The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa's Got a Brand New Suit

Psssst. Want to know what locals can do when a developer wants to swoop in and build a 23-story luxury tower in their midst, kinda sneaky like? Not much you say, especially if the building is being built "as of right?"

Well hold your horses and put your guns back in their holsters, cowboy. PPEN, the Prospect Park East Network, PLGNA, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, lots of individuals, backed by attorneys from Goliath law firm WilmerHale and the David law firm South Brooklyn Legal Services are going to announce on Thursday that they are filing suit against both Hudson Properties (the developer) and the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the unit that approved $72 million in public backed funds be used, which brought with it tax breaks and incentives involved in 80/20 buildings that agree to set aside 20% of their units for affordable housing. The suit contends that the neighborhood was blindsided by the project, and that by law the State was required to conduct an environmental review, which included studies to determine all sorts of impacts on everything from transportation and infrastructure to (yes) the environment and affordable housing generally and rents and commerce etc. etc. etc. Due process. Respect. Self-determination. Contextual Development. The beauty and future of Prospect Park. Overheight. Did I mention respect?

The press conference is happening on beautiful Tudorian Chester Court this Thursday December 19, at 11am. 

Though I've been following the story closely, I must emphasize that I am not a party in this suit, nor have I been involved in its planning or the movement to halt the project. My feelings continue to evolve as I learn more about how 626 came about, it's potential impact on the neighborhood, and the deep feelings that people have about how this speaks to Flatbush, Brooklyn and Lefferts's future.

Stay tuned for more developments


Anonymous said...

I'm curious how this is going to play out. This isn't Hudson's first project, so presumably they've gone through the process the proper way. Have they responded to this at all?

Alex said...

Such conflicted feelings on this one! A compromise on height would be great, but I don't know that an effort to stop the project is something I can support.

This is housing. It's not an arena or amusement park or something, and no one is being displaced from their homes.

Additionally, where were all these concerned groups when we've tried to gain momentum on improved services in the neighborhood? Meetings on neighborhood crime and lack of police enforcement are poorly attended. The movement to change zoning, which would have prevented the situation we're in now, was left to languish.

I respect the feelings of those against this building, and I have conflicted feelings about it myself, but my fear is that we'll end up with a derelict, vacant, pink stucco building or a huge hole in the ground instead of more housing, which the neighborhood and the city need.

Anonymous said...

There is something called SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) that is required before any bond issue by a state agency, where the agency determines whether an environmental impact study is required. In this case I assume that the SEQRA review concluded that the project did not require an environmental impact study. The project opponents can certainly try to sue and claim that the agency erred in its judgment, but unless they are possession of some stunning material fact about the project that hasn't been made public yet (e.g., the project is built over a toxic waste dump and the agency ignored the evidence- that kind of thing), I don't see how this idea has legs. A judge is not going to halt the project unless the agency did something glaringly wrong and the opponents have something more than vague claims to make their case. I suppose it is always possible though.

I do agree with Alex @ 9:56 that "victory" in this case would mean a stalled, half completed construction project tied up in bankruptcy or foreclosure. Real champions for the neighborhood, PPEN.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Some fun is about to begin. Who are these lawyers? Why have they decided to enter this kerfuffle?

One reason. One reason only. Money. The shakedown has begun.

WilmerHale wants the project to proceed as designed. However, Wilmer knows it's possible, in fact, highly likely, that it can extort a pay-off from at least one party in this squabble before the project gets the final green light.

That's how it goes in these community fights.

And by the way, when the developer and Wilmer settle on a sum that sufficiently expresses the necessary degree of supplication and obeisance, almost all the money will go to the law firm.

These actions do not reward the locals in any way. In fact, if the plaintiffs prevailed and actually blocked the project entirely, the neighborhood would pay a price that most residents would regard as punitive.

However, like Atlantic Yards, the 23-story apartment project will most likely proceed once the neighborhood disturbance has been quelled by some money changing hands. At the same time, promises will be made about future land use allowing locals to feel they kept the upper hand.

Local politicians will criticize the project publicly while privately doing nothing to stand in its way, a performance that will net them contributions from the crew at Wilmer. It's a lovely business.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

The plaintiffs have a list of specific demands. We all know what they are. If Hudson and the State Financing authority are unwilling to go through a process of review, then you go from there. No one wants a hole in the ground, nor are they arguing for one.

Anonymous said...

oh please. this is not how WilmerHale makes money. A pro bono effort by a firm and legal services corp (for the poor) office - and you smell a $$ motive? seriously? There is something called process, and communities do indeed have a say in development. As a public interest lawyer for 17 years who could be making a lot more money doing other things, when I hear someone say "money" and "shakedown" is the "one" motive for trying to help a community exert their - by the way, inherent - agency, my blood boils. We have courts for a reason, and it ain't "shakedowns".
I assume, by the way, you work as a disciple of Mother Teresa, have taken a vow of poverty and wear a hair shirt daily, and that's why you feel free to judge so quickly.

Anonymous said...

Oh great just what we need! Sigh

Anonymous said...

