City Planning Commissioners voice concern over approving too many IBIAs before knowing the impacts that such projects will have on the area. On February 27, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approved another Industrial Business Incentive Area (IBIA) within the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) of Brooklyn. This project will be the third of its kind, with 25 Kent Avenue as the first, and 12 Franklin Street as the second. This application expands the existing IBIA to include a new area comprised of six lots, located on a portion of block bounded by North 14th Street to the north, North 13th Street to the south, Berry Street to the west, and Wythe Avenue to the east. Designation as an IBIA unlocks two special permits, one to increase the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) and building envelope regulations, and another to waive parking and loading requirements. Utilizing the two special permits, the applicant will develop a new seven story building at 103 North 13th Street that will contain a mix of light industrial, retail and office space.
The applicant’s property is an approximately 12,500 square foot lot zoned for manufacturing uses and is currently vacant. Under existing zoning, the applicant could develop an industrial-use building of up to approximately 25,000 square feet, or 2.0 FAR , and would have to provide parking. With the IBIA designation and the grant of the two special permits the applicant will receive an additional almost 35,000 square feet of floor area, or 2.8 FAR, and can waive the required parking with City Planning approval.
The applicant will build a new seven-story, approximately 60,000 square foot mixed-use development that would contain retail space on the first floor, industrial space on the second floor, and offices on the remaining five floors. This is reflective of the rationale behind the IBIA, which is to preserve manufacturing space while bringing offices and jobs to the area. The building would be built to a streetwall height of 75 feet, and after a setback of 15 feet, to its maximum height of 110 feet. The building will have outdoor terraces on the second and sixth floors and provide 17 bicycle parking spaces at the cellar level. No car parking will be provided as the area is well-served by public transit, and only one loading berth instead of the required three.
The applicant will work with Evergreen, a non-profit organization that manages the City’s Greenpoint/Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone to determine what industrial tenants will likely occupy the new building’s second floor. The applicants have not shared the rents that would be charged, noting at the City Planning hearing that with the opening of 25 Kent Avenue, the market rates for industrial space in the area will become more apparent.
The application received favorable recommendations from both Brooklyn Community Board 1 and the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. On December 11, 2018, the Community Board voted 36 in favor, none opposed and no abstentions to approve the application with conditions. These include the applicant providing proof that there is available parking in the area to accommodate any parking demand generated by the development, that any related retail to the proposed industrial space is not located in the area reserved for the industrial space, and that the industrial space is rented out at 20 percent below market rate.
On January 28, 2019, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams issued a recommendation approving the project, but also outlining concerns with the IBIA. Borough President Adams recommends excluding production of exclusively digital format from qualifying as the industrial space user, limiting the extent that accessory retail space is allowed to occupy the industrial space, and enhancing visual representation requirements such as signs. Borough President Adams also believes that a greater public benefit is needed in exchange for waiving the required parking. Borough President Adams suggested broadening the criteria for property sizes that qualify for IBIA so that smaller lots could be similarly developed through application for the IBIA permits. Currently the IBIA cannot be used by lots that are smaller than 5,000 square feet of “horizontally contiguous floor area.”
The application was presented to the City Planning Commission at a public hearing held on January 30, 2019. The application was presented by Richard Lobel of Sheldon Lobel, Charles Krieger of the Rabsky Group, Nick Liberis of Albo Liberis, and Jeff Reuben of Philip Habib and Associates. No members of the public testified either in favor or against the application.
On February 27, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the application, with Commissioner Anna Levin and Commissioner Orlando Marin expressing concern with seeing several of these applications coming before the Commission when it has not yet had an opportunity to study how the creation of these special permits is actually incentivizing the creation and preservation of industrial space in the area.
On March 13, 2019, the City Council referred the application to its Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises for review. A public hearing has not yet been scheduled.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).