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, February 5, 2015

626 Flatbush Wins Lawsuit; Doesn't Have to Tear 23 Stories of Structure Down Or Pick It Up and Move It To Downtown Brooklyn Where It Belongs

From Real Deal:

Though the Hudson Cos.’ massive 254-unit residential tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens topped out in January, a battle brought by several neighborhood coalitions accusing Hudson of cheating to pass an environmental review process still raged on in court. On Tuesday, however, an appeals court ruled in favor of Hudson, finding that the environmental assessment was handled responsibly.

The decision by the New York Appellate Division First Department upholds a June ruling by the New York Supreme Court, which refused to stop the project or block the New York State Housing Finance Agency, also a defendant, from issuing $72 million in tax-exempt bonds to Hudson. (The bonds were issued in exchange for the developer’s guarantee that 20 percent of the units would be affordable.)

The four neighborhood groups and a slew of residents who sued said that the project should be halted until a proper environmental review was conducted, in order to evaluate factors ranging from increased strain on infrastructure, to an obscured view from Prospect Park, to the impact on the adjacent Prospect Lefferts Gardens historic district.

Additionally, the plaintiffs cited concerns over shifting population demographics. “According to petitioners, the project is the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification,” a New York Supreme Court judge wrote in June. Hudson was accused of lying to the finance agency by incorrectly responding on a form that the project was not located contiguous to a historic district, though it is 100 feet from the edge of the Prospect Lefferts historic district, and by indicating that there was no public controversy relating to the project.

This week’s decision states that the finance agency may have made a technical error in classifying the project for purposes of review, but still “specifically analyzed the issues of secondary displacement and the project’s impact on the view from Prospect Park.” David Paget of Sive Paget & Riesel, counsel for Hudson, said “The project was an as-of-right project. It didn’t require any zoning or discretionary approvals from the city of New York… There was no dissembling. There was no lying.”

“Hudson is glad that we seem to have come to the end of this proceeding and we feel that the court did a very reasoned and carful review of the merits of the case,” a representative for the developer said. Counsel for the finance agency and the neighborhood groups did not respond to requests for comment.
Though the Hudson Cos.’ massive 254-unit residential tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens topped out in January, a battle brought by several neighborhood coalitions accusing Hudson of cheating to pass an environmental review process still raged on in court.
On Tuesday, however, an appeals court ruled in favor of Hudson, finding that the environmental assessment was handled responsibly.
The decision by the New York Appellate Division First Department upholds a June ruling by the New York Supreme Court, which refused to stop the project or block the New York State Housing Finance Agency, also a defendant, from issuing $72 million in tax-exempt bonds to Hudson. (The bonds were issued in exchange for the developer’s guarantee that 20 percent of the units would be affordable.)
The four neighborhood groups and a slew of residents who sued said that the project should be halted until a proper environmental review was conducted, in order to evaluate factors ranging from increased strain on infrastructure, to an obscured view from Prospect Park, to the impact on the adjacent Prospect Lefferts Gardens historic district.
Additionally, the plaintiffs cited concerns over shifting population demographics. “According to petitioners, the project is the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification,” a New York Supreme Court judge wrote in June.
Hudson was accused of lying to the finance agency by incorrectly responding on a form that the project was not located contiguous to a historic district, though it is 100 feet from the edge of the Prospect Lefferts historic district, and by indicating that there was no public controversy relating to the project.
This week’s decision states that the finance agency may have made a technical error in classifying the project for purposes of review, but still “specifically analyzed the issues of secondary displacement and the project’s impact on the view from Prospect Park.”
David Paget of Sive Paget & Riesel, counsel for Hudson, said “The project was an as-of-right project. It didn’t require any zoning or discretionary approvals from the city of New York… There was no dissembling. There was no lying.”
“Hudson is glad that we seem to have come to the end of this proceeding and we feel that the court did a very reasoned and carful review of the merits of the case,” a representative for the developer said.
Counsel for the finance agency and the neighborhood groups did not respond to requests for comment.
- See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2015/02/05/hudson-cos-triumphs-in-court-battle-with-prospect-lefferts-residents/#sthash.7JzoAo74.dpuf
Though the Hudson Cos.’ massive 254-unit residential tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens topped out in January, a battle brought by several neighborhood coalitions accusing Hudson of cheating to pass an environmental review process still raged on in court.
On Tuesday, however, an appeals court ruled in favor of Hudson, finding that the environmental assessment was handled responsibly.
The decision by the New York Appellate Division First Department upholds a June ruling by the New York Supreme Court, which refused to stop the project or block the New York State Housing Finance Agency, also a defendant, from issuing $72 million in tax-exempt bonds to Hudson. (The bonds were issued in exchange for the developer’s guarantee that 20 percent of the units would be affordable.)
The four neighborhood groups and a slew of residents who sued said that the project should be halted until a proper environmental review was conducted, in order to evaluate factors ranging from increased strain on infrastructure, to an obscured view from Prospect Park, to the impact on the adjacent Prospect Lefferts Gardens historic district.
Additionally, the plaintiffs cited concerns over shifting population demographics. “According to petitioners, the project is the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification,” a New York Supreme Court judge wrote in June.
Hudson was accused of lying to the finance agency by incorrectly responding on a form that the project was not located contiguous to a historic district, though it is 100 feet from the edge of the Prospect Lefferts historic district, and by indicating that there was no public controversy relating to the project.
This week’s decision states that the finance agency may have made a technical error in classifying the project for purposes of review, but still “specifically analyzed the issues of secondary displacement and the project’s impact on the view from Prospect Park.”
David Paget of Sive Paget & Riesel, counsel for Hudson, said “The project was an as-of-right project. It didn’t require any zoning or discretionary approvals from the city of New York… There was no dissembling. There was no lying.”
“Hudson is glad that we seem to have come to the end of this proceeding and we feel that the court did a very reasoned and carful review of the merits of the case,” a representative for the developer said.
Counsel for the finance agency and the neighborhood groups did not respond to requests for comment.
- See more at: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2015/02/05/hudson-cos-triumphs-in-court-battle-with-prospect-lefferts-residents/#sthash.7JzoAo74.dpuf

