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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Conclusion About MTOPP

And so, with two "new development" posts in the last two days, the Q hopes to have painted a fairly full picture of the enormous change happening all around us, not tomorrow, but right now. If my hunch is right, it's about half what is actually being planned but not announced. I just noted, on a walk near my house, the enormous number of projects on Clarkson to my east. No 23-story towers; just high-end market rate building after building. It doesn't take a genius to see where the neighborhood is heading. I never would have dreamed it'd go down like this, and that so many people would be pushed out so quickly. A building owner need only do the math, and then a mere matter of will and tactics to white-fy a building. Okay, upscale. But if you happen to be black, you can be pardoned for the conflation of the two.

And so, I'm once again led to the question: what on earth could be gained by stopping a zoning study? Curbing the march of gentrification? That's a joke, right? That would be like stopping a moving bus with paper bag.

No, the only two blocks that seem to REALLY be affected by any of this MTOPP crap are on Empire, between Prospect Park and Rogers. This is a fact - pretty much everywhere else that's not landmarked or protected by super-low zoning will (I said WILL) receive an enormous increase in density. The zoning allows it. It allows it now. Or as Richard Bearak, zoning czar at the BP's office likes remind me, there's a great deal of "potential units" cooked into the current zoning.

And now we're told that hotels may be coming to Empire. They could be built "as of right." Fine. If MTOPP doesn't want residential built on Empire, let's give them hotels. In fact, that would provide for a lot more jobs than Self-Storage facilities. Where, I'm told, a couple employees is all you need to run the whole damn operation. At least a hotel hires dozens of folks. And the tourists buy stuff locally. All in all, isn't that what MTOPP should be supporting? Economic activity for local residents? It is the Movement To Protect the People after all. I'm assuming then that it is not the movement to protect any single resident's right to rent out space (hmm, kinda like a hotel) to foreigners (hmm, like tourists) and refinance his/her house every time gentrification once again spikes his/her home value through the roof and into his/her lovely garden and then have the gall to accuse others of taking money at the expense of the little people. Hey, if you own a home right now you'd be tempted to pull out some of that sweet equity yourself, wouldn't you? I recall one commie acquaintance calling it "blood equity." Stuck with me for years. Didn't stop me from refinancing though...I mean, c'mon, wouldn't you? At least I have the respect for your intelligence to admit it.

The MTOPP fight, as currently defined, is not really about low-income people of color or saving a neighborhood from gentrification. It's about preserving the quality of life for people right next to those couple blocks of Empire. That's NIMBYism at its very worst. Scaring the pants off of people, tarring and feathering decent people with calls of corruption and racism, all in the name of what exactly? Keeping Empire Boulevard as it is? Or more likely, keeping those two blocks of Empire commercial and therefore uninhabitable? To think of the tiny piece of real estate that has now taken up so many people's headspace. It's like they're living rent-free in my brain. Which, by the way, is zoned R2-E, which stands for Ready To Explode.

Now they say they want to rewrite the CB9 resolution. Which I include again below, asking that you please show me the "smoking gun" that would prevent us from moving forward with City Planning. Those of us who've actually discussed this process rationally with the powers that be know that nothing in the resolution is fact or binding. Everything is open to interpretation, conversation, changes. Just as it would be if you rewrote it. Except now we've wasted weeks, and it will probably drag on for months, or at least until Planning gives up on us and moves on to, I dunno, Bensonhurst.

So why, some have asked, is CB9 not willing to rewrite it? Well, if they'd get off their ass and call some ULURP committee meetings, maybe they would. Or maybe they wouldn't. Majority rules, you know? And no one I've spoken to wants Alicia Boyd in the room, dictating terms and making threats. That's probably why Dwayne's been reluctant to engage at all. Heck next week's CB9 meeting doesn't even have the issue on the agenda. Probably wants to get a reasonable and event-free meeting under his belt, new chairman and all, and after last month's disaster who can blame him? The new ULURP chairman is Ben Edwards. Ben is the president of the Lefferts Manor Association. Good guy, though hardly known for aggressive leadership. Is he right for the gig? I guess time will tell. At this point, I hardly care. Sorry, Ben, not to be more supportive. By the way, when are you going to call a meeting? See you soon...