11:44 - who are you referring to when you say "we?"

ceelledee said...

For the record:

PPEN has never said its mission is to stop the building altogether. It's always been about trying to get the developer to scale the building down to a height that is more in context with the rest of this low-rise neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the developer has always said that they're not even going to consider entering into a dialogue with the community about changing the height of this building unless a lawsuit is filed. Gee, ask for what you want, Hudson. Now, there is one!

What is the point of public protest if it goes no further than anonymous blog posts? Presumably, you protest because you want something to change. And, in this great country of ours, if you care strongly enough about a social issue, you have the right to get together with others who also feel strongly about that issue and you vow to do something to address that issue that is disturbing you! In America, we call those rights of free speech and association. (That's somewhere in the US Constitution, and it's called the First Amendment). We also have the right to lobby our elected officials for their support on our issues of concern. Our laws even provide us with the means to go to court to attempt to right the wrong we're disturbed about -- so long as there is a basis for our assertion --on its face-- that some law has been broken.

So yes, Anon 10:53 – there has been a basis for stating that SEQRA was violated in this instance. Because a proper environmental impact study was not conducted. As a result, 72M in PUBLIC funds have now been given to a PRIVATE developer to erect a 23 story, predominantly luxury tower in our low rise neighborhood -- just so a few hundred transplants with bucks enough to afford a 500sf studio apartment studio at $1900 per month can have views of Prospect Park. (BTW, that wouldn’t be able to happen in any other neighborhood surrounding the Park but ours.) And no law firm -- certainly not Legal Services of New York's Brooklyn Program nor Wilmer Hale (acting pro bono) would have ever chosen to represent PPEN, PLGNA, Flatbush Development Corp, Flatbush Tenants Coalition and numerous residents of our neighborhood in this action if the claims of those seeking to bring the lawsuit were patently frivolous.

And, yes, there is Patio Gardens already here at 16 stories. (Not 17; there is no "13th" floor). There's nothing to be done about a structure built over 30 years ago when there was not much civic concern then as there is today about issues such as contextual zoning, pop density, public infrastructure wear and tear, traffic congestion, etc. Beyond that, Patio Gardens has long been an apartment tower that most would deem to be affordable

At the end of the day, no one knows what will be the outcome of the lawsuit. If the court rules that the state agency that released those public funds must go back and do a proper environmental study first, thus enjoining the developer from spending the money in the meantime, that would be confirmation that something illegal has happened that must be corrected. Wow. Democracy in action! At the very least, that seems like it could be a win for a community whose environmental interests have been largely ignored thus far. And, if those who brought the lawsuit do not prevail, then the building goes up anyway – maybe even paving the way for a whole corridor of new Flatbush Avenue high rises to come to PLG as in DUMBO or Wburg. IMO, the doomsday scenarios of no new building going up at all 626 Flatbush Avenue – or of leaving the commercial corridor as some kind of wasteland are seriously overstated. So what’s all the upset at this point? The action in our democratic process, and hopefully the real dialogue that should go along with it, is only now just getting started.

babs said...

SBLS is a part of Legal Services NYC, which provides free civil legal services, so there's no money there. They often partner with other firms (such as WilmerHale here) which do the work as part of their pro bono practice, so I really don't think this is about money, at least from the lawyers' end.

But I wonder if the parties involved have ever had any discussions with Hudson Companies personnel, or if they are taking the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach.

babs said...

Thanks for the answer ceelledee - we must have been typing at the same time. Well, if that was their response, you've given them what they asked for. I must say I'm disappointed in them. Best of luck in getting a dialogue going!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the strategy of using the threat of a lawsuit as leverage to win a "review process" with the developer and the State HFA can be successful. The HFA bonds have been issued already! Hudson is deeply financially committed to the project and they are not going to stop construction to negotiate with a group whose demands are impossible to meet.

ceelledee said...

Anon 12:23, I agree with you. The "threat" of a lawsuit at this point would be meaningless. That's why there's no threat of a lawsuit; a real lawsuit, in real life has already been filed! It includes a motion for a preliminary injunction. Which means that, if the petitioners prevail, Hudson is enjoined (prevented) from spending any of those 72M to advance construction of this tower until the state agency does a proper environmental study. When done properly, that could take a while.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

12:23: Why are the demands impossible to meet? All they have to do is lower the height, spread out a bit, and maybe put it more affordable units. They have plenty of land to spread out. They chose specifically to break the current height of the tallest buildings all around the perimeter of one of the jewels of the City. Without asking ANYONE.

My question to those who would be upset with this lawsuit, which by the way seemed inevitable given Hudson's unwillingness to budget: why so cozy with the big boys? Is there a problem with asking for review, community input, and maybe a reasonable height?

I'm frankly surprised that anyone would argue that 23-stories aren't excessive and against affordable housing. Really? Have we become bleeding hearts for developers now?

Anonymous said...

I don't think 23 stories is excessive.

23 stories with fire-breathing dragon sculptures, a helipad, and a nightly fireworks show would be excessive.

