Applicant faces uphill battle to turn parking lot into residential building. On June 13, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on an application by Camber Property Group for rezoning at 1601 DeKalb Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The rezoning will facilitate the construction of a new residential building. The rezoning will affect three lots owned by Camber and seven lots not owned by the applicant. The new building, however, will be constructed on the three lots owned by Camber, which is currently a parking lot.
The application seeks to rezone property bounded by Hart Street, a line 400 feet northeasterly of Irving Avenue, DeKalb Avenue, and a line 350 feet northeasterly of Irving Avenue. The rezoning will change from a residential district with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 3.0 and a base height before setback at 40 to 60 feet with a maximum building height of 70 feet to a residential district with an FAR of 2.0, a base height before setback between 30 and 40 feet, and a maximum building height of 50 feet.
The application also seeks to change from a manufacturing district to a residential district for property bounded by Hart Street, Wyckoff Avenue, DeKalb Avenue, and a line 100 feet southwesterly of Wyckoff Avenue. The manufacturing district has an FAR of 1.0. The new residential district will have an FAR of 4.0, with a base height of 40 to 65 feet, and a building height maximum of 80 feet. The residential district will also include commercial use on the ground floors. The rezoning will also designate the district as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.
The proposed residential building will have 122 units. When the application was submitted, the applicant indicated that 27 units will be designated as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. During the hearing, Camber stated that they have since been working with the community to provide 100 percent of the units as affordable housing at different tiers of the average minimum income.
Camber has set several goals for the project. The goals include having a local community outreach coordinator and plan, maximizing local hiring and training for construction labor force, maximizing MWBE participation with goal of 30 percent, hiring building staff members from within the local community organized by Local 32BJ, and market all the units within the community beyond the Housing Preservation and Development requirements.
Camber also addressed some of the issues raised by the community. One of the issues was the potential for displacement of residents in two loft buildings adjacent to the proposed building. Camber stated that they would commit to setting back from the loft buildings to assure existing tenants have access to light and air. Another issue was the affordability of units, which Camber reiterated their commitment to deep affordability options and having units beyond the MIH requirements.
During the hearing, Chair Marissa Lago pointed out that the application’s rezoning proposal was a rational change in the zoning map. However, Chair Lago mentioned a letter sent by Camber which indicated to the Commission that Camber may be trying to create a “donut hole” or spot rezoning to only benefit the project site and no other affected properties in the rezoning.
Local Bushwick residents were in attendance at the hearing voicing their disapproval of the rezoning. A group of residents from a loft adjacent to the project site testified that the new building will potentially displace 21 households. The loft residents explained that the building will block light and air. A speaker in opposition, who is also a loft tenant, asked for a legal commitment by Camber and the applicant team protect the loft tenants from displacement. The speaker also stated that he was never told of the possibility of a large building being built adjacent to the loft, but had done his own research and found that the existing manufacturing zoning would not allow for such a large building to be built. The owner of one of the loft buildings also spoke in opposition to the application. Over ten speakers spoke against the application.
Update: On July 11, 2018, the City Planning Commission voted on a favorable report for the application. Chair Lago, along with Commissioners Alfred Cerullo, Cheryl Cohen Effron, Richard Eaddy, Hope Knight, Anna Hayes Levin, Orlando Marin, and Larisa Ortiz voted in favor of the application. Commissioner Joseph Douek recused himself from the vote. Vice Chairman Kenneth Knuckles, Michelle de la Uz, and Allen Capelli were absent at the initial vote.
By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)