Prospect Heights

Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts ‘Fight for Sunlight 2020’ event

January 9, 2020 Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Botanic Garden is renewing its campaign against proposed development that would cast ruinous shadows on its greenhouses. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is renewing its campaign against high-rise development that would cast destructive shadows on its greenhouse and conservatory complex.

The famous Prospect Heights garden is inviting the public to its Fight for Sunlight 2020 Kickoff, which is scheduled for noon on Sunday, Jan. 12. The event is free but guests must pre-register.

Speakers who are scheduled to appear include Brooklyn Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury, Municipal Art Society of New York President Elizabeth Goldstein, Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment Principal Gail Lambert and Coney Island Beautification Project President Pamela Pettyjohn.

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The construction Brooklyn Botanic Garden opposes is planned for a site just 150 feet away from it — the Spice Factory property at 960 Franklin Ave.

Ian Bruce Eichner’s Continuum Co. and co-developer Lincoln Equities want to construct two 39-story towers with 1.37 million square feet of residential and retail space. They must rezone the property in order to build.

Greenhouse plants will be put at risk if towers are constructed 150 feet away from Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Greenhouse plants will be put at risk if towers are constructed 150 feet away from Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

These high-rises would cast shadows for up to 4 1/2 hours per day, Medbury told reporters at the July launch of an exhibit about the garden’s Fight for Sunlight campaign.

The online invite for Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Jan. 12 event describes the Fight for Sunlight initiative as “a grassroots effort to prevent massive high-rise towers from blocking sunlight to our greenhouse complex. Specifically situated for access to sunlight, this complex is the beating heart of the garden, housing 20 percent of our collection — including rare and endangered orchids, cacti and bonsai — as well as the growing facilities that help replenish all 52 acres of the garden.”

Half the 1,578 apartments in the proposed Spice Factory development would be affordable units for tenants at varying income levels as high as 120 percent of Area Median Income, which is $89,640 per year for individuals.

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“It’s a false proposition to pit so-called ‘affordable’ housing against open space,” Medbury said in July.

This is the Spice Factory, where developers plan to construct a pair of tall towers. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
This is the Spice Factory, where developers plan to construct a pair of tall towers. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Fungal diseases will destroy some of the greenhouse plants, others might not grow and still others might not flower because of the shadows the towers would cast, he said then.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden draws 825,000 to 1 million visitors per year, depending on how much it rains in the springtime. It is best known for its annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Spice Factory was originally a brewery, beer garden, restaurant and concert hall that Consumers Park Brewing Company opened in 1900. Morris J. Golombeck Importers of Spices moved into the distinctive-looking brick complex around 1955.

HPG Associates, whose president is Zev Golombeck, has sold part of the Spice Factory site to Continuum Co. and Lincoln Equities for $33 million and signed a contract to sell the rest of it to them, city Finance Department records indicate.

Last March, the Department of City Planning held a public scoping meeting about the proposed Spice Factory development. The meeting was a preliminary step in the project’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure — or ULURP — rezoning process.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.


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