Brooklyn Broadside: Downtown Building Boom Could Be a Planning Nightmare

February 21, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Dennis Holt

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — The Steiner brothers’ announcement last week of their plans to build a large apartment building in Downtown Brooklyn has prompted a review of what’s been built, what is being constructed and what is being planned.

The result is astonishing. Within a 2-square-mile area that includes the Downtown core and part of Fort Greene down to Atlantic Avenue, 7,362 new residential units will soon be going up. As we show later, many additional potential and intended units are excluded from that number.

An accepted practice to get a sense of how many people might be involved is to multiply the number of housing units by 2.5. Doing that shows a total of more than 18,000 people, so it can safely be said that Downtown Brooklyn can expect an invasion of from 15,000 to 20,000 new residents in a rather small area that was never designed for such a number of people.

Take out a map and walk around this general area. Look at the narrow sidewalks and narrow streets and imagine the infrastructure — telephone lines, gas mains, water mains —  that was designed for a much smaller population.

Look and you won’t find the number of schools that probably will be needed for all the newcomers. Think of all the retail services that aren’t there now but will be needed. Check out bus routes and schedules, traffic patterns, and so much else.

There is an obvious conclusion. A heck of a lot more needs to be done than to just build 50-story buildings.

And let’s look at what is not included in those 7,362 residential units. The City Point project is planned for a location just a few blocks away. It is supposed to have 525 housing units. I have excluded that number from the housing totals because I don’t think that many will actually be built.

I have excluded the Atlantic Yards project, whose plan originally called for 6,400 housing units, both because most of the project is outside the 2-square-mile area and because there is no real estimate of how many residential units will in fact be built.

Also not included is anything planned or newly built in DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Fulton Ferry Landing, which are within the 2-square-mile area but near the edges, away from the central core. All housing for Brooklyn Bridge Park is also excluded, because it is outside the area.

 There is no question that the past 15 years have been the biggest building period in Brooklyn’s history, and there is no sign that it is stopping. This is different from anything in the past. With the exception of Fulton Landing and DUMBO, most of the neighborhoods that now exist in Brooklyn were built on empty land. In Downtown Brooklyn, either existing buildings were torn down to build larger ones or commercial buildings have been converted to residential use.

We are creating a whole new core city. Have city planners thought through all this? Somebody better do so before we find a mess on our hands.

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