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.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Zoning Update

Some of y'all have emailed asking about where we're at with a zoning study. CB9 members were invited to a special training session by the Brooklyn Department of City Planning on Tuesday, where we were treated to an extraordinarily thorough examination of the neighborhood and the potential for this and that scenarios. Zoning is a funny thing, and a notoriously blunt tool for social engineering. However, by learning about some of the plans for, say, East New York (here's the big proposal - it's actually fascinating), we were able to ask questions about what is and isn't possible, since so much of it relies on what developers are and aren't willing to build once the zoning is in place. If you're interested in the how the future of Lefferts/SoCro, or LeSoCro, could potentially unfold, I urge you to familiarize yourself with zoning, at least enough to get the gist. A nice intro about the various zoning designations can be viewed here.
Way Out Atlantic Ave: The ENY of the future? A bit optimistic, perhaps?

And while there wasn't a lot of NEW information discussed, much of it was new to the new Board members, many of whom, in a bit of a panic, helped to rescind last year's resolution to begin the process of studying our neighborhood and proposing changes consistent with the neighborhoods priorities. Turns out a formal "resolution" wasn't really needed, and we went quite a bit further in ours than had, say, CB8 in its initial approach to Planning. All they wrote was a letter, and it had nothing specific at all in it. But Winston et al at City Planning quite liked our resolution, and were quick to engage the CB to move forward. I've been over this 1,000 times, but it's worth repeating, particularly since some in the room on Tuesday didn't really know how far we'd gotten before things blew up in September.

The bottom line is this. City Planning is not about to pour enormous resources into a rezoning study, and engage in the lengthy process of dialogue and ULURP, if a) we don't invite them in formally and b) we won't entertain the possibility of finding places to build new housing, in particular affordable housing as laid out in the goals of the current Mayoral administration. Dig? So somehow, CB9 has to go back to the drawing "board" and restate its support for a study and its acknowledgment of the goals of the DPC. Barring that, we get stuck with the same lousy 50-year-old zoning that led to the creation of 626, an outdated map that actively encourages a totally random hodge-podge construction environment. With more than two dozen development plans already in the works for the area south of Eastern Parkway, west of Prospect Park, west of NY Ave, you can see why some of us are very nervous about what this means in practice. Actually, so much is already cooked into the pie that an 18-month zoning process will barely make a dent.  We've already lost a year. Here's hoping the bleeding stops now.

You probably already know about the other unneighborly 23-story tower going up on Nostrand below Church. But did you know that inside sources tell the Q that the Associated on Nostrand above Empire, which lost its lease, is already likely to be a huge, and maybe tall, apartment building? (Sadly, neighbors spoke to the grocery store's owners asking that they stay, and were sold a bill of goods about how they would. Real money talks, and that's whose speaking now over there.) Did you know that a hotel firm is looking at Empire right now? Did you know how big the apartment building will be at the recently sold Sea Crest linen spot? Did you know that R6 zoning has no height limits, and that other than the absurd and "loose" R7-1 zoning that led to 626, our neighborhood is chock full of R6? Did you know that a simple change from R6 to R6A or R6B could include not only height limits but "quality housing" dictates that ensure the context of our blocks remains intact?

It really IS consequential. And Tuesday was a great start towards making the board understand those consequences. And yes, Empire Blvd, Flatbush to Rogers, will be on the table. But so will dozens of other blocks. Hopefully we'll move forward without any more shenanigans from the scaremongers at MTOPP, but who knows? One can only hope that their, um, enthusiasm can be contained long enough to discuss the issue soberly.

32 comments:

Curious27 said...

Holy hell, the Associated is going out of business? That's literally the only grocery store that within a reasonable distance for so many folks. Really hard to believe... Jesus.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

What can you say? They don't own the land, which has now become absurdly valuable. They could be there another year though, so don't sign up for Fresh Direct yet.

Look, given the giant building happening on Rogers, plus the Plex or whatever it's called, there will be more shopping options cropping up. They may not be as affordable, though. The Franklin boom has moved south of Eastern Parkway, so look for many new bizzes.

