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.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Predictably Predictable

46 Crown from the East. That's Tivoli Towers on the right.
Thx to Kadia Goba and BKLNER for attending the City Council meeting
You'd be forgiven for asking: If the government is the ultimate sovereign authority, why do developers do so well for themselves in this City of supposed progressives? Sure there are sweetheart deals, corruption, and the ever-present need for campaign donations, all of which give developers their access, swagger and sway. But the single biggest reason that Developers get to do almost anything they want? They own the land under most of their projects. Absent the use of Eminent Domain, one can do whatever the zoning will allow. That means that any parcel that is NOT landmarked or public property will generally be bought and put to use in the manner that creates the greatest return. Those are the sorry fact. I don't personally know any developers, but I do know the power of profits. Developers like profits.

(Actually, let's be honest now. YOU like profits too. And maybe, perhaps, at the same time, espouse socialist views on a range of topics, particularly those that don't negatively impact your property, prestige or quality of life. It's how American ideology's works, especially if you're lucky enough to have gone to a private liberal arts college, where the REAL major underlying every major is hypocrisy. That's where you learn how to be a faux revolutionary, all the way until the birth of your first child and/or home purchase.)

And so, despite all the sturm und drang the Q has witnessed and sometimes personally endured, the new owner of the plot at 40-46 Crown Street - Carmel Partners - used the power of its land rights to give Councilperson Laurie Cumbo an ultimatum. Either accept our request for taller rezoning, or we build only million-dollar plus condos as-of-right. The requested rezoning comes with a 140 below-market "affordable" rent stabilized units. In exchange, the City gives up some height. The building will be then be 16 stories with some setbacks bulkhead. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden says it won't impact the Garden's sun exposure. You can only imagine who called bullshit on them. I've promised myself not to utter her name. For awhile.

So, if you're Laurie Cumbo, the only real decider on the issue, what do you do? Yep, the Developer always has the upper hand.

And for perhaps the dozenth time the Q reminds you - despite the fact that activists thwarted a neighborhood-wide zoning study - one that would have allowed for downzoning in certain areas in exchange for just this sort of rezoning - we are being completely dismantled and remantled piece by piece. A la carte. And no, we are not in the driver's seat.

And perhaps now is the time to remind us all  This is but one of four huge projects, probably more, for the area north of Empire to Eastern Parkway. And eventually, the Empire itself will fall.

Empires always do.


Unknown said...

Since her re-election and start of her current 4-year term, Laurie Cumbo has not personally attended a single CB9 Land Use Committee OR full board meeting, and has held no forums, town halls or public meetings regarding the Franklin Avenue Rezoning. She has not made any attempts to engage tenant associations, block associations, or businesses directly adjacent to the site. She only showed up for about half of the subcommittee hearing section that dealt with the rezoning. When she did finally get there, she talked as though she had some clue as to what our concerns are, and of course never mentioned CB9's unanimous "NO" votes against the project in committee and full board. For the record, Ms. Boyd's statements at the hearing were true: when Cornell submitted the application, they checked "No" under the section dealing with Water and Sewage that asks if there will be more than 400 units in the development (there will be 518). Correctly checking the 'Yes" box would have triggered a Preliminary Infrastructure Assessment focused on whether or not our current sewage system can handle the added residential density (it can't, not as is). This would have allowed the city to require a mitigation plan that would have cut deeply into all of that sweet, sweet profit the developer was hoping for. This is not a minor consideration to someone who actually lives around here. And if you do live around here, and you're not thrilled about the prospect of seeing your own shit floating past you on the sidewalk on your way to work, you might think about picking up the phone, dialing 212-788-7081, and telling Laurie's office how you feel about that. During that same call, you might also mention that the developer's threats of purely luxury housing are total bullshit. Obviously the developer would apply for what used to be called the 421-a tax break, which will require at the very least the old 80/20 affordability mix in exchange for screwing over the rest of the property owners in the area through zero taxes for 35 years.This is literally more profitable than building straight up luxury condos as of right. And as spiteful and evil as we know developers can be, I don't foresee a future in which they reject an increase in profit margin just to follow through on their threats!

theQ said...

Esteban - thx for all this follow-up info. I see on the application that they say 29K pounds of waste (ewww!) will be generated per week, and so they placed a "no" next to the question of whether it would generate more than 100K per week. I don't see them denying the number of units or understating the amount of waste. And I also see that they claim they're doing (or have done?) and environmental analysis.

Do you know specifically what the law is that has been broken and whether there is a trigger to force enforcement? Surely there can't be a law without the ability to enforce it. (I'm being sarcastic, but still, if it's as clear-cut as that it would seem all a committed activist would need to do is file suit, right?)

theQ said...

FYI the application I'm referring to was dated June and can be viewed here:

I know that Boyd says lots of things that are true, but I'm wondering if she's working on the latest info. Because in talking to people on the rezoning side it seems clear they're aware that any misstep will be pounced upon.

Alex said...

Condos would be better. They would likely be larger, and therefore there would be fewer units added to the area which should appease the people freaking out about population density.

Consumers are really starved for ownership opportunities, too.

Jacob said...

This area used to have bathrooms for 30,000 baseball fans and it can't handle sewage for 518 apartments?

Jacob said...

Cautionary tale: LICH.

