Proposed Build Will Cast Harmful Shadows on Botanic Garden

A planned 14-story building on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, next to the former Spice Factory and sandwiched between Jackie Robinson Playground and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, would have “significant adverse effects” on both the garden and the playground in his creation of shadows. , blocking sunlight to sensitive garden plants and denying parks natural light, the Department of Urban Planning said. in a recent report.

If this situation sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 2021, the Planning Commission rejected another rezoning request presented by the same owner for the same place (but with a different address) that would have allowed 34-story towers to be built on the site. The commission chairman at the time criticized the plans as “grossly out of scale” and “inappropriate for this location”.

And, like last time, the local city council representative is already opposed to the plan, with a spokeswoman for Councilor Crystal Hudson telling Brownstoner “as proposed, the project does not address either the specific concerns of local institutions and assets — such as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or Jackie Robinson Playground — nor has it been able to provide sufficient opportunities for community input such a development.”

The massification proposed in the Environmental Assessment Statement. Image via the Department of Urban Planning
The shadow that would be cast by the new development. Image via the Department of Urban Planning

Fast forward three years after the initial rezoning rejection, DCP released the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) as part of the second (even smaller) rezoning attempt with an address of 962-972 Franklin Avenue , a long-vacant site that once. it held an ice manufacturing and distribution company and also included a garage attached to the former Spice Factory.

Continuum Company, which owns the site at 962-972 Franklin Avenue (it lost the current site of Spice Factory at 960 Franklin Avenue to the original owner after the first failed rezoning) requested to have the property upzoned so he could build a 14-story residential building with 475 apartments. Of those, 119 of which will be targeted at income and stabilized rent through Mandatory Inclusive Housing activated by a rezoning. No renderings are included in the rezoning application, but a mass rendering gives an idea of ​​how the 145-foot-tall building would look (without the mechanical equipment).

While Continuum no longer owns the site of the recently demolished Spice Factory, the area is included in the rezoning application. Meanwhile, the new owner Yitzchok Schwartz recently permits presented to build a seven-story condominium building like right with 300 units there.

However, it seems that the Continuum Company is already facing the same problems that the developer had last time, with the DCP rejecting the plans in the draft environmental impact study, saying that the building “will result in a significant negative impact on open space (direct shadow effects), shadows (in open spaces sensitive to sunlight), natural resources (direct shadow effects), and construction noise.

construction fence between the demolition site and the adjacent vacant lot
The vacant lot at 962-972 Franklin Avenue, with a building under construction at 46 Crown Street visible in the background. Photo by Susan De Vries
rubble behind the construction fence
The Spice Factory was recently demolished. Photo by Susan De Vries

The rating comes as no surprise to locals who have followed the rezoning attempts, with Alicia Boyd of Movement to Protect the People saying it was determined in 1991 that anything higher than what the current zoning allows would harm the garden and the playground. “The sun and BBG conservatives haven’t moved since 1991,” he told Brownstoner.

The report says that the shadow created by the new building on BBG and Jackie Robinson Playground “may affect the public’s use or enjoyment of these resources, and … constitute significant direct negative impacts on the open space” .

It is in addition to the fact that the shade prevents sunlight entering the greenhouses in BBG, which the report says “are used to propagate plants for desert, tropical and warm temperate climates that require full sun throughout the year, including sunlight during the winter months.”

Shades “significantly reduce or completely eliminate direct sunlight on features sensitive to sunlight; and could significantly alter the public use or enjoyment of the garden, or threaten the viability of vegetation or other items located in the garden,” the report says. At the Jackie Robinson Playground, the study found, the shadow of the proposed building covers the seating area, as well as the playground and basketball court.

sign and benches at Jackie Robinson Park
basketball court at Jackie Robinson Park
Jackie Robinson Playground printed on Wednesday. Photo by Susan De Vries

To mitigate the problems, DCP looked at alternative approaches to development, including upzoning to a lower density, requiring changes to the proposed development, and not allowing the rezoning to go through at all. DCP, along with the developer and the NYC Parks Department, also looked into relocating the greenhouses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, as well as other “sunlight-sensitive resources,” and installing artificial lighting at Jackie Robinson Playground. . “Both measures were deemed logistically and financially impractical,” the report found.

The agency found that allowing upzoning, even at a lower density, “would still result in significant negative open space, shadow and natural resource impacts.” Allowing the rezoning to go forward, but requiring that the project be modified to mitigate the impacts of shadow and construction noise, the agency found that “it would have to be modified to a point where the primary goals and l ‘objectives will not be achieved’.

In the final scenario investigated, where the rezoning would be denied and the development would be allowed only as of right, the agency found that there would be “no significant negative impact in relation to shade, open space, natural resources , or construction (noise) .” With the current zoning, a seven-story, approximately 168-unit apartment building with 84 off-street parking spaces could be built, the report says.

spice factory - man walking across the street in front of the brick factory complex
The Spice Factory in September 2023. Photo by Susan De Vries
corner view at Franklin and Montgomery showing a construction fence around the vacant site
Same view yesterday. Photo by Susan De Vries

In this situation, all the apartments could be at market price, since there would be no rezoning to activate the Mandatory Inclusive Housing, which results in 20 to 35 percent of units being reserved for families who earn from 40 to 115 percent of the Area Median Income. Alternatively, the developer could choose to use the new 485x tax for rental apartments, which mandates that 25 percent of the units will go to households earning 80 percent or less of AMI.

Boyd said the best-case scenario for the community is for the developer to withdraw the rezoning application and build “as right.” She said the community is fine with market housing on the site, “because anything else would cause too much damage to BBG and the playground.”

His biggest concern, he said, is that Councilmember Hudson might change his stance on the development, like his predecessor Laurie Cumbo. he did regarding a similar rezoning of 2019 presented by Cornell Realty for 40 Crown Street and 931 Carroll Street. “We hope that Hudson does not follow in Cumbo’s footsteps and agree to this development at the last minute based on some so-called change in plans or community benefits.”

She added that her group is not optimistic about the City Planning Commission voting no on the rezoning, since many commissioners are appointed by the mayor, who she said is overly supportive of the real estate industry.

view along Franklin Avenue of the fence in front of the vacant lot
The site is bordered by a wire mesh. Photo by Susan De Vries

As part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process, there will now be a public hearing scheduled on the draft environmental impact statement before a final one is prepared. If the developer decides to proceed with the application, the proposal will go through a community review and a number of public hearings before going back to City Planning for a vote. If it is approved by Urbanization, it will then go to the Municipal Council for a vote.

Department of Buildings records show that Continuum filed for a new construction permit on the property for what would be a six-story building with 168 apartments in January 2022, and was issued permits for the foundation work in the same year. to qualify for the 421-a tax. While the new construction permit has not been approved or issued, the developers intend to move forward with a seven-story building with approximately 168 units if the rezoning application is denied, according to their rezoning application.

Brownstoner reached out to the Continuum Company for comment, but it did not respond by publication.

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