Text change approved protecting Carroll Gardens

Landscaped front yards in Carroll Gardens. Photo: Molly Brennan.

City Council approves “narrow streets” characterization. On July 23, 2008, the City Council approved a text amendment designed as a stopgap to curb out-of-character development in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. The proposal amends the zoning text to identify six blocks of Carroll Gardens as having “narrow streets,” addressing a unique situation in that Brooklyn neighborhood. The affected blocks have deep, landscaped front yards that the City Map includes within the street width. Despite actual street widths of 50 feet, developers can treat these blocks as “wide streets” or streets larger than 100 feet, allowing for an increase in permitted floor area and height.

The City Planning Commission approved the amendment without change despite developer William Stein’s request that it exempt his project at 360 Smith Street from any new restrictions on floor area and height. 5 CityLand 90 (July 15, 2008).

The Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises heard the proposal on July 21, 2008, where, as at the Commission, local residents testified in support of the text amendment. Glenn Kelly, a homeowner within the affected area, stated that most residents are in support of the amendment because they care more about “maintaining quality of life” in Carroll Gardens than “the loss of development rights.” Maria Pagano, another local resident, agreed, adding that the amendment would stop the “overbuilding of luxury housing” and encourage more projects that catered to “entry-level homeowners and senior citizens.”

The opposition included 25- year resident Peter Poper, who believed that most homeowners in the area do not want to lose development rights, especially since the recent downturn in the economy has decreased home prices. Poper also added that voting for the amendment would be a “vote for segregation” because it would be the first step toward a future down-zoning, which in turn would create less affordable housing for minorities. Judith Thompson, another homeowner, agreed and asked the Council to prevent Carroll Gardens from becoming “an enclave for the few and wealthy.” Stein and his attorney also spoke in opposition, repeating his request to exclude his Smith Street development.

Chair Tony Avella strongly disagreed with Poper’s segregation remarks, as did the rest of the Subcommittee Members; they unanimously approved, sending the proposal to the Land Use Committee the following day. The Committee approved without modification, as did the full Council.

Review Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: BK 6,App’d, 20-7-7
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 10-0-0
Council: App’d, 45-0-1

Council: Carroll Gardens Narrow- Street/Wide Street Zoning Text Amendment (July 23, 2008).

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