With a battalion of naysayers ready to speak out against the proposed upzoning near the Botanic Garden's by developer Cornell, it would appear the armada itself was deterrent enough to convince the applicant to pull its ULURP application at the last moment, leaving the entire project on hold for now. This may prove to be a phyrric victory, as Cornell has claimed to be seeking broader support for the project before proceeding. In translation, this means they had not obtained the backing of all the relevant players - BP, council person and Mayor. A cynic might note that all three have reelection campaigns running for September's primary, and it does not look good to shove a project down constituents' throats just in time for them to pull the lever.
One should not underestimate the power of sheer numbers, however. Clearly Cornell looked at the landscape and felt it was unfavorable for them to go ahead at this time. That's a testament to organizing prowess and heads-up ball displayed by the longtime gentry of the neighborhood. Eric Adams' right-hand woman Ingrid Gordon lives nearby. A slew of CB9 Eric-Adams appointees live and own nearby. And Councilperson Laurie Cumbo is facing a serious challenger in Ede Fox, and is often the target of anti-developer fervor. Though frankly I find much of it to be unfounded. She, like any thoughtful politician, is looking for creative ways to balance the need for new housing with the concerns of current residents. Thoughtfulness is not a quality much in abundance these days, however.
So what does it all mean? Two possibilities. One, Cornell tries again after tacit commitments from elected officials. Two, it builds what it can under current zoning. This will mean hundreds of market rate apartment with NO affordable, below-market, permanently rent-stabilized apartments. But it will be shorter, though you will certainly see it as a bridge between Ebbets Field apartments and Tivoli Towers. It won't, as might be the hope, simply disappear into the horizon.
This is where we are headed as a neighborhood. There is no credible study of what effect the extraordinary market-rate boom will have on our neighborhood in 5 or 10 years, but one need only look to other rapidly gentrified neighborhoods for clues. Upper West Side. Lower East Side. Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope. Each had its rapid-change-decade, and each saw massive changes in racial makeup, income levels and housing costs. South Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens seem convinced that by fighting tall buildings it is somehow fighting those fights, but the words ring hollow to the Q's ears.
NIMBY - in its best and worst guises - does not equal progressive housing policy. Unless we remain committed to creating new housing that lower-income working people can afford, we stand no more chance of remaining a culturally and economically diverse neighborhood than any of those prior-mentions. In fact, we have LESS defense. We don't have the honest-to-god Public Housing that has helped keep Manhattan and many neighborhoods throughout the City from becoming wealthy enclaves.
Whatevs. The people have spoken, with a surprisingly singular voice. They don't want tall buildings, and they won't tolerate upzonings to build affordable housing. They also won't tolerate homeless housing, or social services housing. They also won't tolerate new market-rate housing. And if push comes to shove, I suspect they don't REALLY want low-income housing either. We shall see, won't we? I'm curious if when presented with the possibility of an enormous building with hundreds of new residents making less than $30,000, with the requested less-stringent credit requirements - will people will truly be as welcome to the prospect as they have heretofore suggested? One hopes the opportunity presents itself. I'm not holding my breath.
The Q at Parkside
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.