-Paul G.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Just curious Paul. How big would you have called excessive?

Anonymous said...

Burj Khalifa - too big.
1 WTC - too big.
Taipei 101 - too big.

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

I may or may not think it is excessive but if businesses had to seek my opinion before taking any action, this neighborhood would be completely different. To begin with, I would not have approved the name "tip of the tongue", I would prohibit Gino from using paper placemats, and I would cap gas prices at BP.

diak said...

At 23 stories, this building will be one story shorter than Ebbets Field Houses. And I'm guessing a quarter or a fifth of the square footage, if that. So much for unprecedented impact on the neighborhood.

rose said...

I’m not against or for the building; I’m staying mutual. That being said, I wonder why these groups didn’t take an active role on defeating our current council representative, so the community could have better representation? That in my humble opinion would have helped PLG in getting the respect that it deserves; and make others think before initiating any project or come to do business here. The reason why the developers failed to consult or refuses to meet the communities demands, is because they know we have no representation, and or that our esteem leader wouldn’t care less what they did.
That’s my two cents!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Diak - You think anybody really wanted Ebbets that tall either? Or Patio Gardens? Or Tivoli Towers? Your argument is weak. Try again.

The whole lot of them are too tall...aggressively so. Why add more salt to the too-salty soup?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh, Rose. Why would you assume they DIDN'T take an active role unseating him? Not as PPEN per se, but I doubt you'd find an ME supporter in the bunch. And these folks vote.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I would add Diak that it was a VERY different time when those buildings were built. Politically and economically and vision-wise. I think you could have built a 23-story vacuum cleaner in the 60's and 70's and gotten away with it, because everyone was leaving the City and we were desperate to hold onto business and residents. Now we're the hot snot. We can be a little choosy if we want to.

Anonymous said...

Once a project has been financed -- i.e., the bonds have been issued -- there is a lot financial pressure on the developer to build the project quickly. At 3% interest, the developer would accrue over $2 million in interest annually on $72 million in bonds. So if the project has to be delayed for a year to meet with the community, redesign the building, obtain new building permits, draw new construction documents for the contractor, renegotiate the financing, etc....I'll let you do the math. The point is that these demands have costs to the developer--and probably a lot more than the opponents appreciate. I don't think there is a change to the project that Hudson could make that would be enough to satisfy the opponents, without it causing Hudson an enormous financial hit. That is why I think those are "impossible demands".

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Guess they should have thought of that before they broke the law then, huh?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

On the one hand, people claim that Hudson Properties are sophisticated and responsible developers. I've never had any reason to doubt this. And yet they seem to have had good counsel, because this could have easily been avoided.

I still hold that someone assumed that you can ram something like this through without anyone caring because it's Flatbush, or Lefferts, and nobody cares or represents that side of the park. I'm not a conspiracy nut, but that's the only plausible explanation of why they would gamble like that.

ceelledee said...

First of all, PLG is a low-rise neighborhood. Which means the predominant building height here 2-3 stories, and certainly no more than 6 stories at best. However, Hudson proposes to erect a 23 story tower between the borders of the nationally recognized, low-rise historic district of Lefferts Manor, the New York City designated, low-rise historic district of Ocean on the Park and the national scenic landmark that is Prospect Park. Moreover, it literally plans to site this building in the backyards of the 3-story historic homes on Chester Court (an incredible residential cul de sac in the nabe that should have been landmarked eons ago). In the opinion of the more than 1,000 people and organizations who have now signed PPEN’s petitions, come out to various community meetings, including Community Board 9 meetings, sent letters of support to elected officials, etc – all those people contend that Hudson’s proposed build is so grossly out of context for the skyline of the neighborhood, the Park, and the general surrounding environment that it should be scaled back.

Now of course there's Patio Gardens. But again, there's nothing to be done about that structural anomaly some 30+ years after the fact. That's why, hopefully, there is something that can be done to prevent a private developer who, with the use of 72M in public funds, and driven purely by the scent of bucks that can be gotten by selling park views from a luxury tower, from destroying the character of the surrounding neighborhood in the process. Again, Paul -- the essence of the campaign for responsible development in PLG is not about trying to completely stop Hudson from building at 626 Flatbush! Rather, it's all about saying to Hudson: if you're going to take our tax dollars in order to build something in PLG, we welcome you. We need more decent and truly affordable housing here. But please, don't come in here to build a 23 story, mainly luxury tower that will rise like one humongous, out-of-context "finger" over the rest of the neighborhood and the green urban refuge that is Prospect Park! And most especially, please don't do you when you have the option of building the same number of units on the lot that you already have. Just please build lower!

Unless you are the developer, or have some other kind of skin in the game, what do you find to be so unreasonable about that request?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

sorry. they seemed to "not" have good counsel.

you gotta play by the rules, and yes, if you're going to do something unprecedented (sorry Diak, there were no luxury facilities over at Ebbets, and that's more than a stone's throw from the park anyway). If this were in fact an all-affordable building, maybe we'd be having a different discussion altogether.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not something is "luxury" is a matter of opinion and, well, context. The most run down apartment in all of PLG could seem luxurious to some 3rd world folks, and the nicest apartment in 626 would look like a dump to the Russian oligarchs buying in Manhattan. "Luxury" is a marketing term with no clear, quantifiable qualities. Hell, I've bought stuff at Phat Albert that had "luxurious" written on it.