"But after failed negotiations with Cobble Hill community, Fortis decided to proceed with its "as-of-right" plan; per Politico, the plan allows the developer "to build market-rate condos without any price-controlled housing for lower-income residents.""

Unknown said...

"Solid waste" as mentioned in Section 11 of Part II of the "Technical Analysis" actually refers to regular trash by the city's definition, so it's unrelated to the sewage issue. Look on the previous page, Section 10, question B. It's actually a little worse than I originally stated because I only included the units proposed for the development, not the total units that could be added to the whole rezoning area, which is actually more like 565. And Jacob, is the "30,000 baseball fans" comment meant to be sarcastic, or do I need to point out that since Ebbets Field itself was torn down, the Ebbets Field Apartments, Tivoli Towers, and other private development has added over 2,000 units to the area? Oh, plus Medgar Events College in 1970. And the LICH development was a pay-for-play job that the mayor is still under federal investigation for and that included things like a public school and other community space that cut into the developer's profit. Also, it was before MIH.

The only way to truly enforce the law here would be for tenants or business owners in the study area (400 ft. from the site) to sue the city after the project gets approval in order to send it back to pre-ULURP status and have the "Preliminary Infrastructure Assessment" done at that point. The people on the rezoning side know what's up; Sen. Parker & Assemblyman Mosley have both made formal complaints to the council. The thing is, the assessment it triggers is SUPER expensive, and if the sewage system does end up needing to be upgraded, the price could potentially neutralize any profit gains the developer is making from the rezoning.

More importantly, Carmel is a notoriously shitty landlord with a history of evictions and displacement of tenants going back a decade in California. When we are already having trouble getting bad actors like Barry Hers out of the neighborhood, why would we want to invite another one here?

Unknown said...

And yes, I live in the study area, and yes, I volunteer as tribute. (i.e. I will file the suit myself!)

Anonymous said...

Check out Pinnacle's in-process condo conversion of the building next door, 12 Crown St. They're marketing condos for Fall 2019 occupancy, by which time they project they'll have the requisite # of apartments in contract for the AG to approve the plan. I feel so bad for the long-term tenants who live there and are being pushed out of their homes.

Esteban I hope you and the CHTU can do something to help them.

Going anonymous on this one as I don't need the personal attacks.

Jacob said...

The densest part of Flatbush is not near Ebbets Fields. It's further south, in the area just below Parkside, West of Ocean Ave, and in the area around Bedford and Lenox. Both are packed with 6 story pre-war and 7-story post war apt buildings. I've never heard complaints about inadequate sewers for this area.
For areas like Flatbush with upwards of 50,000 units, I can't imagine adding 500 or even 2000 units is not a big strain on the sewer infrastructure.
If this is truly a concern, this is exactly the sort of thing that would be negotiated with the developer in exchange for the rezoning. That's what is happening with the Amazon HQ2 in LIC. They are putting money in for sewer upgrades. But LIC is very different - they are getting something like 10,000 units in an area that historically had very few. Flatbush, historically, has always had a lot of units, since the great build ups of 1910-1940s.
The subway is a more serious concern.
I recommend this article which lays out some of the details. Regardless of whether you like "YIMBY" policies, the writer Alon Levy is a subway expert.

Unknown said...

Anonymous - We're on it! 12 Crown Street tenants have become active members of the CHTU in the past year, and Pinnacle always seems to find its way into the CHTU's orbit! They own several more buildings within a couple blocks' radius of the proposed rezoning, and they're doing their best to empty out rent-stabilized tenants through all of the methods of harassment they've perfected over the years!

Jacob - We can't know how much of a concern it is when the application misrepresented the total number of units projected for the rezoning. The CEQR is clear about what situations trigger a Preliminary Infrastructure Assessment. It's unlikely that this was done by accident - the assessment could potentially end up making the developer liable for all sorts of upgrades in the existing infrastructure. You're right about the subway...the most overlooked negative consequence of the Bedford-Union Armory deal is that the data showed even that one development would add tremendous strain on the 2/3/4/5 lines, but no mitigation plan was included in the negotiations. The article makes some good points, but the overall assessment seems targeted towards white, upper-middle class neighborhoods. His assessment clearly doesn't make sense for this neighborhood:

"New development in pro-development areas tends to be for the neighborhood’s own residents and their families. In other neighborhoods, zero or negative natural population growth and little to no new immigration by relatives means that new development is meant for people who are not typically connected to the area’s existing residents."

This is exactly the opposite of what's happening here. Families are growing, immigration by relatives has not slowed, and new development is financially out of reach for most local residents, so this is not just a process of adding more units to accomodate more people - it's adding more units while driving existing residents out of the city altogether and re-creating the ethnic, racial, and cultural makeup of the neighborhood. Kinda like colonialism...actually, just straight up colonialism.

I would add that this article is a year and a half old, and the subway crisis had not fully manifested itself in the way that it has in the past year. Higher train frequency and better service isn't going to just materialize the moment a few thousand new residents come to the neighborhood.

Jacob said...

Whether or not Cuomo gets his act together and commits to fixing the subways, we still need more housing.

If you want to preserve the unique ethnic character of Flatbush and Crown Heights (a worthy goal, I think!), do you support upzoning wealthy white areas of the city to house more rich people? like 80 Flatbush for instance? or the E33rd st Kips Bay rezoning? We can't just say "we don't want all these rich people moving here" we have to also say "lets house more rich people over there".