Stacey Duda said...

The Market Place is an awesome large grocery store not too far from the Associated, on Lincoln Rd, corner of Kingston. Their homemade hummus is a neighborhood secret gem! They also do online ordering and home delivery.

babs said...

Of course there's always Western Beef if you can stand it...

Bob Marvin said...

It would take SO LITTLE to turn Western Beef into a first rate store, not that I expect it's short-sighted management to actually make the effort.

The Associated on Flatbush @ Hawthorne has improved a great deal and AFAIK it's not effected by the projected closing of the Associated on Bedford, in Crown Heights.

MikeF said...

My sources told me the Associated on Nostrand was given a five year lease by the new owners of the site.

http://www.brooklynian.com/discussion/comment/555393#Comment_555393

Is this not the case?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Write me a note and I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

My source says shorter, much shorter.

MikeF said...

Perhaps the 5 year lease has an exit clause?

Regardless, we will know very soon. It is still on the Big 16 list for a reason...

http://www.brooklynian.com/discussion/44634/links-to-the-big-16-developments-in-western-crown-heights/p1

Anonymous said...

Tim - In this meeting, was there any discussion around upzoning the current R2 and R4 zoning further east? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Stacey, It's not so much a secret as it's Kosher. Most avoid such Kosher stores picturing matza balls and gefilta fish, but were they to step inside, there is a world of goodies...

Clarkson FlatBed said...

No. I think it's fine to continue to assert the Jewish Community's concerns, but I don't think that's considered as much of an "emergency" and that NE chunk of the district will probably not make it into the study.

I'd be very curious to hear if there are groups out there opposed to such a change, as I'm sure it's not just the Chabad community that lives there. Anybody know or want to weigh in?

Anonymous said...

These studies don't come by that often. My understanding is that if doesn't happen along with the one being discussed, it likely won't happen for a while.

I haven't heard of any organized groups against such upzoning. At the CB9 meeting where this was discussed, I heard the general concern that property values will increase resulting in un-affordability. The homeowners in the attendance wondered if property taxes will go up as a result. But no, nothing organized.

Anonymous said...

I also heard the "what's in it for me" argument.

MikeF said...

Clarkson-
I believe we have the same private parts. Hence, your offer isn't as interesting as it might be.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Is the Freedom Tower the "same" as 626 Flatbush?

MikeF said...

I am not interested in things that project upward, regardless of their size.

I am sure someone will take you up on your offer eventually. Buy them a nice dinner, put on some Barry White.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYEJFSsfEcs

Good luck

IKB said...

The Sea Crest Linen property is in the part of north Crown Heights that has already been rezoned. It is R6A zoning which allows for 7 stories on wide streets. Building permits have already been filed: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141229/crown-heights/four-tower-209-unit-building-planned-for-crown-heights-laundry-facility

Clarkson FlatBed said...

IKB: Nope. It's in CB9, at 46 Crown. If you've been by the site you'll surely recognize it. It's well south of Empire, closer to the Spice Factory. Which, I'm told, is likely to stay put. Golembeck has a nice thing going, and is very enmeshed with his community, for whom he is quite the macher for employing so many people. Plus the warehouse building is apparently perfect for the spice business, due to the unusual "cork" and other old brewery building materials that keep things dry and cool without the extra high cost of electricity.

The reason for the R6A is that it was rezoned in the '90s at the request of the Botanic Garden, which was freaked about the possibility of more tall towers killing its sunlight. Jake Goldstein, ex-chair of CB9, gave me the whole history of that rezoning as part of his fascinating history of the neighborhood, and some nice inside tidbits (like the Spice Factory stuff) to boot. Golembeck lost a lot of potential money through the rezoning, but like I said, he ain't going anywhere for the time being anyway, and is quite respected for his integrity and generosity.

babs said...