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everybody kept saying it was as of right, over and over, and nobody could grasp what that meant. You can't stop a private property owner from building what's allowed legally based on the argument it will raise rents in the neighborhood. I mean, literally you can't. Because it doesn't work. Focus on bad landlords 100%, come down on them hard, and that will do way more to slow gentrification than protesting a few new buildings. And help quality of life for tenants. Landlords legally can keep temps as low as 55 degrees in apartments in NYC. I support changing that law because that's what makes ME angry. Not tall buildings.

disco princess said...

Why not focus on slowing the construction of new large buildings and increasing the enforcement of misdeeds by landlords? Why can't both be done?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Disco: Who do you mean should do both? The Community Board? I'm begging them to do just that. This zoning thing has zapped everyone's energy though, and it IS, in the end, the issue that the CB has most authority to deal with.

The Crown Heights Tenants Union and Flatbush Tenatns Coalition are doing the real work. And they need all the help they can get.

disco princess said...

Hi, Q, I meant re: "You can't stop a private property owner from building what's allowed legally based on the argument it will raise rents in the neighborhood. I mean, literally you can't." Anonymous thinks the city should focus on cracking down on landlords instead. I don't see why we should choose one over the other.

Hey, anonymous, Mitchell-Lama is still technically on the books, yes?

babs said...

Yes, Michell-Lama still exists, although more and more buildings are opting out of the program as their contracts expire. I don't think any new Mitchell-Lama construction is planned, although that would be a good idea. And it's only at night that the temperature can go as low as 55 degrees in NYC (if it's below 40 degrees outside - if it's above I guess all bets are off) - it has to be 68 degrees between 6 AM - 10 PM as long as it's below 55 degrees outside.

Anonymous said...

Disco Princess, a sensible person chooses to do what's possible, and they don't want to put any amount of precious and limited volunteer time into working on what is impossible. Which is what the 626 opponents were doing. Working on zoning may be possible, working with the city on designating appropriate areas for higher density buildings so that other areas can be downzoned may be possible. Negotiating better terms for the affordable units in the new buildings may be possible. Work on keeping people in rent control apts in those apts and don't allow landlords to drive them out by cutting off the heat and not fixing things. I am encouraging the community to work on what is possible and not be distracted by these delusions of holding huge amounts of power that supercede private property rights.

disco princess said...

Anonymous,

I know that the fight regarding 626 Flatbush is a forgone conclusion. I was referring to the movement to have the neighborhood to be rezone to curtail too many new buildings like 626 Flatbush from popping up in the neighborhood. Look at what's been happening at the CB9 meetings.

re:" Work on keeping people in rent control apts in those apts and don't allow landlords to drive them out by cutting off the heat and not fixing things."
NB: The units are more likely under rent-stabilization, not under "rent-control". The laws to protect rent-stabilized tenants are on the books, but the applicable agencies (e.g. DHCR) are apparently not enforcing them enough or expeditiously.

disco princess said...