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

And here's how Ebbets Field positioned itself when it opened:

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

-Paul G.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Great question! It may be that they redesign based on all the opposition - the Park, community groups, elected officials - and don't bother to go through the costly review. Because during the review process, many of those concerns will be brought to light anyway.

With enough pressure, and not wanting a fight or the expense, Hudson might just cry uncle. ESPECIALLY if the new mayor weighed in. That's what I suspect anyway.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I'm always quick to defend the good families who live at Ebbets currently. And I commend you for bringing that amazing article to our attention. But if anything, it makes the case against building such eyesore buildings in low-rise neighborhoods, don't you think? Makes you wonder what 626 will look and feel like in 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Parkside Towers: Luxurious

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You been in there? Those apartments are pretty darn swell.

Anonymous said...

I have been in there. Just making sure everyone knows about the amazing real estate brochure database at Columbia. So much fun to see how PLG buildings were marketed back in the day.

Here's Patio Gardens!

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

"Guess they should have thought of that before they broke the law then, huh?"

I'm confused about this, Q. Is there any evidence that Hudson actually broke the law? They seem to have done all of the things they were required to do, and if it was determined by SEQRA that they were in compliance, what have they done wrong? I'm still waiting for someone who actually understands this stuff to weigh in in detail.

And I'm all for the exercise of PPEN's free speech rights. I just hope that their suit is tossed out on the merits and the building proceeds as planned.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

3:18 - You haven't read the suit. It claims the state shouldn't have issued the bonds. And Hudson should have known they weren't entitled to them. Yet. There were plenty of sophisticated people who should have known. It's like when the ATM gives you extra money. There's no question what's right or wrong, but you may choose to take the money and go out to eat at Per Se.

Anonymous said...

is the text of the lawsuit publicly available? I'd be very curious to read it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anon @ 3:37-- if we're going to have a substantive argument about whether or not Hudson and/or the State HFA broke the law, we should all get to see the legal basis for the claims.

Anonymous said...

Area landlord here; I'm all for this suit as it will artificially restrict the availability of housing, driving rents higher for non-homeowners, hastening the neighborhood change this blog tends to rail against. Good luck!!

diak said...

What is "weak" about suggesting that 626 won't have the equivalent impact of a meteor hitting Flatbush Ave? That, in fact, it's a lot smaller than existing complexes? Yes, Ebbets was built decades ago, but thousands of people still live there. If they knocked down Ebbets and replaced them with a few glass condo skyscrapers, THAT would be a game-changer. (And before anyone goes crazy, I am NOT proposing that!)

I'd also like to say that I'd be against the building of a 23-story vacuum cleaner. But in fact, it has been proposed:

And a question for the anti's: 23 stories is too big. What is the "right" number?

ceelledee said...

Come to the press conference tomorrow, anon 3:37. That way, you can directly quiz the lawyers and the petitioners who will be there on the merits of their case all you want! Especially since all the anonymous "we" among us "should all get to see the legal basis for the claims", I'm sure they'll be delighted to tell you everything you wish to know about this case IRL. :-)

What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, 12/19 @ 11:00 A.M
Where: Chester Court

Anonymous said...

For a guy whose feelings "continue to evolve" you sure seem to have taken a pretty firm position on the side of the plaintiffs.

I wouldn't take what the Complaint says about lack of SEQRA compliance at face value any more than I'd take any other pleading at face value. I have no idea whether the rules were followed but neither do you.

Your comments here sound a lot like someone who just doesn't like the project and is assuming the worst about the people starting it. So why not assume they didn't follow the SEQRA procedure? These lawsuits almost never work. All they do is drive up the cost of construction. Long term, I guess that has value if you dislike big construction projects, but it won't change much about this project.

Anonymous said...

anon 11:40 am,

Yeah, the arrival of WilmerHale signals the start of the money fight. The presence of the legal services group adds a little cover to what's afoot. So here's this small rebellion that's drawn in a few people in PLG who mostly have no idea how little a 23-story building would change the neighborhood.

When you stroll along a sidewalk do you notice how tall the nearest building is? No. It's only when you're some distance away with an unobstructed view that you can judge. Thus, people walking in Prospect Park might, from time to time, notice the height of buildings on the perimeter.

As for people on Chester Court, well, they won't be looking at the building because very few windows in those houses afford a view of the site. That's one factor that's almost always ignored. Tall buildings are generally outside the field of view of almost everyone at home looking out their windows.

Does anyone lament the height of buildings around Central Park? No. Is anyone crying about the height of buildings in the Lincoln Towers complex? That was a low-rise area for a long long time. A dump too. But no longer.

