South Brooklyn contextual rezoning debated

Proposed Carroll Gardens/Columbia Street Rezoning used with permission of the New York City Department of City Planning. All rights reserved.

Residents concerned that rezoning plan does not go far enough to prevent out-of-character development. On August 19, 2009, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Department of City Planning’s proposal to rezone 86 blocks of Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens and Columbia Street neighborhoods. The proposed rezoning area is currently zoned R6 and is generally bounded by Warren and Degraw Streets to the north, Hamilton Avenue to the south, Bond and Hoyt Streets to the east, and Columbia Street to the west. The plan builds on the recently approved Carroll Gardens Narrow Streets Text Amendment aimed at limiting the size and configuration of construction on side streets with deep courtyards. 5 CityLand 103 (Aug. 15, 2008).

The Columbia Street area, making up the eastern 14-block portion of the plan, has been influenced by its proximity to the historically industrial waterfront. The neighborhood has recently experienced an increase in residential and commercial development and is characterized by three- to four-story rowhouses and seven-story former manufacturing buildings along Tiffany Place, which have been converted to apartments, while three- to four-story mixed-use buildings are found along the retail corridors of Columbia and Union Streets.

Carroll Gardens, named for the deep courtyards found on many of its east-west streets, is characterized by three- to four-story rowhouses with some four- to five-story multifamily apartment buildings. The retail corridors of Smith and Court Streets consist of three- to four-story mixed-use buildings.

Recent development has resulted in enlargements and new buildings that are out-of-scale with the area’s low-rise context. To preserve the area’s built character, Planning would replace the area’s R6 zoning with contextual zoning districts that would establish height limits while still allowing upgrades and modest expansions in some areas. Commercial overlays would be adjusted to allow an expanded range of uses and to prevent encroachment into the residential side streets.

Planning proposes to rezone 76 full or partial blocks to R6B, establishing maximum building heights at 50 feet for many of the predominantly residential east-west blocks. The proposal would apply R6A regulations along the wide, mixed-use corridors of Court and Columbia Streets and on narrow streets characterized by taller, bulkier buildings already matching the R6A building envelope. A portion of one block along Tiffany Place would be rezoned R7A to more closely reflect the existing seven-story buildings.

At the Commission’s hearing, residents and members of local neighborhood groups expressed concern that the proposal did not go far enough. Jerry Armour, representing Brooklyn Community Board 6, testified that CB6 supported the plan, but also believed that the “islands of R6A” surrounding the R6B districts would not preserve the neighborhood’s character. CB6 suggested replacing R6A zoning with R6B along many of the residential side streets. Glen Kelly, co-chair of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, testified that the R6A zoning along the non-commercial, narrow side streets would promote continued out-of-scale development and requested that the Commission retain the R6 zoning along these streets.

The Commission has until October 13, 2009 to vote on the plan.

CPC: Hearing on Carroll Gardens/ Columbia Street Rezoning (C 090462 ZMK – rezoning) (Aug. 19, 2009).

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