P.S. Anonymous: Mayor de Blasio visited Ebbets Field Apartments today, which is a rent-stabilized complex.

"The mayor also pledged to "renew and strengthen rent regulations." He said he wants "more enforcement" against rent law violations."

"De Blasio: Rundown Ebbetts Field Apartments worth saving"
http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/bill-de-blasio-nyc-mayor-says-rundown-ebbetts-field-apartments-worth-saving-1.9917201

Anonymous said...

"but the applicable agencies (e.g. DHCR) are apparently not enforcing them enough or expeditiously." It makes me crazy. Also child protective services dropping the ball on cases of blatant abuse, the ASPCA refusing to even come to take a look when they get calls about dogs raised for fighting (it happened in this neighborhood) and the NYPD not enforcing traffic laws, and so on and so on. We can't rely on the city to do anything without hounding them and at times shaming them.

disco princess said...

Re:"We can't rely on the city to do anything without hounding them and at times shaming them."

Hi, anonymous - See my post above about de Blasio.

Re:"the ASPCA refusing to even come to take a look when they get calls about dogs raised for fighting (it happened in this neighborhood) "

That's no longer the ASPCA's responsibility. Source: "The ASPCA Will No Longer Perform Humane Law Enforcement in New York City" http://johnsibley.com/2013/08/22/the-aspca-will-no-longer-do-humane-law-enforcement-in-new-york-city/

Anonymous said...

Anyone know why 626 is cruising at over 20 stories while the building on Lincoln/Flatbush languishes at a story and a half?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Money. Hudson has it; Tom Anderson doesn't. You see it all over town. Some seem to go up overnight, some take years. It's always just a matter of money...every owner wants to get to the point where they're making it, so they go as fast as their purse will allow.

Paul Galloway said...

Also, the Lincoln Rd. development is a hell of a lot tougher location logistics wise.

I still think that one is going to feel much more loom-y than 626, in spite of its far shorter height.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Paul: You don't walk down Flatbush much do you? :) I do every day, and it brings me low everytime.

Paul Galloway said...

I walk down Flatbush plenty. The fact that 626 is well set back from the street limits the impact, whereas the Lincoln tower is shoehorned into a crazy tight lot and is right smack on the sidewalk. It already feels oppressive, and I can't imagine what it will feel like when it reaches its full height.

Though both will feel oppressive once the folks in the affordable units start "throwing their garbage" out their windows. Snarf.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Serious difference of opinion. Lincoln Road feels obtrusive now because the construction is taking over the neighborhood. Once it's up, it should fit in pretty seamlessly. We'll forget it ever wasn't there. (there WAS a building there if you recall!)

626 will forever mar the beauty of the park, and stare down on us like Manute Bol on Prince. Have you looked back from inside the park? It's so sad...so, so sad.

Paul Galloway said...

Was just ice skating on Sunday and looking at the tower. Didn't bother me a bit.

However, we simply cannot disagree civilly. I'm afraid according to recently-established PLG social norms, because I disagree with you I must now impugn your character. You, sir, are a poop head for thinking differently than I.

Ceelledee said...

Paul, you and I have a healthy history of civil disagreement on the subject of 626. But, as my neighbor and fellow tree pits planter, you are not a poop head in my book. :-) Now, I know you've had no opposition to that structure even before the first shovels hit the ground. So, while I'm not surprised you still aren't bothered by its invasion now that it has forever changed our neighborhood skyline and that of the Park, I remain extremely disappointed by your pro-626 arguments.

More often than not, the way in which most of us tend to arrive at our positions in civil discourse is at least partly dependent upon whether or not our own ox is being gored. In this case, I get that you think all your oxen are safe. Still, I ask you, and others who share your views, to seriously consider the complaints of thousands of your neighbors who have herds of slain and yet-to-be-slain oxen in this game. For example, I beg you to please stop parroting Hudson's claim that 626 is somehow architecturally beneficial because it's set back from Flatbush. The real deal is that, topped off at 22 stories, 626 is now viewable all the way south to Church Avenue and as far west as the Slope and the fact that it's setback from Flatbush Ave. does little to limit it's negative impact.