Anyway, if the project goes ahead and the 23-story structure is built, then PLG is the winner. After all, the project will bring more prosperity to the neighborhood. It's not as though the city decided to build a waste-treatment facility in the middle of a residential area. If that were the case, a lawsuit filed on behalf of victimized, low-income residents on a pro-bono basis would add up. But that's not the case.

Meanwhile, WilmerHale will do its best to extract some kind of concession from the developer. Money is best, but jobs or a higher percentage of reduced-rent apartments are alternatives, though without the delivery of some cash, WilmerHale will deem the effort a loser.

Anonymous said...

Clarkson @ 2:08-
My point isn't that Hudson should be protected from the possibility of losing money. They're a developer, they take that risk. My point is that if your end goal is a negotiated series of changes to the project -- lower height, more affordable units, whatever-- you need to think about what the developer might accept. When they've already paid full price for the land, got the building permits, issued the bonds to fund construction, etc., they are in too deep and are too far along to make drastic changes. They are going to fight this thing all the way.
Now, for all I know, maybe the State screwed something up with the environmental approvals as the opponents claim and the miracle they are hoping for happens and a judge halts the project. I don't think there is more than the remotest possibility that that happens, but let's say it does. In that case I think Hudson would turn around and try to build the same project with private financing. As we know Tom Anderson is building the same kind of project right down the block at Lincoln Road without the help of HDC or HFA. So I think the most that this Hail Mary play achieves for the opponents is a delay in a project that will be built anyway.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

To all the anonymous Legal Beagles out there who seem to think they know more about land use law than the attorneys in question who have done their due diligence...your interpretations of the case are less interesting than your chosen screen names. Let the plaintiffs plead their case and let the defendant respond. No one is trying to take anything away from you personally, so just relax.

Diak: you ask the perfect question. 23-stories is too high. What is the "right" number? Don't you think the question should be asked by someone other than the company building the building? That's what this is all about, in my opinion. The question was never asked. You're asking it now, and I applaud you.

When someone scoffed at my opinion "evolving," well it's done just that, and it's not done. At this point, I'm simply swatting the ridiculous accusations that somehow by bringing this suit - which Hudson basically asked for - that your neighbors have done the neighborhood irreparable harm. Look, it's one building. There will be dozens more. More are being planned all the time. I've seen more new big plans in the last year than in the previous 9. The Bed-Stuy Crown Heights development march is heading down, even as our own demographics change at breakneck speed.

Look around you, people. This borough is being rebuilt faster than at any time since the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. You want to sit idly by and let people build whatever they want whenever they want for whomever they want that's fine. But some people have had enough of being pushed around and want to push back. For that, I give them props.

What will the ultimate result be? Who knows? The whiplash change is upon us anyway, and it may end up being a footnote. But let it be known that the good folks of Lefferts, who prided themselves on being a neighborhood that withstood some of the worst ravages of fear-mongering and white-flight and redlining in the '60s and stood up for each other over all manner of things, did not go quietly into the night when a bully tried to build a skyscraper in their midst.

There are some of you out there who would probably like to deny the plaintiffs their rights to complain in a court of law. Well, it don't work that way. And when something goes down that YOU don't agree with, you have the same remedy.

God bless America.

Anonymous said...

clarkson writes:

Diak: you ask the perfect question. 23-stories is too high. What is the "right" number? Don't you think the question should be asked by someone other than the company building the building? That's what this is all about, in my opinion. The question was never asked.

To whom is this question of height put? Who has the authority to answer? Are the authorized responders people who claim to live nearby? Urban planners? Who? Why?

NY City has a new mayor. Though de Blasio was elected by a huge margin, what does that mean? Voter turn-out was a record low, so even with his landslide victory, de Blasio was put in office by less than 20 percent of voters? In other words, most people don't care.

And so it is with a 23-story building. A handful of people are shaking their fists and clamoring. Big deal. However, most people don't care now, and they won't find themselves outraged when their eyes land on the finished product standing near the park. They'll go about their business and maybe they'll discover they have friends living in the building on an upper floor who will invite them over and give them a spectacular view of the park.

What's underway is the coming out of PLG. Perhaps a little overdue, but nonetheless, the neighborhood is approaching its debutante ball, its arrival. However, it isn't headed for the widespread landmarking that made Greenwich Village a collection of dwarf buildings for which occupants pay giant piles of cash to rent or buy.

It's on its way to becoming the plain from which new buildings rise and give occupants views that had been unknown till now.

When will Fairway appear?

diak said...

I asked the question about the "right" number because I'm curious about the aims of those bringing the suit.
What if, hypothetically, the developer says it's not worth the time and money to contest the suit and suggests a 20-story building? Is that low enough? 18? 15? Lower?

Also, does anyone know if 23 stories is the max allowable on the site? What if, again hypothetically, the suit costs the developer a lot of time, money, and aggravation so that if it fails (and it seems to be an enormous longshot, at best) they don't turn around and say "screw you, PLG. We're going to make it 30 stories" just for spite...?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

All good questions, Diak. Thanks for the respectful dialogue. Enough with the accusations, misrepresentations, and sarcasm. This is a serious issue.

