A tower too tall! Lefferts Gardeners rail against high-rise

A tower too tall! Lefferts Gardeners rail against high-rise
Photo by Steven Schnibbe

The tower is too damn high!

That is the rallying cry of Prospect Lefferts Gardens residents who protested on the City Hall steps on Friday, demanding the city and state reconsider how tall developers can build along their side of Prospect Park. The activists held the demonstration in response to a planned 23-story tower on Flatbush Avenue that they say will crowd the neighborhood and cast a destructive shadow over Brooklyn’s backyard. Thirty protesters attended and one said they are no knee-jerk reactionaries, but that the area’s current zoning needs to have some sense slapped into it.

“We’re not against development,” said Leah Margulies, who is helping organize area residents through the group Prospect Park East Network. “We just feel it needs to be contextual with the neighborhood.”

The group is taking a three-pronged approach to keeping the area’s profile low. They are suing the state to force it to do an environmental review, asking the planning commission to lower the maximum allowed height for the neighborhood, and pushing the city to freeze new Lefferts development in the meantime. So far, their efforts have not borne fruit.

“We’re doing a lot,” Margulies said. “But we haven’t gotten any commitments for change yet.”

The lawsuit demands the state reconsider its decision to offer builder Hudson Companies a $72 million loan for the proposed 254-unit tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. between Fenimore and Hawthorne streets because the state said the project would have no impact on the surrounding area, erroneously, according to activists. If the court finds the state erred in its finding, the developer would have to conduct an environmental study before it could continue construction.

The judge has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the project, the foundation of which is in progress, while he deliberates on a conclusive ruling.

The not-next-to-Brooklyn’s-backyard crowd says this compound could be the start of a sky-scraping development boom and note that other sides of the park have the type of height restriction they have long wanted.

“We’ve been asking for this since 2008,” Margulies said. “Why do they get it and we don’t?”

Changing the zoning would require years of study and could take years to complete, which agitators fear could mean developers rush to get shovels in the ground ahead of the deadline even if the change goes through.

“This is sort of the unchecked pot on the stove,” said Quest Fanning, a member of the Prospect Park East Network who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life. “And after awhile it’s going to boil over.”

Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Prospect Lefferts Gardens) attended a town hall meeting held by the group in April as well as the rally. Activists say he has indicated he was working on a bill to implement a moratorium on large-scale development in the neighborhood, but Eugene did not respond to a request for comment. The anti-tower bunch has not seen the supposed draft, but wants badly for it to be written.

“This is the man we’re putting our hopes on for a moratorium legislation,” Fanning said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Held up: Work is on hold at 626 Flatbush Ave. while a judge decides whether to force developer Hudson Companies to do an environmental study.