Bergen Street rezoning will bring 225 affordable apartments, new grocery store to Boerum Hill

280 bergen street
The New York City Council this week approved a rezoning that will bring more than 200 affordable units to Boerum Hill.
Screenshot/NYC City Planning Commission

A formerly-industrial Boerum Hill lot will soon be home to 450 new apartments – with 225 affordable units and a new grocery store — after the City Council voted nearly-unanimously on Wednesday to approve a rezoning.

The Bergen Street lot, which sits between Nevins Street and Third Avenue, fills nearly a full city block and used to be occupied by a screen-printing manufacturer and parking lots. Four new residential and mixed-use buildings will be constructed on the lot — with one entire building reserved for seniors and the other for mostly low-income families.

“There’s an affordability crisis in our city, and I was clear from day one that the rezoning at 280 Bergen must bring the deeply affordable housing our communities desperately need,” said Councilmember Lincoln Restler in a statement. “We’re delivering units that nearby NYCHA residents and low-income New Yorkers can actually afford, as well as a grocery store that brings high quality, low cost produce to the Boerum Hill neighborhood.”

bergen street rezoning rendering
The rezoning will include four new buildings — two nine-story buildings with hundreds of apartments between them, and two smaller, three-story “townhomes” with three units each.Screenshot/NYC City Planning Commission

Three-quarters of the affordable units will be priced as affordable for New Yorkers making 60% of the Area Median Income — or about $80,000 per year for a family of four — or less. The rest will be priced at 80% AMI. The rest of the 450 units will rent at market rate.

According to planning documents filed with the city, the screen-printing manufacturer, Ulano, has operated on Bergen Street since the 1970s, when the block was rezoned as part of the city’s Urban Renewal Plan. But as Boerum Hill has become more residential, running the plant in the middle of a densely-populated neighborhood became more complicated — residents complained about the noise, and the company found shipping and receiving products through the neighborhood difficult and expensive.

The owner of the lot was renting city-owned land at the ends of the block for use as parking lots. According to Restler’s office, the councilmember worked with the city to end the long-term leases early, and those city-owned sites will now house the senior housing and the family-focused units. 

Three new buildings will be constructed on the rezoned lot — one large nine-story building, which will contain most of the apartments plus ground-floor retail and community space, one smaller nine-story building with 46 units, and two three-story “townhomes” with three units each. 

The 280 Bergen Street Rezoning is the city’s first to have a racial impact study, per a city law introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and passed by the City Council last year. 

The newly-rezoned site sits just outside the bounds of the Gowanus Rezoning, which is expected to bring 8,000 new units — with 3,000 “affordable” — to the area. As Boerum Hill and its surrounding neighborhoods — Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Gowanus — have become more desirable, rents have increased, leaving longtime residents unable to afford apartments.

Since 2008, the median household income in the area has grown to over $99,000 per year — but median household income for Black and Hispanic residents is only about $43,000, according to the project’s Racial Impact Report. 

Over the last two decades, the Black and Hispanic population in Community District 2, which includes Boerum Hill, have decreased, while the white population has increased significantly, according to U.S. Census data. More than 15,000 people live in just over 7,000 public housing units in CD2, per city data. Almost 65% of residents pay at least 30% of their income in rent, and 35% of CD2 residents are considered “extremely low-income,” “very low-income,” and “low income,” by city standards. 

“The 280 Bergen project is an investment in the affordable housing we desperately need,” said Joe Ann Brown, president of the Warren Street Houses Resident Association. “I am so happy that over two hundred units of affordable housing are being built that long time NYCHA residents can actually afford.”

The retail space on the ground floor of the largest building is expected to include a much-needed supermarket – the local C-Town Supermarket will likely be closed as a result of the Gowanus Rezoning, and there are few other affordable grocery options

lincoln restler at gowanus houses
Councilmember Lincoln Restler worked with the city and the lot owner to end the long-term parking lot leases, and helped to bring the concerns of locals — including the residents of local public housing developments — to the forefront. John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

“The NYCHA residents in Boerum Hill and Gowanus need access to high quality, affordable food,” said Valerie Bell, NYCHA Wyckoff Gardens Tenant Association President. “The redevelopment of the local C-Town would leave people hungry in our community, so I’m thrilled that this project is delivering a replacement affordable supermarket that will serve our neighborhood.”

Per Restler’s office, the city will select a developer in 2024.

Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted last year against the project, citing concerns about the height of the buildings and the number of affordable units. According to documents filed with the city, the project initially proposed only 90 affordable apartments — a number more than doubled in the final agreement. 

Per Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s recommendation that the development incorporate more sustainability measures, the site owner plans to ensure it meets LEED certification standards, a representative said at a September meeting of the City Planning Commission. The new buildings will be partially or all-electric, and some will incorporate green roofs and rain gardens.