23-stories is max FAR for the site. That figure is based on how much area you have to work with. They could conceivably build even MORE units if they built lower. Which is why I wish the proponents of the building as planned would get their heads in the game and learn a thing or too and become part of the solution, so we can continue to discuss what is the right sort of development for the neighborhood, not just for this project but for those going forward.

IMO, and and many others, this strip along Flatbush and Ocean should have been rezoned long ago. It's simply not appropriate given the other zoning along the park. Yes this is a late remedy, but better than none at all in my view.

To Hudson's potential for making money? I don't give a rat's ass. We're talking about people and the future of a neighborhood. Like I said, they should have considered all this before planning, and in fact, I'm sure they did and figured they'd experience no opposition, and that really peeves me. I even told them they would get some, and they dismissed it as white noise. (maybe black noise would be more appropriate?)

The right size, the right mix of housing, the right way to engage the neighborhood and bring amenities without creating a monolith that distances itself from the existing community? C'mon down and be a part.

To my lovable arch-nemesis late-nighter (lay off the coffee dude) at midnight: the "handful" of people you refer to numbers over 1,000. You, my friend, number ONE. You take outsize space in the comment section. In a tug of war, I know on whom I'd place my bet.

As to Fairway, I wonder where you'd put it. I don't think anyone would argue that good produce is in short supply. That's why the farmer's market is something we're championing, that's why the coop is trying to get off the ground, that's why we have not one but two CSA's within walking distance. But a Fairway or a Trader Joe's would be welcome, even a Union Market. It's only a matter of time before one of those recognizes the value of a Flatbush location. Empire is's zoning would work out nicely, even for parking lots.

What's happening at the gas station at Bedford and Eastern Parkway?

Anonymous said...

Clarkson sez-
23-stories is max FAR for the site. That figure is based on how much area you have to work with. They could conceivably build even MORE units if they built lower.

FAR limits the square footage of the project, not the number of stories. They could build more than 23 stories, but they would have the same floor area to work with, placing a practical constraint on height, and there is also something called the "sky exposure plane" which places actual limits on the height. According to their building permit they are building out to 3.42 of residential FAR and the limit for R7-1 zoning districts is 3.44, so they are pretty much doing as large a building (in floor area) as they can on the site. So the only way they could build more units is by making the units smaller.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I stand corrected. They could build the same.

Anonymous said...

I am with you Alex. I'm a resident who likes the idea of more housing and more diverse housing options as opposed to;
a) landmarked mansions
b) outdated rent stabilized apartments (that never turn over)

We need many resources in this community and instead of putting up a fight right of the bat, I personally believe we should sit with the developer and negotiate.
Maybe lower building height, maybe a community center... perhaps snazzy new tree guards or a new good quality daycare facility..who knows. I have been in the nabe 8 years and feel strongly that the group behind the law suit doesn't represent the entire community. With regard to SEQRA, I believe this falls under CEQA, the city environmental review, which has higher standards than the state. either way, it basically functions as a disclosure document with (if necessary) mitigation proposals. In most cases, if the findings do not reach the actionable levels outlined in the CEQR document, CEQA findings won't bring a project to a halt.


Clarkson FlatBed said...

in my opinion it's the landmarked areas that make the neighborhoods so desirable in the first place. you're not just landmarking someone's're landmarking history and a neighborhood. they will never, ever, ever build buildings like this again. the crap they're throwing up in crown heights is totally disposable. i'm all in favor of landmarking, and no, I don't live in the district.

they wanted to tear down the north slope, prospect heights and big chunks of other neighborhoods during urban renewal. they DID tear down huge chunks all over the city. imagine what NYC would look and feel like without its row and town houses?

if you want a sense of unmitigated development, i'm told beijing is a great place to start.

lack of capitals means need coffee.

trust me. there's plenty of unlandmarked areas to build apartments. and they will. and the process of getting the rent stabilized units out of the system is well underway. you'll get your wish, don't worry.

Anonymous said...

I want to reply to the above comment, but I keep getting stuck on "lack of capitals means need coffee" and I can't for the life of me figure out what that means??

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

Durh now I get it. Mr. Q needs caffeine, and can't hit the shift key for caps until he's had it.

It's true that coffee helps you shift.


Anonymous said...

clarkson writes:

To my lovable arch-nemesis late-nighter (lay off the coffee dude) at midnight: the "handful" of people you refer to numbers over 1,000. You, my friend, number ONE.

1,000? Yeah, that's less than a handful. There's 8.5 million in NY City and more than 2.5 million in Brooklyn. Your average middle school has more than 1,000 students. For your purposes, the number is insignificant.

Moreover, some percentage of those people will leave the area in a few years. And, others, who might favor the building will arrive in PLG. All of which means it doesn't matter much what a handful of people feel about a building that meets the legal standards for construction.

Like I said, no one really notices the height of a building they're walking past or standing next to. Almost everyone is indifferent. That's the key. Indifference. The overwhelming majority of residents are indifferent to the construction of a new building in any neighborhood. They'll occasionally stop and gawk at the progress. Take a photo of the steel, the skeleton at night with construction lights illuminating the open floors. But that's it.

