A wide swath of Williamsburg will be off-limits to high-rise developers thanks to a City Council vote last week that halted 14 projects, some already under construction.
The March 26 vote downzoned a 13-block area along and near Grand Street and would forbid most buildings from rising above 50 feet — though it would allow a few 70-footers.
Some hailed the vote as a way of preserving the low-rise character of the area between Berry Street and Marcy Avenue — blocks that downzoning supporters say were wrongly included in a 2005 upzoning of the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront.
“There are a lot of buildings going up that are clearly out of context with the neighborhood,” said Ward Dennis, chair of a Community Board 1 land-use committee.
“This zoning will maintain the low to middle-scale quality of these neighborhoods while still allowing for growth.”
By ‘out of context,’ Dennis was referring to such buildings as architect Karl Fischer’s proposed 16-story development at 227 Grand St., at Driggs Avenue. Fischer’s crew hurried to lay a foundation before the Council vote — doing so would allow the project to be grandfathered — but workers missed the deadline. As a result, the Department of Buildings halted construction until Fischer gets approval for a new, five-story design — or the developer sells the property.
“The new zoning changes things quite a bit,” Fischer said. “Now, [the developer] will either sell the property or try to develop it another way.”
Like Fischer, plenty of property owners jeered the downzoning for cutting into their potential profits.
“The [new zoning] is horrible,” said Gigi Rivera, who owns lots between Roebling Street and Driggs Avenue. “I was planning to build something smaller, but now I’m going to wait and see.”
The downzoning also halted Nelson Cuesta’s plans to construct a four-story building with ground-floor retail and a penthouse at 186 Grand St. between Bedford and Driggs avenues — hardly a skyscraper.
“Pretty much everyone opposes the towers, but a lot of people didn’t know that the downzoning would affect their smaller projects,” said Cuesta who also received a stop work order.
Cuesta and his partners will need to remove the penthouse and cut five feet from the planned building before construction can begin — caveats that might make the project fiscally impossible, he said. If they can’t find a way to profit on the property, they will turn their site into a parking lot, according to Cuesta.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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