Perhaps you're sick of the Q's bellyaching about zoning. Well, my belly REALLY aches today and I need to tell you why before I puke on my own I-Told-You-So's.
The ULURP committee of CB9 met on Tuesday. The Q's on the committee, but not the Board proper, so he/I can vote at the committee level but not the full B; for now. (Oh, before I forget, first up was a great presentation about the application for landmark status that is moving forward for basically the REST of Lefferts Gardens beyond the Manor and current Historic District. As in, below it. More on that in a coming post, but suffice to say that longtime local Richard Walkes is putting together solid research (even the beloved Montrose Morris is involved!) with an application that will highlight the historic nature of the neighborhood that INCLUDES, rather than ignores, the amazing post-war architecture and architects of the big six-story apartment buildings. Yours truly signed on months ago, but this is kind of the first time the effort has seen public scrutiny. Frankly, I have no idea what the potential is for a 2nd Lefferts Historic District, but what the hey, the effort to downzone inner blocks was killed by MTOPP, who, in should be noted, is ALSO against downzoning anywhere now, because they think it's a conspiracy to get to Empire Blvd.)
Now, for the Main Course. You might be aware that the Sea Crest Linen company folded and its land is being redeveloped for a city-block-sized massive residential project just north of the Spice Factory on Franklin Ave (which itself is just north of MTOPP's treasured icon, the fast food/storage strip known absurdly as "Empire" as in Empire of Pre-Packed Hamburgers). Now we learn, as could easily happen elsewhere - including ON Empire - the developer Cornell Realty (Shifra Hager is the name of the principal) has put in its own PRIVATE application to rezone not only the aforementioned project but also ANOTHER site just north of Tivoli Towers, which itself has an owner that is engaging in barely-legal efforts to increase its profitability, in other words "get 'em out."
And what does this current and well-prepared document portend? You can read the overview yourself, which pretty much says it all:
|If you want to see the full app, just shoot me an email. It's all public at this point.|
Here's the predicament in a nutshell. Because we refused to sit down with City Planning on OUR TERMS (the Q's white whale #2), we will see more and more of these types of "spot rezonings," and as long as our elected leaders hold firm to their emphasis on creating affordable housing, these applications will sail through the process, despite what will surely be a lot of loud and disruptive hemming and hawing throughout. The Community Boards advise in the process, but the City Council and Borough President have the real authority, as the rest of the Council usually sides with the Council Member. So the project is basically in Laurie Cumbo and Eric Adams' hands. And we know how much they L-O-V-E Alicia and co. Look for more lawsuits from the pro bono legal beagles at MTOPP. Actually, legal pitbulls is more apt.
So there you are. Everyone has their price, even the Golombecks who control the spice complex. We could soon see a whole bunch of 16-story buildings standing in the shadow of Tivoli and Ebbets. Whether that's a good thing, given the creation of affordable housing, depends on your NIMBY-ism or politics. Because surely, to a working family in desperate need of an affordable apartment, the decision should be obvious. Beverly Newsome of the Ebbets Field tenants association said on Tuesday that "when people lose their lease at Ebbets they have to move out of Brooklyn. That's the reality." Unless they win a lottery for affordable housing. And who are these people being priced out? Your predominantly hard-working and super lovely neighbors who contribute to the economic and cultural health of the City. That's who.
The irony? 25 years ago, CB9 under Jake Goldstein fought with the BBG to protect the area from any more tall buildings after Tivoli. And won. This application would nullify the height restrictions, ones that we could have easily fought for AS A RULE throughout the neighborhood, had Empire Blvd been on the table.
I spoke with Jake today and he felt pretty sick about the turn of events happening without his involvement. He says that it was the President of the Botanic Garden who led the effort, citing shadows that would hinder plant growth, and CB9 at the time was only to glad to help. This radically decreased the value of the land of Sea Crest and the Spice Factory, and their owners were none too happy. But now Golembeck has the chance of a lifetime to reinstate his former wealth. Watching this play out will surely be the event of the Spring. Oh, along with the constant attempts to de-legitimize and impeach the President of these here United States.
Question: does the proposed limit of 16 stories, which would be the case after the MIH, mean the end of life as we know it? Hardly. The long run would probably only heighten the health of the neighborhood. That stretch is just as much of dead zone as Empire. But in the short run, you can bet that homeowners will do their utmost to kill the deal. The Q has mixed feelings. How about you?