Dyker Heights

Dyker Heights residents pan proposed 86th Street development

April 26, 2023 Helen Klein, Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
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UPDATE: The proposal was withdrawn by the developer on April 26, according to City Councilmember Justin Brannan, who wrote on Facebook, “I have spoken with the applicants for the 1421 86th St. Rezoning and they have agreed to withdraw the rezoning application. The applicants expressed an understanding of the concerns of the surrounding community, and look forward to working with their neighbors in determining a better path forward to address those concerns.”

Citing a negative impact on their day-to-day lives, hundreds of local residents spoke out against a proposed development for 86th Street in Dyker Heights on Monday at a Community Board 11 public hearing.

In its current incarnation, the project would incorporate 32 apartments, including an anticipated 10 units of affordable housing, with ground floor retail, in a six-story, 65-foot tall structure with 25 parking spots.

“We don’t want this,” one speaker asserted to cheers from the crowd. “Homes here are three stories high. I live on 85th Street. This is our view. We’ll lose sun, privacy, parking. Our quality of life will go. You’ll rezone one building, then the next, and the next and the next. It will change the landscape of the neighborhood.”

Her neighbor agreed. “It’s been shown that as the density of the population goes up,” she said, “the quality of life goes down.”

The development is planned for 1421 86th Street, the site of Romantique Limousines, a one-story building. The company would be housed in the first-floor commercial space, according to Richard Lobel, the attorney for the developer, Thomas Aellis. Lobel said the decision had been made to scale back the original proposal, which called for a nine-story building, in response to concerns expressed by local residents and officials after news of the project first circulated.

In order to go forward with either plan, zoning map and text changes are necessary. This triggered New York City’s mandated land use review process, ULURP, whose first step is a public hearing at the community board level.

The board, whose role is advisory only, will vote on whether to support the project at its May 4 general meeting, which will be held virtually via Zoom.

Lobel tried to make the case that the location was a perfect one for such a development, given what he said was the city’s “housing crisis,” citing the width of both 86th Street (100 feet) and 14th Avenue (80 feet). And he stressed that Aellis had tried to respond to neighborhood concerns with a “more moderate proposal.”

In addition, in response to rumors that have been flooding social media since news of the project broke, Lobel emphasized that the building could not become a homeless shelter, citing a restrictive declaration that the developer intends to enter into, that he said specifically prohibits that potential use “forever.”

The development site. Eagle photo by Helen Klein

But, the residents in attendance weren’t buying what Lobel was selling.

“Whether it’s a nine or a six-story building, it doesn’t belong here,” contended Barbara Vellucci, a member of neighboring Community Board 10, who attended the hearing on behalf of the Dyker Heights Civic Association. “Once they do it,” she warned, “they’ll do it over and over again.”

Patrick Mooney, who said he lived for a while on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, agreed. “I saw that neighborhood decline because of never-ending development in the name of more housing,” he said. “This neighborhood is compact. The infrastructure can’t support what we have now. There are plenty of areas that need redevelopment. Not Dyker Heights.”

Parking is already difficult, numerous speakers said. “I already go around the block five or 10 times to get a spot,” one woman commented. “Imagine what it will be like with this project!”

One man pointed out that traffic along 86th Street during the morning rush and after school lets out is already horrendous. “You can’t drive down the street,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Another issue brought up by residents in attendance was the already overcrowded schools in the area. “Where are we going to put all the kids?” one speaker demanded. “The schools are already bursting at the seams.”

And, then, of course, there are the Christmas crowds that descend on Dyker Heights each year to view the holiday displays. “The neighborhood is already inundated by tour buses and thousands of people,” one man pointed out. “I’ve seen ambulances, fire engines, police cars not be able to get down the block. You can’t keep stacking people in like sardines. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I have a question for Tommy Aellis,” one woman said, toward the end of the hearing. “Why are you doing this to our neighborhood?

At one point, Laurie Windsor, the co-chairperson of the CB 11 Planning & Zoning Committee, which was holding the hearing, asked the SRO crowd if there was anyone in the room who had come to speak in favor of the project.

Not a single person replied.

The hearing was held at Il Centro, 8711 18th Avenue.

The link to watch the CB 11 general board meeting via zoom is https://bit.ly/43XasOa. The meeting will also be live-streamed via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/brooklyncb11. After CB 11 makes its recommendation, the borough president will hold a hearing on the development, and issue a recommendation after that has taken place. Then, the City Planning Commission will hold a hearing and vote on the matter, after which it goes to the City Council and the mayor for their input.

People who want to add their comments to those already received by CB 11 can do it via email, to [email protected], or go to  https://forms.gle/2abYrSVmNadCpAAg9 

It’s important to continue to attend those meetings and speak out if you oppose the project, noted Vellucci. “It doesn’t end here,” she told the crowd. “You have to continue to come out.”

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