Boerum Hill

Supertall skyscraper plan for 80 Flatbush Ave. sparks neighbors’ ire

Development site's in low-rise Boerum Hill, across the street from historic Fort Greene

March 29, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In this rendering, the 80 Flatbush development's supertall skyscraper is at right and the clock-topped Williamsburgh Savings Bank is at left. Rendering by Alloy Development/Luxigon

The neighbors are angry.

Alloy Development wants to build a supertall skyscraper in low-rise brownstone Boerum Hill — and get the city to triple existing zoning limits for the project site.

Residents of the neighborhood and of Fort Greene, which is across the street from the 80 Flatbush Ave. site, said at a Community Board 2 public hearing on Wednesday night that the proposed development would be out-of-scale and dangerously precedent-setting.  

“It’s just too much,” said Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association (BHA). His organization is spearheading opposition to the project’s high-density design.

“This particular project is often blind to its surroundings, and therefore the BHA’s main point of opposition is the tripling of the floor area ratio,” Kolins said.

Elected officials and their reps gave 80 Flatbush a thumbs-down.

“My position right now is this project should be dead on arrival,” city Public Advocate Letitia James said at the hearing.

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Reps for state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, state Assemblymember Walter Mosley and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery read statements expressing the politicians’ opposition to the development.

Hundreds of people filled St. Francis College’s Brooklyn Heights auditorium to capacity for the hearing. Hundreds more who were denied entrance stood outdoors.

In addition to the politicians, about 40 people spoke in opposition to the project. About 15 people spoke in support of the project.

The 80 Flatbush project’s 986-foot-tall tower design places it in the controversial category of supertall skyscraper, which the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat defines as any building taller than 984 feet.

The project site’s boundaries are Flatbush Avenue, Schermerhorn Street, Third Avenue and State Street, which places it within Boerum Hill.  

 

‘The right place for Brooklyn to grow,’ developer says

At Wednesday’s hearing, Alloy founder Jared Della Valle stressed that the proposed 1.26 million-square-foot project would deliver “public benefits” in the form of school construction and affordable housing.

“We think this is the right place for Brooklyn to grow,” he said of the site.

Alloy’s co-developer is the New York City Educational Construction Fund.

In addition to the supertall skyscraper, the 80 Flatbush development would include a new 531-foot-tall tower, a new public elementary school, a replacement for public high school Khalil Gibran International Academy and the adaptive reuse of two 19th-century buildings.

There would be around 900 apartments at 80 Flatbush. About 200 of them would be affordable rental units and 700 of them would be a mix of market-rate condos and rental apartments.

Affordable housing developer Fifth Avenue Committee will develop and own the affordable apartments with Alloy.

There will also be office and retail space.

According to city Finance Department records, part of the 80 Flatbush site belongs to the city Department of Education. Alloy ground-leases part of the site.

Wednesday’s hearing was part of a legally required public process known as ULURP, or uniform land use review procedure.

‘Don’t block the clock’

Some people who testified in support of 80 Flatbush are parents who want their children to attend school there.

Other supporters said transit hubs are the right place to build massive developments. The 80 Flatbush site is thisclose to Atlantic Terminal.

A 12-year-old boy spoke in support of the project because he wants to attend a school with a basketball court. The existing Khalil Gibran International Academy doesn’t have one. The planned replacement high school would.  

Some opponents of the 80 Flatbush project said school construction and affordable housing are being offered to make a project that’s primarily a luxury-housing development more palatable to the public.

“When you think about the problems that you have — crumbling roads, rampant vermin, snarling traffic, insufficient hospitals, over-capacity schools and dangerously crowded subways,” said Brooklyn Heights Association board of governors member Jim Walden.

“And then the city goes to a developer and offers generous tax breaks for the developer to solve some of your problems. You are hungry to have your problems solved and what do they offer you? Crumbs,” he said.

“And they ask you to accept it as a meal.”

Walden added, “Paul Newman once said, ‘If you’re playing in a poker game and you look around the table and you can’t find the sucker, you’re the sucker.’”

The proposed supertall skyscraper at 80 Flatbush would be nearly twice as tall as the landmarked clock-topped Williamsburgh Savings Bank, which is right across the street. Neighborhood views of the 512-foot-tall neo-Romanesque building at 1 Hanson Place would be blocked by 80 Flatbush, multiple people testified.

“Don’t block the clock. Block the towers,” said Fort Greene resident Lucy Koteen.

 

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