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 26, 2015

Concerned Citizens Comes Up With Counter Proposal

Many of you may have read Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning's "position paper" addressed to the community. If you'd like to join their efforts, send Alan Berger an email. (I don't have permission from him to send out his private email, but he's on the Yahoo Listserv. I think they have a website. Anybody know it? I'll add it to this paragraph.)

My response is below. Then below that, the note written by CCCBP:

Just to be clear I'm happy to support Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning's (Alan/Suki et al) efforts and publicize meetings to a wide audience. I continue to try to temper enthusiasm for any efforts that will end in dismissal by the people who actually decide these things - namely Eric Adams, Laurie Cumbo, Mathieu Eugene, City Planning, the full Council, the Mayor, and the Board of Standards and Appeals. I guess you could call me a realist.

In other words, if you don't want to be part of the City's effort to encourage the building more market rate and (truly) affordable housing and preserve existing rent stabilized housing and build more supportive housing, all in the name of relieving upward pressure on rents and sales, or don't like the way the City plans to do that, you will have a tough time without some serious advocates at a high level. Tish James, for instance, might be an excellent Advocate, who just happens to hold that title as well! If you feel strongly against the Mayor's objectives, I would encourage going to her above all others, even finding money from her to do a parallel study to support whatever proposals you want to support or reject.

But I would ask that the community consider as legitimate the view that many of us share - that it is best to engage the City directly to achieve objectives, rather than try to fight it before we even get started. And I would encourage those of you who live in the historic district to consider that many of us do not. In fact, the majority of the proposed study area is not protected from non-contextual zoning in any way. Contextual zoning has been described as "landmarking lite." By protecting the "inside" blocks from outsized development, we can maintain the livability and beauty of many of our streets, particularly ones that all of one type of building, i.e. row houses. And I would remind people that the current zoning along north-south corridors (e.g. Flatbush and Nostrand) is not protected in ANY way. Current zoning allowed 626 Flatbush. If that building is not your idea of the direction developers should go, then please reconsider fighting the process as currently proposed.

The things I will continue to point out, based on what I've come to understand, that may run counter to Concerned Citizens' position paper:

1) The letter from CB9 is basically to start a Planning Study. It's the beginning of a long (probably too long) study of the neighborhoods of south Crown Heights and Lefferts Gardens, including an environmental study that could provide the basis for a 197a plan to the City, demanding better services

2) We will know what's going into the application well before the ULURP clock begins, because we will collaboratively work on the application. But only IF we do so civilly and with the input of the very people who will be voting on it - e.g. our elected officials.

3) I would strongly disagree with the assessment that we would be better off "waiting for an independent" study. We've been waiting for years! What if we had gone through this process when we first asked back in 2008? To that point, what if we had started this process when it was first proposed and passed last year? What if the proposed independent study never happens because of lack of funding and no interest from elected officials? We get zero, nada, nothing. For those of us on non-protected blocks, the non-action will be just as powerful as action. Rezoning is "doing something." Not rezoning could be doing something far more detrimental.

4) Eventually, you have to go to City Planning and all the other power players. Why pretend you have more power than you do? This Mayor will likely be in power for another six+ years. His goals are not going away, and frankly are supported by a strong majority of the Council and the current head of Planning.

5) This is the one I consider most important. There are already more than two dozen projects in the works, and dozens more properties that have changed hands in the last year. Some are waiting to see how this plays out. Many will pay for their own studies. If they want, they can go to the Board of Standards and Appeals and get whatever zoning they want without a meaningful ULURP. Neighbors - residential or hotel development IS coming to the Empire corridor. It's an expressed wish of people like Eric Adams. Do you really want to sit back and let those decisions be made for you? Or do you want to sit down with power brokers and guide their hand?

thx for reading. and thx to Concerned Citizens for its attempts to bring a relevant independent study to the process.

the CC note:


Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning is making the below recommendations based on current information and last night's meeting with Paul Graziano, a planning consultant who developed the recent rezoning study for CB 8 and many others in NYC over past 20 years.

