New Yorkers debate pros and cons of 80 Flatbush development at City Planning Commission hearing
Opponents say that tripling this development site’s density would set a dangerous precedent on the Flatbush Avenue corridor.
It would allow the construction of a skyscraper as tall as the Chrysler Building in low-rise Boerum Hill.
Supporters say this project is a model of responsible development.
It would bring affordable housing and a modern building for Khalil Gibran International Academy, whose aging facility doesn’t meet students’ needs.
The subject of debate is Alloy Development’s proposed project at 80 Flatbush Ave.
On Wednesday, the two sides squared off at a City Planning Commission hearing in Lower Manhattan.
Brooklyn residents and civic organizations’ reps urged the commission not to grant zoning changes the developer is seeking in order to construct the approximately 1.1 million-square-foot complex.
“This project is about zoning for sale,” testified Sandy Balboza of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association.
“This inappropriate, unprecedented, abruptly out-of-scale, out-of-context, done-in-isolation proposal is an example of the most damaging kind of development, concocted without any regard for the impacts it will project onto the surrounding area,” said Balboza, who’s a longtime Boerum Hill resident.
A school building ‘like a Faberge egg’
Other civic leaders plus architects, real estate execs and Khalil Gibran International Academy employees urged the City Planning Commission to approve zoning changes Alloy is seeking.
The proposed project entails the construction of two skyscrapers with about 900 apartments and office and retail space, a cultural facility and a new public elementary school as well as the replacement school for Khalil Gibran International Academy.
The tower that would be as tall as the Chrysler Building would be 986 feet in height. The second tower would be 531 feet tall.
In a written statement that was read into the record for him, Khalil Gibran International Academy Principal Winston Hamann said his school’s 150-year-old building, which is part of the 80 Flatbush development site, is a mess.
“Khalil Gibran is sort of like a Faberge egg — stately from the outside but empty on the inside,” his written testimony said. “This building does not allow our kids to flourish, to play, to have the advantages of other schools.”
It doesn’t have a gymnasium or an auditorium. Some floors don’t have bathrooms.
Hamann couldn’t attend the hearing because state Regents exams started this week so he needed to be present at his school.
More than 30 project supporters testified
Supporters of the 80 Flatbush development outnumbered opponents three to one among the people who testified at Wednesday’s hearing, with 34 speakers for it and 11 against it.
Alloy’s co-developer is the New York City Educational Construction Fund. The Fifth Avenue Committee, a nonprofit community development corporation, will build and co-own the 200 units of permanently affordable housing included in the 80 Flatbush proposal.
Michelle de la Uz, who’s the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, is a City Planning commissioner. She left the room during Wednesday’s hearing about 80 Flatbush.
The hearing was a step in a legally required process known as ULURP, or uniform land use review procedure.
As part of this process, which has been underway for the past year, Community Board 2 recently rejected Alloy’s 80 Flatbush proposal in a nearly unanimous vote.
The irregularly shaped development site has frontage on State Street, Third Avenue, Schermerhorn Street and Flatbush Avenue. The property is located within the boundaries of Boerum Hill and is across the street from Fort Greene.
One-third of the site belongs to the city Department of Education. Alloy ground leases two-thirds of the site from private landlords.
‘We ask for balance,’ an opponent says
At Wednesday’s hearing, Boerum Hill Association President Howard Kolins said his organization agrees on the need for affordable housing and school construction but opposes Alloy’s high-density design.
“The new Brooklyn needs to be built — but not by stepping on the traditional Brooklyn that so many [people] have created by preserving century-old buildings,” Kolins said. “We ask for balance.”
Tom Devaney of the Municipal Art Society of New York spoke out against Alloy’s 80 Flatbush plan. Reps for state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon read statements expressing the two politicians’ opposition.
Project would ‘prevent the city from calcifying,’ a supporter says
The 34 speakers who testified in support of the 80 Flatbush project included Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer, newly elected Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Chairman Ofer Cohen and members of property services workers union 32BJ SEIU.
Kirk Goodrich of Monadnock Development LLC put in a good word for the 80 Flatbush proposal. His firm recently partnered with Alloy in building residential development One John St. in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Andrew Kalish, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s former director of cultural development, said the 80 Flatbush project “will prevent this city from calcifying and will ensure we continue this great state’s slogan, which is ‘ever upwards.’”
That’s the English translation for the motto on New York state’s seal, which is the Latin word “Excelsior.”
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