Thank you so much, Mr. Clarkson Flatbed, for reassuring me about Mr. Golumbeck's spice factory. I will do anything to keep him here (Striet's matzohs is going from their LES site in case you hadn't noticed).

Alex said...

Tim - above, I think you mean below Eastern Parkway, not below Empire.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You are correct sir! EP and Empire...such clear dividing lines and easy to misspeak.

The idea that Crown Heights is split in two seems so bizarre, but that's how it feels, especially now that there's so much growth ABOVE Eastern Parkway. The fact is, if residential were to bloom on Empire, South Crown Heights would start to feel a lot more like "ours."

Bob Marvin said...

When I moved to Brooklyn in 1970 the area north of Eastern Parkway was considered to be part of Bedford Stuyvesant, rather than Crown Heights. It's so listed in the Brownstone Revival Committee's guides to brownstone neighborhoods in NYC. I don't remember when, or why, the boundary was moved north to Atlantic Avenue.

Ceelledee said...

You are right, Bob. I was living on Bedford between Sterling and St. John in the early 70's. Back then,that area was considered as Bed Stuy.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Ceel le Dee is back!!

Anonymous said...

Tim - Any discussion about downzoning R7-1s further east, say Montgomery east of Albany? I would prefer if we took all R7-1s down to R6As in order to keep the little sunlight we have and wondering if it came up in conversation. Thanks.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

No. I've heard nothing about it, but every time I look at the map I think it's a shame. Feel free to come by a ULURP committee meeting and share your thoughts! (as soon as it's scheduled, which better be in the next couple weeks or I'm going to lose my mind.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tim. That sounds like a good idea. Where can I track the ULURP committee meeting schedule?

cheryl on parkside ave said...

So true.. I grew up on Prospect Place, between Nostrand & Rogers Aves and in the 70's, Eastern Parkway North was considered BedStuy! When did it actually become Crown Heights?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Cheryl. On the site urbanology.org/bedstuy/, you are absolutely right. Something that happened with the "new" charter was that neighborhood lines were drawn to reflect the new idea of Community Districts, for the purpose of government and City Planning. I would absolutely take your word over anyone who didn't actually live there! A friend of mine who grew up on South Portland near Ft. Greene park in the '70s told me that most of what gets called Clinton Hill was Bed-Stuy.

To Anon, just keep checking the CB9 website, but I'll be sure to post it here as soon as I know. It's looking less and less likely that it will happen this month, which will go against Dwayne's insistence that it will all be taken care of at the next full CB meeting.

babs said...

According to the 1981 LPC designation report of the Clinton Hill Historic District development began in the area in 1837 or so with the establishment of Clinton Avenue. Development continued and expanded through the 1850s and the area at the time was known simply as "the Hill," and was bounded by Classon Ave. on the east and Flatbush Ave. on the west. Fort Greene was not considered a separate neighborhood until the 20th century. However, by the 1920s the neighborhood was no longer considered as fashionable and the old families like the Pratts and Rockefellers returned to Manhattan. The death knell was the construction of the buildings now known as the Clinton Hill Co-ops as housing for Navy Yard personnel. It was only after this, in the 1950s - 1960s, that the residents at the time began to identify the neighborhood as Bed-Stuy.

Alex said...

MTOPP's latest missive claims that DCP is comparing PLG to East NY as a model for how PLG should be rezoned. I don't believe it. Makes sense to mention ENY in context, but I don't believe anyone at DCP is stupid enough to claim that PLG and ENY have the same needs.

Am I correct?

Would LOVE to see PPEN or someone set up a distro to counter MTOPP's.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

What the hell does she know about East NY anyway? She wasn't even there (thank God). No, they were showing examples of how zoning studies can be broad (like E NY and Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront) or more targeted. It was incredibly helpful to see how Planning uses zoning to encourage certain kinds of development.

That woman is best ignored, and at this point, I think the Board is ready to move forward. And we clearly have moles on the Board passing nonsense to Alicia, and I'm pretty sure I know who those ladies are - the ones who got all pissy when I tried to explain to the group how we got where we were today.