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, December 16, 2016

Let's Get Real Serious Here For a Moment

Update: The Q's reading the application again, and on further examination, guess what? It includes 960-972, the Spice Factory. Once this thing is done, if it happens, the value of the Spice Factory goes through the roof. No one should be surprised. It's the perfect place for new housing. But this is a change of a lifetime for the area. Empire Blvd is starting to look like small potatoes...

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.
You shouldn't need a rendering to imagine this, but basically once this stretch from Carroll to Crown long the western side of Franklin is rezoned, we will immediately see one massive 16-story complex (four towers still, I'd assume, or one giant slab) and another medium-sized 16 story building on Carroll, across from the Transit Cops station house, which will be, it should be noted, ALSO rezoned and could then be sold by the government to a private developer to build (one would hope at least) even more affordable housing. The ULURP application, excerpted above, takes advantage of the new MIH and the ZQA text amendments to maximize height in return for adding below-market rent-stabilized apartments, more than 100 in all. And while I applaud the creation of new affordable housing, this deal shows just how valuable is our neighborhood's land, land that just a few years ago would not have supported such top dollar to develop. The City is growing, and much of that growth is "up." Especially along transit lines.

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?


Anonymous said...

What are you trying to say? They're building more projects?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Wow. Not even close. And btw, there are no "projects" in that area.

MikeF said...

I keep getting confused about the main Sea Crest site. I read proposal is now for one 16 story building that is 400,000 sq ft, not four 16 story buildings.

Anonymous said...

Great. Another tower for the homeless. The homeless will much more likely live here than in downtown Brooklyn, which is a strong contender for future homeless shelter/projects too.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh. Ha ha. Hilarious. Yes, after Armageddon, there will be plenty of places for the homeless. Which, most of us will be. After Armageddon. Then again, who knows? Could be just around the corner.

Your sense of humor evades me.

Anonymous said...

I'd much prefer lower buildings of course, but for the most part I've always been for building more housing. However, for the last year until recently I had been freelancing and was doing quite a bit of my work on the road with my boss. Now that I am sort of in the grind again I am blown away by the amount of people using the Q, B, 5, 2 lines. I honestly don't know how the MTA is going to keep up. Every day this week I have been jammed up on a train for a considerable spell.


Alex said...

Anon, maybe you should direct your questions to Alicia Boyd.

Anonymous said...

How do streets like Winthrop 1&2, and Hawthorne 1&2 protect themselves from over development. Winthrop 1 and 2, have had two Victorian/colonials demolished over the past few years, where two ugly/balcony buildings-with no architectural details have been erected; very sad.
On a daily someone rings my bell asking if I'm ready to sell. I'm even getting phone calls-regularly about the same thing. Lately I've been asked would I be interested on a joint venture, since withing the next five years, most of these homes will be sold anyway-and converted to buildings. Apparently someone is paying attention to homeowners who are applying for work permits-which I have. I wonder sometimes if the developers have someone inside providing them with information?
It's getting ridiculous.
Q do you know if Fennimore 2 was successful?

Fenimore 2 was successful (after much delay) in getting CB9 to be co-applicant for a ULURP application to change the zoning from R6 to R2. We will be meeting in early January to get the ball rolling on the PAS (pre-application statement) which precedes the actual application. As the urban planning consultant retained by Fenimore 2, I will be - along with the special joint sub-committee that we are putting together of CB9 and Fenimore Street Block Association members - updating the full Board and public on how we are proceeding forward.

Paul Graziano, Principal
Associated Cultural Resource Consultants

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12/17/16 2:34 PM

Permit apps are public record. including contact info for the applicant. So yes, they are pulling the records and contacting you.

Anonymous said...

Build it. The area needs more housing, plain and simple. Let new comers live in these buildings and stop pricing long time residents out of their homes. Also, 16 stories is hardly a "tower". There are taller buildings than that along the park in a number of areas (especially, but not exclusively around Grand Army) and those areas are healthy and beautiful, and if you walk half a block away from the high rises you'd hardly know they were there.

And as you say, the area is a dead zone, and this would be much, much better than that. There's no reason to believe that some alternative fantasy project would even be economical, let alone that its on offer. This creates something of value for the neighborhood in a space that currently provides none.

Nora Rawn said...

I agree with the above comment; there is provision for affordable units, and building more housing capacity is a win for the city/borough. No problem on the 16 stories from me--density is natural in a big urban enivronment.