Special 4th Avenue district in Brooklyn approved

Proposed special district would require active ground-floor commercial uses and establish transparency requirements. On October 19, 2011, the City Planning Commission modified the Department of City Planning’s proposed Special 4th Avenue Enhanced Commercial District in Park Slope and South Park Slope, Brooklyn. The district would encompass 56 blocks along 4th Aveenue between Atlantic Avenue and 24th Street. The west side of 4th Avenue between Douglass and 6th Streets and between the Prospect Expressway and 24th Street would not be included within the district. Planning proposed the district to encourage active, pedestrianfriendly uses along the evolving 4th Avenue mixed-use corridor.

Fourth Avenue is a wide commercial thoroughfare historically characterized by auto repair shops and low-rise rowhouses with ground floor retail. The blocks within the proposed special district are zoned R8A, with all but four blocks mapped with a C2-4 commercial overlay. The blocks had been included in several recent rezonings of Park Slope and South Park Slope. The area has shifted towards residential uses as developers have built higher density apartment buildings up to twelve stories in height. Although some new buildings include active ground floor uses, many contain blank walls and parking garage entrances. Planning proposed the district to ensure that future development along 4th Avenue provides a pedestrian-friendly streetscape with an appropriate mix of commercial and community facility uses. 

The special district would establish regulations designed to create an active, transparent streetscape. Within the district, commercial uses would need to occupy at least 50 percent of a building’s ground floor frontage. Certain commercial uses permitted by the underlying zoning, such as banks and loan offices, would be prohibited from the required commercial space. Other uses permitted in C2-4 districts could occupy the building’s remaining frontage.

The special district regulations would require developers to use glass, or other transparent materials, for at least 50 percent the building’s frontage between a height of two and twelve feet. As initially proposed, the regulations would have required windows to begin no higher than four feet above curb level. In addition, curb cuts would not be permitted within the district unless it served an interior zoning lot at least 60-feet wide that was not accessible by a side street. The special district would include certain exceptions for schools, houses of worship, and existing buildings.

Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6, and 7 and Borough President Marty Markowitz supported the proposal, but requested several modifications. Among them, Markowitz requested that medical labs and trade and business schools be excluded ground floor uses. He asked the Commission reduce the height of the required transparency from four to two-and-a-half feet, which would be similar to the Special Downtown Brooklyn District’s requirements. Markowitz also asked the Commission to consider rezoning the west side of 4th Avenue between Douglas and 6th Streets and the Prospect Expressway and 24th Street to R8A/C2-4 to encourage residential development.

At the Commission’s September 2011 hearing, local Council Member Brad Lander supported for the proposal, but also asked the Commission to prohibit medical labs from ground floor uses and lower the required window placement height to two-and-a-half feet.

The Commission modified the proposal, agreeing that reducing the transparency height requirement to two-and-a-half feet would result in “a livelier streetscape.” The Commission found that the other recommendations would be outside the scope of the proposal.

CPC: Special 4th Avenue Enhanced Commercial District (C 110386 ZMK – rezoning) (N 110387 ZRK – text amend.) (Oct. 19, 2011).

Leave a Reply

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