City Planning Commission unanimously rejects plans for BBG-neighboring high-rise
60,000 people signed petition against shade-blocking development
The City Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously rejected the controversial proposal to build a high-rise tower at 960 Franklin Ave., a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden — a decision praised by BBG President Adrian Benepe.
The CPC’s vote is a binding decision in the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process and “puts an end to the developer [Continuum Company’s] application to build a massive complex with 39-story towers that would have caused a significant loss of sunlight to BBG’s conservatory, greenhouses, and nursery,” read a statement from the Garden, which opposed the development.
“The shadows would have harmed plants that BBG has cultivated for decades and threatened the entirety of the 52-acre Garden,” the statement continued.
BBG also thanked Community Board 9 and the many community residents and public officials who worked to raise alarms about the project. They said the complex would block needed sunlight not only to the Garden but to Medgar Evers College, Jackie Robinson Playground and the surrounding community.
Since entering the public review process in 2019, the 960 Franklin project has faced fierce opposition from thousands of community members who sought to protect Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
The Garden’s petition opposing the development was signed by more than 60,000 community members, and rallies at BBG in 2020 and 2021 drew hundreds of protesters and neighborhood leaders.
This summer, at the Community Board 9 and Borough President’s Office ULURP hearings, hundreds of community members spoke of the devastating impact that shadows would have on BBG.
The rezoning application was widely criticized by elected officials and members of the City Planning Commission through the ULURP process. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (who presides over District 35, in which 960 Franklin Ave. is located), and Community Board 9 all publicly opposed the project this year.
“This a victory for the community and for the city,” said Benepe. “This ill-conceived luxury housing development would have threatened the future of one of the city’s most cherished cultural institutions and plunged the surrounding community into perpetual shadow. We applaud the City Planning Commission members, Borough President Eric Adams, Community Board 9, and the thousands of local residents who rejected the application.”
Said Diane Steinberg, chair of BBG’s Board of Trustees, “With gratitude and relief, BBG’s Board of Trustees commends this decision by the City Planning Commission. Their decision echoes the belief of so many Brooklyn residents — as well as Mayor de Blasio, Borough President Adams, and Community Board 9 — that BBG is a world-class treasure worthy of protection.”
“Nothing offered by this project was valuable enough to lift the established, intentional, and well-considered zoning that the City put in place years ago, to protect Crown Heights and Brooklyn Botanic Garden from just such a development,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York.
On its website for 960 Franklin, Continuum stressed the issue of affordable housing as a reason for building the development. Appearing at a local meeting earlier this year, reported Eagle writer Emily Nadal, “Principal for Continuum Company William Wallace IV argued that the city leaves out middle income earners in affordable housing plans at a Wednesday evening community board meeting . The 960 Franklin Avenue development, he said, would change that.”
However, the Municipal Art Society, one of the main opponents of the development, said in comments submitted to Community Board 9 that “though the proposal has been touted by the developers as addressing the lack of affordable housing, none of the proposed housing units would be affordable to the average Crown Heights resident … According to the DEIS, the median household income in the project’s half-mile study area is $57,995 (based on 2013-2017 data).