Brooklyn Botanic Garden, supporters continue fight against sunlight-blocking development proposal

July 28, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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As the fight over Bruce Eichner’s Continuum proposed 960 Franklin Ave. development — which the Brooklyn Botanic Garden says would block sunlight from its conservatory and growing facilities — continues, supporters of the Garden’s “Fight for Sunlight” will meet to rally in public opposition to the rezoning.

The rally will take place at BBG outside the conservancy on the Lily Pool Terrace at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, one day before the City Planning Commission hears community feedback on the developer’s application, which is currently going through the city’s ULURP process.

In June, Brooklyn Community Board 9, which covers the territory of the proposed new development, rejected the 960 Franklin rezoning application. Its resolution said that the existing zoning caps protecting the Garden’s sunlight should be sustained; any proposed modifications after certification should not be considered part of the ULURP review; and that the magnitude of the proposed project “is grossly inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood.”

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Speakers at the rally will include BBG President Adrian Benepe, Municipal Art Society President Elizabeth Goldstein, Garden Staff and community members. Nearly 60,000 residents have signed BBG’s petition rejecting the developer’s application, the BBG says.

In February, Ethan Lustic-Elgrably, director of government and community affairs at BBG, told the Eagle that although large cultural institutions usually stay out of such controversies, ‘We just didn’t have a choice.” The project, he said, would reduce sunlight by up to four and a half hours to the Garden’s plant collections that need the most sunlight, like the Desert and Aquatic plants. Trees at the nearby Jackie Robinson Playground would also decline and eventually die because of lack of sunlight, depriving the playground from shade. In the winter, it would be dark and windy. Medgar Evers campus, to the northeast of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, would also experience prolonged periods of shadow from the proposed towers, especially in winter.

Here is a rendering of the 960 Franklin Avenue Development from the perspective of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Rendering courtesy of Municipal Art Society

The 960 Franklin Ave. website minimizes any environmental impacts from the upzoning on the Garden and the surrounding community, instead claiming that the project would provide union jobs and affordable apartments. Vincent Alvarez, president of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, says that “Half of the 1,500-plus units built at the Spice Factory site (referring to the most recent use of the site) will be targeted to incomes ranging from 50 percent of the average median income to 120 percent of the average median income, providing desperately needed permanent housing.” The average mean income in Crown Heights is $40,000, however. The developer’s proposal says that the affordable units would be available to those making $80,000 or above.

Similarly, the executive board of 100 Blacks in Construction stresses that Continuum’s plan is a “union-built, union-financed and union-operated template for developing workforce and affordable housing in our community.”

At a meeting in February, according to the Eagle, Continuum offered an alternative to the current plan — a building that would be 17 stories high but would have fewer affordable apartments. Even so, they failed to file plans for such a project, and so the City Planning Commission will vote on the original proposal, which includes a complex with two 35-39 story towers.–>

Many Crown Heights’ residents fear that if the zoning regulations are changed, not only will the 960 Franklin Ave. development go through, but the doors would be open for other massive developments that would change the face of the neighborhood.


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