We believe that CB 9 will be at a significant disadvantage if we approve a formal request now to City Planning to conduct a study. Our reasons are as follows: 

1. Without providing a significant detailed assessment of the conditions in our district and without very specific details of what we are asking for and what we are not asking for, we are leaving the door open to City Planning to carry out their own agenda, which, according to Mr. Graziano, and what we are seeing in East New York and other neighborhoods, is at odds with the community's agenda.

2. City Planning will likely come back to us after their study is completed and not give us much time, it could be as little as 7-10 days according to Mr. Graziano, to be able to respond in an effective way, again putting us at a significant disadvantage.

3. According to Mr. Graziano, the de Blasio administration is even more developer friendly than the Bloomberg administration and laser focused on achieving their affordable housing goals. Any opening that they get in this regard they will take maximum advantage of.  There is no reason to prioritize adding affordable housing in any request.  If we ask for affordable housing we would likely end up without true contextual zoning, preservation of existing affordable housing, or preservation of our ability to build truly affordable housing on affordable land. 

4. According to Mr. Graziano we would be better off walking away now, reassessing in detail what our needs really are, and going back to city planning with a comprehensive planthat encompasses all the factors such as special zones, historic districts, commercial set backs, open spaces, etc.  This can be accomplished in as little as three months. Proceeding with a City Planning developed study now would lead to much greater density and height limits than if we did nothing at all.

6. City Planning is struggling with resources right now to carry out the city's ambitious housing agenda, therefore it is to our advantage to present a plan where much of the work has already been done.

7. Recently the city has announced a series of changes that may include adding 1 to 4 stories to existing contextual zones and eliminating parking requirements. Such changes would have a significant impact on this process. This is another reason to have an experienced and expert representative on our side to research and analyze what this will mean for our proposed rezoning plan.

Given the points above, we want to understand what reasons, supported by what evidence, our board has for not supporting this community in taking steps that will put us in the strongest possible position prior to asking the City for a rezoning?

We also make the strong recommendation that more dialogue take place between the community and the community board. We are not being given the opportunity to have our questions answered, so that we can hear directly from the board and better understand what their thinking is. This is the only way we stand a chance of making progress towards some kind of consensus.

Let's come together now and unite to assess the district's needs in totality using a professional planner to do the research and work with us to submit a detailed request to City Planning based on our study of our own community.

Thank you.

Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning

Please come to the CB 9 board meeting tonight at the Founder's Auditorium at Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave. starting at 7:00PM to ask questions and voice your opinion on this matter.


Anonymous said...

Eventually, you have to go to City Planning and all the other power players. Why pretend you have more power than you do? This Mayor will likely be in power for another six+ years. His goals are not going away, and frankly are supported by a strong majority of the Council and the current head of Planning.
This is a great point. Why go through the expense and time for your own study when it's just going to be ignored by the actual decision makers? There is no indication that the administration would support a neighborhood wide downzoning that reduces the opportunity for new construction of affordable housing. The administration wants to lower rents by building more housing, especially affordable housing; Concerned Citizens thinks that all housing, even affordable housing, leads to higher rents and gentrification. Their view of affordable housing is really the opposite of anyone whose opinion on the subject really matters.

The best that Concerned Citizens can achieve with their own study is to show the administration that there are divided opinions on rezoning in the community and convince them to leave the status quo in place... which is probably the real goal behind this proposed study.

By the way, did you notice their initials are CCCP?

MikeF said...

The Port Huron Statement provides some great text they could use in their counter proposal:

Anonymous said...

I got skeptical about their proposal when I read in their email how the guy who makes a living at being hired to do these studies said they need to hire somebody like him. And that testimony was their main reasoning for doing it. Tim's reason not to hire him is just as sound.

Anonymous said...

You really think that "This Mayor will likely be in power for another six+ years?"

Anonymous said...

Surely people have the sense to realize adding more housing in NYC is not Deblasio's idea alone. Doesn't matter who is in that office. Plus nobody who states a strong anti development stance would get elected anyway. Reality check.