bungalow-style homes in a section bounded by Coney Island Avenue, Brighton 1st Street, Ocean View Avenue, and Neptune Avenue. This area is characterized by small lots, typically measuring 40 ft. by 40 ft., which are arranged along narrow pedestrian paths on the interior, and mapped streets on the exterior.

Under the current R6 zoning, developers replaced one- and two- family homes with higher density apartment buildings and residential towers. In the bungalow area, developers assembled small lots, demolished bungalows, and constructed large buildings that isolated some bungalows along the interior pedestrian paths.

To limit out-of-character development, Planning’s proposal includes replacing the R6 zoning with R5 and R5D zoning districts in the lower-density portions of the area, and R7A in the more densely built areas along wide streets and commercial corridors. In an effort to reinforce the bungalow area’s built character, Planning would downzone this area to R4A. Planning also proposed creating two new subdistricts within the Special Ocean Parkway District, including a bungalow area subdistrict that would apply R5D regulations to lots that front a mapped street and have a minimum depth of 70 feet.

At the Commission’s hearing, many residents testified in opposition to downzoning the bungalow area. The Executive Director of the Brighton Beach Improvement District testified that Planning did not consider community concerns when developing the proposal, and stated that she doubted if anyone would invest in the bungalows if they were restricted to R4A zoning regulations.

Council Member Michael C. Nelson, whose district includes Brighton Beach, also spoke in opposition. Nelson expressed support for setting height limitations, but testified that he opposed the R4A zoning for the bungalow area. It would penalize individual bungalow owners by restricting their ability to improve their homes, thereby “destroying the value of their properties.” A technical advisor for Nelson provided details on Nelson’s alternate zoning proposal that included rezoning the bungalow area to R6B, and requiring a 35 ft. height limit for interior lots.

Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, whose district includes the eastern portion of the rezoning area, supported the plan. Through a representative, Cymbrowitz stated that the “status quo is unacceptable,” and that most of the bungalow area is in serious decay. He said the plan would allow homeowners to reasonably expand, but would also protect the community from out-of- context buildings that dwarf surrounding homes.

The Commission has until June 29, 2009 to vote on the proposal.

CPC: Hearing on Brighton Beach Rezoning (C 090284 ZMK – rezoning); (N 090285 ZRK – text amend.)(May 6, 2009).

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