Frankly if the whole process implodes, once again, we'll get what we deserve. Nothing. And the neighborhood will be redefined and reimagined by others - those "greedy" developers we hear so much about. Developers who, by their very nature and role in society, are in one business - maximizing profits through building. And they WILL maximize profits. And we WILL live with whatever results that brings. Greed? You could call it that. I would call it "the system in which we live." Hardly specific to Lefferts, or Brooklyn, or New York, or everywhere else in the world but the Park Slope Food Coop. And even THEY'VE been making some pretty suspect upgrades to the shopping scanners and the furniture on which they rest. Greedy hippies...

Will we have opportunities to say what we want where and how high and with how many affordable units? Will we develop relationships with City officials that show we're mature enough, and civil enough, to put some of our most Backyard Wishes aside to share in the City's growth, housing AND quality of life goals? Are we willing to sit down to discuss schools, transportation, sanitation, roads, parking, traffic, public safety, public spaces and all the rest, in the spirit of cooperation? 

Oh, and one last thing. You know those lovely houses and apartment buildings that are the very fabric of this place called Lefferts? Know how they got built? Know who financed the building of them? Know who came in, not terribly long after Brooklyn merged into NYC, and took advantage of people's desire to live near the Park and near the Museum and Garden, and the nearby public transportation? Those very precious homes on precious tree-lined blocks, some of them built to specs exactly like their next door neighbors house or apartment, rowhouses don't you know, just dripping with period details?

Yep. Greedy developers. Doing what they do. Remaking the landscape, whether in 1914 or 2014.

The offensive resolution, for your perusing pleasure. Be forewarned's pretty terrifying stuff, not for the weak of heart. You might want to read it with the lights on and with a friend - a friend you TRUST.


Alex said...

Is there procedure for forcing a ULURP meeting?

IKB said...

There is so much misinformation being spread about a City Planning study. Fortunately, there are many ways to educate oneself and many groups and individuals willing to share their information. A good place to start is the City Planning website. If one looks at earlier rezonings in Brooklyn,, one can get a pretty good idea of recommendations will come out of our study.

The October 2012 rezoning of Bed-Stuy North,, and the September 2013 rezoning of Crown Heights West,, are good places to start. Franklin Ave., which was primarily R6, was upzoned to R7A-IZ. IZ stands for ‘Inclusionary Zoning’. This allows developers to increase the density of their building by 33% from 3.45 to 4.6 in an R7A zone. Interestingly, our resolution specifically asks for ‘Inclusionary Zoning’ to be considered, “Identify areas for inclusionary zoning”. Who’s idea was that? Who uses that language? It certainly did not come of the Community Board 9 Visioning/Land Use session, which can now be viewed on PPEN’s website,

The resolution that CB9 sent to City Planning should be changed. Anyone who wants to can watch the community Visioning/Land Use session and see that the resolution does not come from community input, which called preservation and downzoning over and over again. There is no ‘downzoning’ request in that resolution. It was passed without due process by a community board that no longer exists. There are 18 new members of CB9, all of whom want to ensure that the future of this district is well planned and well considered.

It is not sensible to simply hand the project of our future over to City Planning. City Planning operates under the mayor’s agenda. The mayor needs to build 400,000 new units in order to meet his commitment of 80,000 new affordable units. It is easy to see that increased height and density, which is specifically called for “along transit and commercial corridors” in our current resolution, will be the result of the study. The ‘corridors’ affected are not just two blocks of Empire Blvd. Look at a Brooklyn bus map. Nostrand, Rogers, Bedford, Flatbush, Ocean, Washington, Franklin, Clarkson, and New York Ave. are all ‘transit corridors’. This resolution ensures that our entire neighborhood (except for Lefferts Manor) can be upzoned along all north-south avenues! That is a lot of height and density.

IKB said...

Also, there is no reason to be alarmist about current and future development projects. With one very prominent exception (626 Flatbush) there are not current ‘out-of-context’ developments. All (but one) of the projects outlined in the DNAinfo article could be built to the same height after our neighborhood’s potential rezoning. If anything, most would be built HIGHER and more dense.

I generated the following from the DNAinfo article, current zoning maps, and recently rezoned areas of Brooklyn (Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Sunset Park, Boerum Hill, Flatbush, and more). I did not factor in the proposed rezoning of East New York, which has been held up as a model for us. The proposed rezoning of East New York involves major changes and has not yet passed.