Meanwhile, if local residents truly believed the property should be developed according to their vision, then the proof of that belief would appear when they pooled their capital, purchased the property and developed on their terms, which is exactly what the current owner is doing.

Are there people who don't love the Empire State Building? Probably. Maybe there were people opposed to its construction in 1931. I'll bet there were. Is anyone sad their opposition was over-ridden?

The building occupying the site before the ESB was the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Is anyone lamenting its destruction? No. And even thought the ESB is four times the height of every other building for blocks, the move to tear it down hasn't gained much ground.

Anyway, the usual trajectory of these contretemps is local opposition to the building giving way to admiration and pride.

As for the effects of landmarking, as we know, landmarking is a form of permanent rent control -- in reverse. Instead of keeping a lid on things, it drives up the rent/purchase price of the limited number of properties in the area. Thus, the quickest way to price-out new residents is through extensive landmarking. But it's great for building superintendents and lease-holders who are positioned to collect "key money" from people who really want to get into the neighborhood.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Sigh. You're such a loveable rapscallion. But you bring up points that may have crossed others' minds so I must rebut.

We've decided as a City (or rather, our elected reps have decided) where to build high and where not to build high. Midtown and Downtown we said, go as high as you can, it's in the interest of business and our status as a world city. We said build low in other parts of town to protect the sunlight and neighborhood characters.

Bloomberg and his head planner Amanda Burden, in the wake of 9/11, set out to rebuild our City in bold fashion. They rezoned huge areas - Williamsburg waterfront, Downtown Brooklyn, West Side etc. They've created neighborhoods where anything is possible height-wise, and developers are literally rising to the challenge.

Now. What's wrong with individual nabes having a say in whether they want to be part of the boom skyward? In your Dystopian Flatbush vision you see the Empire State Building?

Let the people have their say.

Anonymous said...

Wrong on all accounts Q. Downtown and Midtown have high rise towers because of the topography of the bedrock. Not because of elected officials!! Please stop spewing out false accusations.

Anonymous said...

As recently as 80 years ago Midtown was filled with lovely townhouses. Do you not think the people who lived in those homes lamented wholesale changes to their neighborhood? According to your logic they should have had a say - right?

I'm not saying that local residents shouldn't have input into development, but bear in mind if you take that philosophy to it's furthest extent nothing would ever get built anywhere.

It's always tricky to decide who should win and who should lose as development occurs, but anyone who claims to have a perfect solution is ignoring a lot of NYC history.

-Paul G.

ceelledee said...

Some hope a luxury sky rise tower in our neighborhood will bring us all kinds of commercial amenities like Starbucks and Trader Joe. But what about one of the best natural amenities that a low-rise neighborhood has to offer? Lots of sunlight!

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh shush you two. I'm saying the City decided to build high in midtown and downtown by design. I didn't say WHY. Stop the spazzing already.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

To anon. Were the Mayor and Governors not elected back then, and did they not decide where and how high to build? They chose spots by design of course, and the rock was part of it. Point out the misinformation in that statement please.

Paul: I'm glad to see you're a fan of the Robert Moses school of eminent domain. Sometimes, it makes sense. Sometimes, we look back and wish we could bring back Penn Station or the neighborhoods that became Cadman Plaza (yuck).

Anonymous said...

The Times article is interesting, but it does ignore one crucial fact: for every person who's old apartment gets cast into shadow by a new building there's a host of new apartments in that new construction that now have awesome views and light. It's not like they're erecting windowless monoliths.

So the issue, then, is who deserves to have access to that limited sunshine: existing residents or the new occupants of the high rise buildings. The easy answer is to say "I was here first!" - but that's a pretty tenuous position. The Native Americans were here first and ALL of our homes are blocking their light and air (and soil). Shame on us!

New development has to go somewhere, and no matter where it goes SOMEBODY is going to be inconvenienced. But if that placement makes sense for the city as a whole (if it's near mass transit, not in a stupid floodplain, etc), then the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

THAT BEING SAID: development can and should take into account context, community, and environmental impact. We should preserve areas of low rise like in the Lefforts Manor - but the price of preserving places like that will be more large-ish buildings along their perimeter.

-Paul G.

Anonymous said...

The occupants of the Ebbets Field apartments, for example, have lots of light and air.

Anonymous said...

clarkson asks:

What's wrong with individual nabes having a say in whether they want to be part of the boom skyward? In your Dystopian Flatbush vision you see the Empire State Building?

What's wrong with locals having a say? They always have a say. As I stated, they can buy the property and build to suit themselves, which is always the plan, though sometimes final designs undergo some touch-ups.

Meanwhile, the "locals", as you define them, are only temporary occupants of wherever they happen to be. Is anyone involved in the creation of the Empire State Building still around? Are the first occupants of any home in PLG still in residence?

The complaints are temporary and will have no meaning in a decade. People living in tall buildings on the perimeter of Prospect Park will wonder why it took so long for such great views to become available?

