Crown Heights

Crown Heights community pushes solution to ‘development desert’

September 16, 2019 Lore Croghan
Community Board 8 passed a resolution concerning proposed rezoning for its M-Crown district. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Crown Heights residents are urging the city to move forward with a grassroots plan to spur more development in the neighborhood’s manufacturing district, with the local community board passing a resolution on Thursday directing the Department of City Planning to take a rezoning project from the talking phase to the action phase.

DCP has spent several years talking to Community Board 8 about an upzoning that board members proposed to promote the construction of affordable housing, as well as light industrial businesses, artisanal makers and community facilities.

The board’s resolution calls on DCP to begin community outreach efforts in support of rezoning an area dubbed the M-Crown district. The outreach phase is a necessary prelude to filing a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the yearlong process to change zoning.

CB8’s resolution endorses numerous changes to its original rezoning plan that DCP has recommended over the past couple years and signals the community board’s willingness to work with the agency.

ULURP is the legally required process of gathering public input about proposed rezoning. The process culminates in votes by the City Planning Commission and the City Council and then the mayor’s approval or veto, if he wishes to get involved.

After the community board meeting, CB8 Chairperson Ethel Tyus told the Brooklyn Eagle she was happy about the vote.

“We’re going to move the project along as quickly as possible,” she said. Tyus also heads CB8’s Land Use Committee and its M-Crown Subcommittee.

A section of Atlantic Avenue is in the proposed M-Crown district. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
A section of Atlantic Avenue is in the proposed M-Crown district. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Department of City Planning officials said they’re reviewing the request.

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“We will take your resolution back to our agency and discuss, and we’ll talk more with you and the subcommittee,” Winston Von Engel, DCP’s director of the Brooklyn Borough Office, told board members after the vote.

In response to questions from the Eagle about what the DCP’s next step will be, agency spokesperson Joe Marvilli said via email, “We look forward to continuing to work with the community board on this important discussion and study.”

Most of the M-Crown district is bounded by Atlantic and Grand avenues, Bergen Street and Franklin Avenue. The district also includes a span on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between Grand and Vanderbilt avenues that’s partly in Prospect Heights.

A majority of the lots in the M-Crown district are currently zoned M1-1, which limits new construction to industrial or commercial buildings that are one story high.

M-Crown Subcommittee member Gib Veconi told the Eagle in July that as long as the district has that zoning, it will be a “development desert.” The area is full of underutilized property, including lots that are vacant or used for storage or truck parking.

There are numerous vacant lots in the proposed M-Crown district. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
There are numerous vacant lots in the proposed M-Crown district. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

CB8’s resolution embraces changes to the board’s original rezoning plan that were recommended by DCP in a rezoning “framework” the agency drew up in 2018. “We want to be flexible to encourage private investments,” Tyus told the Eagle.

Initially, the board wanted the rezoning to require developers to include space for light manufacturing, artisanal makers or community facilities in new buildings.

Instead, the resolution says developers should be incentivized to do so, rather than mandated. Developers would be allowed to construct larger buildings on several blocks of the district if they include “light-industrial, arts-related, cultural, civic and repair and production service uses.” This would increase the FAR — or floor-area ratio, the zoning formula that determines the height and bulk of permitted buildings — from 0.6 to 1.0.

CB8’s rezoning proposal initially called for one blanket zoning for the entire M-Crown area. The new resolution, however divides the M-Crown district into several areas with different proposed FARs, in accordance with DCP’s framework.

The resolution also specifies that a majority of the affordable-housing units that are built must be for tenants whose earnings are at or below the neighborhood’s Area Median Income.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and numerous advocates in July announced their support for CB8’s proposed M-Crown rezoning.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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