10’ is approximately equal to 1-story.

267 Rogers Ave.
5-story project
Current zoning: R6 (60’ street height plus sky exposure plane subject to size of lot and FAR)
Likely zoning after study: R7D (85’ street height and up to 100’ max. height) because the resolution requested increased height and density along transit corridors and Rogers is a transit corridor because of the B44 and B49 bus routes.

995 Washington Ave.
4-story project
Current zoning: R8A (85’ street height and up to 120’ max. height)
Likely zoning: ? This area has already been rezoned with ‘contextual’ zoning at the request of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It is unclear why it is in the new study zone and what would result.

626 Flatbush Ave.
23-story project
Current zoning: R7-1 (60’ street height plus sky exposure plane subject to size of lot and FAR) with a C1-1 overlay
Likely zoning after study: Most likely R7D (85’ street height and up to 100’ max. height) because the resolution requested increased height and density along transit corridors. The resolution specifically addresses that R7-1 areas, “Prevent/limit out of context (i.e. high-rise) development in the R7-1 zoned areas of the district.” However, City Planning has made their unwillingness to downzone Flatbush to an R6 known. R6 zoning on Flatbush has been the long-standing request. The 10-story height of R7D zoning complies with the resolution’s specific request to prevent ‘out-of-context’ and ‘high-rise’ development, while not actually giving this community what we clearly defined as wanting.

31 Lincoln Rd.
8-story project
Current zoning: R7-1 (60’ street height plus sky exposure plane subject to size of lot and FAR) with a C2-2 overlay
Likely zoning after study: See 626 Flatbush Ave. above.

651 New York Ave.
6-story project
Current zoning: R6 (60’ street height plus sky exposure plane subject to size of lot and FAR)
Likely zoning after study: This location is not in the proposed study area but if it were it would likely be an R7D transit corridor zoning.

329 Sterling St.
6-story project
Current zoning: R7-1 (60’ street height plus sky exposure plane subject to size of lot and FAR)
Likely zoning after study: R7A (65’ street height and up to 80’ max. height) or R7B (60’ street height and up to 75’ max. height)

834 Nostrand Ave.
7-story project
Current zoning: R6

111 Clarkson Ave.
8-story project
Current zoning: R7-1
Likely zoning after study: ? There is no specific call to ‘downzone’ Clarkson and historically City Planning does not downzone without a specific request. Clarkson will likely maintain its R7 zoning, it’s a question of whether it will also be considered an R7D ‘transit corridor’ – the B12 bus services Clarkson – or whether it will be granted an R7A (65’ street height and up to 80’ max. height).

149 Clarkson Ave.
5-story project
Current zoning: R7-1
Likely zoning after study: See 111 Clarkson Ave.

50-54 Clarkson Ave.
8-story project
Current zoning: R7-1
Likely zoning after study: See 111 Clarkson Ave.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

More hysterical rhetoric. Thanks for that, IKB.

The resolution doesn't decide anything. And we're not turning over our future to City Planning. We're setting out on a fact-finding mission.

You have two alternatives - work with City Planning, or leave things as they are. There is no alternate ULURP, anymore than there's an alternate subway system. Working with City Planning is just that. You can change the resolution if you want, and clearly you want. But that's not going to change what is and isn't possible. Nor does it change that fact that what YOU want may not be what someone ELSE wants. There is no unanimous consensus on any of it. Recreating the resolution without doing the study only ensures that we'll get stuck in the muck before we even begin. Actually, we already are.

I will say it one more time: you cannot rezone and end up with less potential residential units than when you started. The City will NOT do that. They've said so. Move on.

If you want to protest as of right construction as it goes up, be my guest. If affordable housing is your goal, put your energy towards keeping people in their current homes. Because you're certainly not helping to get any NEW housing built.

Christopher1974 said...

Not necessarily greedy so much as doing exactly what a landowner does. Remember the very simple definition of a building: "A machine to make the land pay." You do what you do to make the building create value for the land.

In unrelated comments, if anyone is interested in trying to do some actually community visioning, I'd such the Community Tool Box from UTK. Fantastic resource.