In meeting with and talking to residents leading this charge, the Q feels that despite the need for more, and more affordable, housing for Brooklynites, the trend towards massive wholesale reconfiguration of the borough without (in my view) thought or care has proven incredibly destructive, both to the character of neighborhoods and to the people who have long called Central Brooklyn home. While some pay lipservice to the idea of democracy within big D development, anyone who has seen the doc My Brooklyn or has kept up with the rapid pace of big money following big money into our borough knows how plans are made and implemented without the consent or even general knowledge of the people most affected. The "people" have no say in how their neighborhoods and City are being changed, and changed so rapidly as to take one's breath away.
Here's the full release, which includes a few choice remarks by said local politicians:
Brooklyn Community Files Lawsuit to Stop Luxury High-Rise
23-story luxury tower planned for Prospect Lefferts Gardens defies low rise historic neighborhood
Community residents and organizations have formed a coalition to fight the development of the high rise luxury tower. The Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is not opposed to new construction, but does ask that the development be contextual and respectful of the existing architecture and environment in the neighborhood. Petitioners also include the Flatbush Development Corporation, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA), and six individual community residents.
“Members of PPEN sought legal counsel in this issue so that their voices could be heard,” said David Bassett, legal counsel for the petitioners, and a partner at WilmerHale. “They contend that the Housing Finance Agency’s determination that the construction of a 23-story tower in the midst of their low rise neighborhood on the edge of Prospect Park would have no significant environmental impact was improper and arbitrary, and in violation of New York State law.”
While the area has always been mixed-income, the addition of the tower would change the rental market so that long-time residents living on fixed incomes would not be able to afford to stay. The new residents who would occupy the luxury tower would impact the nature of local businesses which have long served the economically and ethnically diverse community. Low-income tenants and businesses would be priced out of the neighborhood.
“The NYS Housing Finance Agency failed to take a hard look at the impact this tower will have on the neighborhood’s residents and businesses,” said Rachel Hannaford, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program. “Our clients are concerned that this tower will lead to tenant displacement, as landlords see new opportunities in a high rent market. In recent years, developments like this one have changed the character of Brooklyn neighborhoods and forced the most vulnerable out of their homes and communities.”
"As a group of tenant associations battling the displacement of long-term tenants in the neighborhood, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition is very concerned about the scale and affordability of this proposed development,” said FTC member Redoneva Andrews. “Without more affordable housing for low-income families, the development will change the neighborhood. It will drive up rents and the cost of everything else in the area, and drive out low-income tenants and small store owners. Low-income families are already treated with little respect—apartments are so run down that tenants are forced to move out. We want to make sure all families are treated with respect and have safe, affordable housing."
The building would also dramatically affect Prospect Park, as it would be almost 50% taller than any other building on or near the perimeter of the park. The tower would cast shadows, impacting flora and fauna. It would also, by towering above the tree-sky vista that is currently the view from within the park, violate the design intentions of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted who carefully designed Prospect Park to be a rural retreat from the sights, sounds and stresses of urban life. Buildings this tall are not permitted by zoning in other neighborhoods that border Prospect Park, including Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington.
“The people of Prospect Lefferts Gardens share a neighborhood of remarkable beauty,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke. “I have lived on Midwood Street for my entire life, and I know that this neighborhood’s character has been defined by generations of families and small business who have remained here for decades. The construction of a twenty-three floor tower in a neighborhood where even the highest buildings are less than half that height threatens to undermine the quality of life enjoyed by the people in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I urge a thorough review of this proposal and its potential consequences.”
"Given the drastic change the proposed 23-story mixed use tower will cause to the skyline of this historic portion of Flatbush Avenue, as viewed from Prospect Park and from Prospect Lefferts Garden, I think it is important that there be some extended public discussion of the project's appropriateness before demolition and construction begin on the site," said State Senator Kevin Parker.
“I am energized and excited by the efforts of this community group to take a strong stance for responsible development in Prospect Lefferts Gardens,” said Assembly Member Karim Camara. “Additionally, I am working with my colleagues in the City and State to propose more encompassing legislation regarding contextual zoning, community notification, and a greater commitment to affordable housing, particularly when taxpayer dollars are used for development.”
“It is important that we maintain the character and integrity of our communities,” said NYC Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a neighborhood with a rich history. I strongly advocate that the City Planning Commission soon review the current zoning in the area of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens adjacent to Prospect Park.”
“It is imperative that we maintain and protect the integrity of Prospect Lefferts Garden's low rise and historic homes,” saidBrenda Edwards, a homeowner on Chester Court and a member of PPEN. “This does not include a 23-story tower hovering relentlessly over our heads. I feel that without the immediate approval of contextual zoning, which was requested since 2008, that the proposed Hudson tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue will become an invitation for other such development.”
“Prospect Lefferts Gardens is a real community, with both diversity and cohesion,” said Quest Eric Bohman Fanning, a tenant of Patio Gardens and lifelong resident of the neighborhood. “Our community is unique and vibrant; we don't need to become Manhattan.”
About Prospect Park East Network
Prospect Park East Network (PPEN) is an organization of concerned residents formed to address this development and the larger concerns it brings, which include the urgent need for contextual zoning and impact studies on such issues as traffic, subways, parking, schools, safety, sanitation, low income and affordable housing, and Prospect Park itself.
About Flatbush Development Corporation
Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC) is a nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of a diverse Flatbush community. FDC identifies and responds to these needs by creating programs, campaigns, and partnerships through economic development, housing, youth, immigration and other initiatives that promote enhanced quality of life, safety, and preservation of the neighborhoods of Flatbush, East Flatbush, and South Crown Heights (which includes Prospect Lefferts Gardens).