Rezoning to Bring 30-Unit Building to Bedford-Stuyvesant

Rendering of the proposed six-story building at 2 Howard Avenue in Brooklyn. Image Credit: CPC.

The rezoning will bring two non-applicant properties into zoning compliance but has the Borough President and City Planning Commission concerned that it will also create an opportunity for out-of-context development. On April 24, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve an application for a proposed six-story residential and ground floor retail building at 2 Howard Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. To facilitate the project, the applicant is seeking to rezone a portion of Howard Avenue comprised of the applicant’s property and two other properties, from the existing zoning district, R6B/C2-4, which allows for low density residential uses and commercial uses to a C4-4L commercial district that has a higher density residential use allowance. The application would extend the C4-4L commercial district that already exists north of these sites along the Broadway transit corridor over the three properties, better reflecting this area’s existing conditions. As part of the application, the properties would also be designated as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, with both Options 1 and 2. The application was presented to the City Planning Commission at a public hearing on March 27, 2019, by Lisa Orrantia of Akerman, LLP.

The overall rezoning area is 20,000 square feet, comprised of three lots located on the eastern portion of a block bounded by Monroe Street to the north, Madison Street to the south, Ralph Avenue to the west and Hamilton Avenue to the east. The applicant’s property at 2 Howard Avenue is an approximately 8,000 square foot corner lot that is vacant. Current zoning would permit a mixed-use building with a maximum of eleven dwelling units and only certain types of commercial uses. The building height would be capped at 50 feet. The applicant’s proposed rezoning allows building heights of up to 115 square feet, or eleven stories, and expands the types of commercial uses that are allowed on the ground floor, including larger retail and entertainment establishments.

On the applicant’s property, the applicant proposes to build a six-story or 65-foot building with 30 residential units, eight or eleven of which will be permanently affordable depending on the MIH Option selected. The building would feature a ground floor retail space responsive to community needs and an 1,800 square-foot outdoor recreation space on the roof of the first floor, located at the rear of the building. No parking would be provided as the project is within a Transit Zone.

Aerial view of the rezoning area, including the two affected properties and applicant’s development site. Image Credit: CPC.

The two other properties affected by the proposed rezoning include a four-story building with a ground floor grocery store currently occupied by a fraternal organization at 8 Howard Avenue, and a four-story apartment building at 16 Howard Avenue. Both buildings violate existing zoning as they exceed the building envelope requirements. Rezoning these properties to the commercial district that the applicant proposes will bring them into zoning compliance.

On February 11, 2019, Brooklyn Community Board 3 voted 30 in favor, zero against, and one abstaining to approve the application with conditions. The conditions included applying MIH Option 1 to the applicant’s site, restricting the height of the building to 65 feet, providing a commercial use that addresses community needs, and utilizing MWBE contractors and subcontractors, project managers and property managers, and others.

On March 7, 2019, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams issued a favorable recommendation with conditions. First, that the rezoning area excludes the property owned by the fraternity at 8 Howard Avenue over concerns that the new zoning will permit a building of up to eleven stories on this non-applicant owned property. Second, the Borough President asked that the City Council obtain several commitments in writing from the applicant, which include: limiting the height of the applicant’s new building to 65 feet or six stories;  that the applicant provide affordable housing pursuant to MIH Option 1;  that the bedroom mix is at least 50 percent of two- or three-bedroom affordable units and at least 75 percent one or more one-bedroom affordable units; that local nonprofits are used as the administering agent for the affordable housing; that a portion of the commercial ground floor space be set aside for one or more local non-profit organizations such as arts at below-market lease terms; and that the applicants explore additional resiliency measures, among other commitments.

At the March 27th City Planning Commission hearing, Commissioner Michelle de la Uz asked why the applicant was seeking to map both MIH Options 1 and 2 over the rezoning area and which option the applicant was leaning toward for their building. The applicant’s attorney, Lisa Orrantia, responded that initially Option 2 was proposed and was supported by the Community Board because it would result in a greater number of affordable units. However, the Community Board’s ultimate recommendation was for MIH Option 1. Orrantia stated that the applicant is prepared to work with the Councilmember to determine the appropriate option to use.

In response to Commissioner Anna H. Levin’s request for a comment on the Borough President’s concerns over the possible out-of-context development on the non-applicant site at 8 Howard Avenue, Orrantia stated that the maximum height of that site under the new zoning could be eight stories, but like the applicant’s building, a six-story building would be more feasible at that location. No members of the public testified either in support or in opposition of the application.

On April 24, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the application, with Commissioner Michelle de la Uz recommending that the Council modify the MIH to Option 1.

The application will now proceed to the City Council for review and approval.


By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.