In fact, that so-called limiting setback now places a towering monstrosity even closer to countless residents of Ocean Avenue and visitors to the Park. Forget about the privileged NIMBY homeowners of Ocean Ave who never imagined such a structure would one day rise in their backyards. What about the hundreds of their neighbors who live in the Ocean Avenue apartment buildings that are in the direct sight line of 626? Especially apartment dwellers who have only east-facing windows? Those folk don't have backyards! And, although they've never had much of a "view" beyond that of the subway tracks and a parking lot, at least they had access to some sun and air out their windows along with relatively open sky expanse out to Flatbush. Now, they only have views of the subway tracks, the huge brick wall of 626 and shadows all day. What about the homeowners and apartment dwellers of Chester Court who are now boxed in like sardines with 626 on one side and Patio Gardens on the other? I've heard it suggested that Chester Court might now be properly renamed as Mushroom Court. What a sad and disgustingly appropriate new moniker! What about the residents of the apartment buildings which are adjacent to, or directly across from 626 on Flatbush? Or,those now living in rent stabilized and/or affordable apartments throughout the area? Do you think the arrival of 626 could be making a huge difference in their immediate residential environment? Do you think (or care) about those tenants who are currently living in the shadows of this primarily market-rate building that was built with 72M in taxpayer dollars? Does it matter that they will likely never have a chance of being displaced into it even though it's likely forcing a truly negative economic impact on their rents? Does any of this matter at all? Or is the complete and rapid transformation of this low-rise, family friendly and richly diverse community into a mecca of corporate-driven, government-backed skyrise development what the "reward" is all about?

I swear, the harm this one invasive skyrise has brought to this community reaches far and wide and its seriously negative impact is hardly abated just because it's set back from Flatbush. Worse, it's only the harbinger of the future, unless and until PLG/CD9 gets some genuinely protective rezoning with enforceable guidelines for responsible new development in place ASAP.




Paul Galloway said...

Not being anti-626 does not make me pro-626. This with us or against us vibe that permeates the discussion of late is highly detrimental - as MTOPP has illustrated.

As the great Yoda said, only a Sith deals in absolutes.

Anonymous said...

"Not being anti-626 does not make me pro-626. This with us or against us vibe that permeates the discussion of late is highly detrimental - as MTOPP has illustrated." Precisely. I have been so frustrated with this notion that to simply recognize what can legally be accomplished means you're a pro-626 gentrifier. That's just ignorant. Yeah, I said it. People need to understand way better how they're coming across.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Hmm. That building is big enough, and arrogant enough, that I actually think that you shouldn't be allowed to ride the fence and claim it's not swaying the neighborhood in one way or the other.

I would actually prefer to hear you, or someone else say, yeah I live the prospects of the neighborhood with that new building in it. THAT's honest. To say it won't change things drastically is pretty naive. Actually, it already has hasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I still don't see the one-or-the-other stance. I don't hate the building and I don't love it. In parts of the park I notice it as being tall but in other parts it actually blends in with other buildings. I made that observation once and since then haven't thought about it because I have so many other things to worry about in life. That is someone's personal opinion when they say it ruins the landscape. I didn't myself protest 626 because it was their right to build it. I support thoughtful, proactive zoning that allows tall buildings on the appropriate streets like Empire where it's not directly on the park, but downzones the smaller streets. And I don't think anybody can pretend to care about affordable housing for low income people if they aren't equally involved with protecting the existing housing. Why build more of it if it ends up being run like the existing buildings. NYC needs more enforcement and less corruption in that department.

diak said...

I'm in agreement with P Galloway and Anon. 10:13/11:23. The unsightliness of 626 is a matter of opinion, not fact. Mr Galloway had the nerve to say that he didn't think 626 was a hideous blight on the landscape and in return he was virtually labeled an Enemy of The People. And our blog host suggests that to hold such an agnostic opinion is naive, dishonest or both. (And these attacks come from people who claim to be in favor of open and honest differences of opinion...)

But the scorn directed at 626 is hardly unprecedented. An earlier gigantic out-of-context development was forced on a community some years ago. Prominent citizens organized a petition to oppose the construction based on its (perceived) profound ugliness. The petition read, in part:
"We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of [our city], do protest with all our vigor and all our indignation, in the name of...taste and endangered...art and history, against the useless and monstrous [structure]."

Care to hazard a guess what the petiton was referring to? (I deleted a few words which would made the answer obvious.) No fair googling...