Do you ever wonder why it took so long to put wheels on a suitcase?

Sometimes we miss the obvious, and we stay blind to it for a long while. Like putting up industrial buildings on the NY City waterfront, then allowing them to sit empty and unproductive for decades while people dither about what should be done with them. As if NY City/Brooklyn needs a sugar factory.

When will the re-zoning of the Garment District occur? Vast under-utilized space that's perfect for apartments is idle and doing nothing for the city.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Your argument circles back on itself. Had it not been for landmarking, huge sections of the City would be fugly and cacophonous. The wonderful charm of NYC is part of what makes it attractive to business and buyers and tourists in the first place. Your argument for property owners being able to do as they please would have created a miserable City.

And since you're taking the longview, isn't right to say eventually the waterfronts got used? The process worked, though over time.

Anonymous said...

clarkson opines:

Had it not been for landmarking, huge sections of the City would be fugly and cacophonous. The wonderful charm of NYC is part of what makes it attractive to business and buyers and tourists in the first place. Your argument for property owners being able to do as they please would have created a miserable City.

In other words, you want to pit one city agency against another: Planning & Zoning vs the Landmark Commission. Without a permit, in this city you can't build a sand castle, let alone an actual house.

As for the acreage covered by landmarking, hmmm, hard to say. But as far as tourists are concerned, well, I'd say if there's one characteristic that defines NY City's tourist magnet -- Times Square -- it's the absence of landmarking.

Anyway, if builders were handcuffed and hogtied to the degree you seem to support, new construction would come to an end and only minor interior renovations would follow.

And since you're taking the longview, isn't right to say eventually the waterfronts got used? The process worked, though over time.

Who were the geniuses that backed the construction of project housing in Far Rockaway, sacrificing beachfront property that should have formed the Hamptons of NY City? The same can be said for Coney Island.

At least in Brighton Beach the old beach club was converted into a large residential site that's been a huge benefit to the area.

Anonymous said...

Even though this forum isn't very welcoming to different points of view, I'd like to say I'm looking forward to our neighborhood getting better. I think the two new towers, the investment they represent, and the new residents they bring will be a good thing. Restaurants! Bars! Stores! No one displaced. I can't afford a single family house. More apartment supply means more of a buyers market. Older stock will be cheaper because many buyers will prefer new buildings. I think the towers will be good for the neighborhood. I hope this lawsuit doesn't discourage development here. - ckbk

Anonymous said...

No one displaced what a lie. You guys have no idea of the misery out there. You don't even need the towers. Your doing just fine as it is moving people like me out. My landlord won't even return my calls. Its like you don't even see the people living here and don't care. I hope you enjoy your new restaurants.

Anonymous said...

A few scattered tall buildings don't block sun and air. The concerns about that issue in NYC applies to the streets where there are long rows of tall buildings creating literally a wall of height. Because of that, a lower building (like whatever is proposed, 12 to 18 stories) that has a wider larger footprint is actually going to block sun and air a LOT more. I don't understand at all how that is preferable. Especially when you lose the really nice setback from the sidewalk the 23-story design offers. Not getting it.

Anonymous said...

Seems there's a little confusion about shadows and where they fall.

Growing City Skyline Could Bring Dark Days To Central Park

December 26, 2013

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — The ever-growing and changing skyline of New York City could have a profound and less than desirable effect on a Big Apple treasure.

As CBS 2′s Scott Rapoport reported there could be dark days ahead for Central Park.

It is a possibility beyond a shadow of a doubt according to a study by the Municipal Art Society.

“It’s upsetting. You don’t want any change. Change is hard to see,” Midtown resident Danielle Codel, said.

The study said that the growing number of mega skyscrapers being built in the 57th Street area, like the Enormo, Tower One 57, and those in the planning stages will cast long shadows across the southern part of Central Park and dim areas of the shining jewel.

“What can you do? It’s progress,” Shannon Riley said, “They have to build the buildings right. They need more space.”

Studies showed that buildings exceeding 1000-ft will create different shadows at different times of the year. In some cases those shadows will be 20 blocks long.

“It’s going to cast a shadow that will reach the playground, the zoo, you know way up north,” Layla Law-Gisiko explained.

Law-Gisiko is the chair of the Landmarks Committee for Community Board 5. She said that developers are able to build so high because they bought the air rights from the buildings around them and that there is not a public review process.

“It will basically plunge the park into a solar eclipse in the middle of the day,” she said.

Residents told CBS 2′s Rapoport that making the park darker may not be such a bright idea.

“New York City is a place known for its beauty and I think Central Park adds so much to that,” Erica Liebowitz said.

Extell Development Company, the developer of One 57 Tower, said that its buildings are very slender at the top and that moving shadows will mean that no single area of the park will be under a shadow for more than minutes at a time.

Anonymous said...

That's Central Park, where they are building long rows of many very tall buildings side by side. It doesn't counter what I said at 12:47. Unless you think it's realistic to believe the landmarked houses and all those huge prewar buildings on Ocean will be knocked down to build skyscrapers. Won't happen.