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As City Planning decision looms, neighbors rally against 960 Franklin plans

Brooklyn Botanic Garden says shadows from high-rise development would threaten its plants

July 29, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The City Planning Commission held its crucial meeting Thursday morning in the latest step in a ULURP process to decide a crucial rezoning issue: whether or not a proposed new development could rise to heights that would cast shadows over Brooklyn Botanic Garden and a neighboring city park. The CPC is expected to render a decision in August.

The previous day, showing the depth of community opposition, Brooklyn community members held a rally to oppose the rezoning, which would allow the construction of a nearly 40-story building complex approximately 150 feet from BBG.

Shadows cast from the project would present an existential threat to the Garden and harm other nearby institutions, the BBG and other opponents of 960 Franklin say.

At the rally, community members spoke of the harmful impact that shadows from the planned luxury condominiums would have on the Garden, Medgar Evers College, Jackie Robinson Playground and the surrounding community. The shadows would harm plants that the Garden has carefully cultivated for decades and threaten the entirety of its collection, they said.

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Among the speakers were BBG president Adrian Benepe; Municipal Art Society President Elizabeth Goldstein: Brooklyn community garden leaders Barbara Adamson, Julia Charles and River Fields; and Leonard Paul, foreman of the Steinhardt Conservatory and president of Local 374 of DC37, the union that represents more than 100 Garden employees.

A band of local high school students, Control the Sound, played a live set ahead of the rally, including their song inspired by the Garden titled “Fight for Sunlight.”

As part of the aforementioned New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Community Board 9 and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams have already held hearings on the rezoning proposal. The community board held its public hearing on June 21 and voted to oppose the development on June 24. Borough President Adams held a hearing on June 29, and is expected to offer his recommendation shortly.

The rezoning application has been widely criticized by elected officials, community leaders and members of the City Planning Commission. A petition opposing the development was signed by almost 60,000 community members.

“Tens of thousands of community residents and many elected officials and City Planning Commission members have publicly opposed this project because of the damage that it will do to the Garden and surrounding neighborhood,” said BBG president Adrian Benepe. “We urge the local elected officials who stand in the path of approval of the rezoning proposal to reject this development and protect the community and neighborhood.”

Brooklyn Botanic Garden was established more than 110 years ago and has one of the world’s most impressive collections of plants, with rare plants native to the New York City region, venerable trees that are over a century old, and greenhouses displaying plants from six continents. The Garden hosts thousands of visitors every day.

If the City Planning Commission approves the 960 Franklin Avenue project, which is planned by developer Continuum Company, the next steps would be the City Council and finally the mayor.

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