Anonymous said...

I will attempt some guesses without googling! The Brooklyn Bridge? That clock tower by the Barclay Center?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Diak: You're not on the fence at all! By your throaty defense, I'd say you've decided it's just as beautiful and essential as whatever precious architectural gem you're referring to.

Btw, if it's Lincoln Center, I'm with the artists...

Ceelledee said...

First, Paul, the intent of my post was not to personally attack or label you. Indeed, I I actually tried, at the start of my comments, to make a separation between how I "know" you (pleasantly)as my neighbor and and how I view some of the opinions you've posted about 626. Clearly, as to the latter, we don't agree. And we don't have to! But let's be clear: I am neither a Sith nor MTOPP devotee who regards you as the "enemy" or the cause of reckless development in PLG. If in the process of passionately expressing my viewpoint on this subject, you feel I went too far and misinterpreted yours, then I apologize. Genuinely. And I also ask you to please accept the apology and then educate me on what you think I get wrong. After all, I know how frustrating it is to see one's statements twisted, (consciously or unconsciously) in order to suit the arguments of another.

That said, can we now please move on to the actual substance of my post? My initial purpose in even bothering to respond to your comment about 626's setback from Flatbush was to show that the so-call limited impact of that design means only that some its negatives have now been transferred, primarily to a good number of residents of Ocean Avenue's apartment buildings). As such, I was hoping to take the architectural impact question beyond a surface discussion of contextual/non-contextual aesthetics, and instead interject the real life perspective of those for whom this building causes real and tangible harm.

For us, Diak and Anon, it's not just that we're arguing an "opinion" as to whether we like 626 or not. We are indeed, talking about the negative facts of its existence in our lives 24/7. Forget about views in and from the Park! As 626 has risen, it has also caused loss of sun, light, air and privacy in the private homes and apartments of hundreds of PLG residents. And the fact is, at 254 units, this one building will bring hundreds more residents onto our already crowded streets, thereby increasing pedestrian, subway and vehicular traffic. In the most harmful of cases, the fact of 626 is causing/will cause an economic strain in the way of a rent increase,landlord harassment or even loss of personal living space. For many, these facts are indeed "absolutes" that do not simply disappear just because we have other things to think about.

In short, my opinion is that I intensely dislike 626 architecturally. However, the facts of its negative impact in my life, and that of a substantial number of others,is very real. This is also why I will continue to argue, with passion, for protective rezoning of CD9 against as many like intrusions as possible as well as to advocate for the preservation of the rich diversity and current day "affordability" of our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

Paul Galloway said...

My original comment made no mention re: the socioeconomic impact of 626, but rather was strictly in regards to the perceived aesthetic impact of 626 on the community and the park. I am of the opinion that it's not such a big deal visually, and that other projects like the one on Lincoln road may have much more of an impact than people are expecting.

I believe it's helpful to separate such evaluations (aesthetic vs. socioeconomic). For example, I can appreciate the beauty of Paul Rudolph's design for the lower Manhattan expressway, while also acknowledging it would have done horrifying things to the communities of lower Manhattan had it been built.

Ideally we would build only projects that are both beautiful and affordable to the existing community. But as we have seen time and again, both "beauty" and "affordable" are highly contentious, subjective terms.

diak said...

No, Mr. CF, 626 Flatbush doesn't measure up to the previous objectionable structure in any way, shape or form. You completely missed the point. I am not defending 626; I am defending Mr Galloway's right (and mine, and yours) to make different aesthetic choices without being ridiculed and accused of malicious motives. What might be an eyesore to one person might be beautiful to another and to still another—to most people by the looks of things—largely invisible.

You've spoken passionately about your disgust with the garbage that pervades our neighborhood. Yet every day we see people toss their trash in the street with barely any notice. Doesn't seem to bother them at all. My thing is graffiti tags. I think it's the worst kind of visual blight perpetrated on us by selfish artless morons (I'm not talking here about murals, public art, etc. but the scribbling of initials, glyphs, and so on). Yet I've heard otherwise intelligent people talk about the "cultural significance" and "calligraphic sophistication" and "political ramifications" of this shit. It frustrates, even angers me. But ultimately I just have to remember: some people SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY than I do. I suspect at this point most people don't even notice graffiti. It's just become part of the paint job. Man, I envy that but I just can't get past it...

By the way, the monstrous structure so hated in the petition I quoted: the Eiffel Tower.