Big concerns: Proposed Franklin Ave. development in C’Heights ‘too tall’ for nabe, civc guru says

Big concerns: Proposed Franklin Ave. development in C’Heights ‘too tall’ for nabe, civc guru says
Photo by Taylor Balkom

It’s pushing the height limit in the Heights!

A builder proposing a megadevelopment of six residential high-rises on the site of an old Crown Heights warehouse is pushing for a zoning variance that would allow the towers to rise as high as 37 stories — radically altering the predominantly low-rise nabe’s character, according to a local land-use guru.

“We would like anything to be contextual with what’s in the area, so we spoke about a complex of that size — with two towers that are more than 30 stories tall — being generally too tall,” said Michael Liburd, the chairman of Community Board 9’s committee that oversees local development proposals going through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Members of the civic panel discussed the project at a Feb. 13 meeting after learning that builder Continuum Company filed a preliminary application with the Department of City Planning for the up-zoning under Mayor DeBlasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which gives developers the right to build taller in exchange for providing below-market-rate housing.

But the civic gurus tabled a formal vote on the proposal, choosing instead to hold one during its official public-review process, which is likely still a few months out, Liburd said.

The block where the development at 960 Franklin Ave. between Montgomery and Sullivan places would rise is currently zoned for six-to-seven-story structures.

The proposed complex features 1,450 units spread among its six buildings, which range from 15- to 37-stories tall, with half of the apartments offered at market rate, and the other half being so-called affordable housing.

But there’s currently no plan to upgrade infrastructure in the area to accommodate the high-rises’ future residents, who will further strain already overutilized public systems, according to the community board’s chairman.

“It’s too much,” said Musa Moore. “Too much for our community, our infrastructure, our sewer system — and we have the Q train at Prospect Park that’s already too crowded.”

News of the super-sized complex comes in the wake of locals’ failed grass-roots attempt to upend the redevelopment of the nearby Bedford-Union Armory — which lawyers at Legal Aid are now fighting in court following Council’s November approval of the scheme — and as the board pursues a down-zoning for large swathes of Crown Heights in response to other projects, many of which are teardowns that demolish old homes of around two stories so real-estate firms can take full advantage of current building rights, which often permit six-story apartment buildings on side streets, Liburd said.

“If we can get a wholesale down-zoning on everything, that’s what we want to do,” he said.

The civic panel hasn’t approached the city or local pols about its down-zoning ambitions, however, and is still looking into strategies to protect the neighborhood’s character, according to Liburd.

Continuum Company’s proposed Franklin Avenue project is a stone’s throw away from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, near the site where builder Cornell Realty requested a similar zoning variance last year to build two 175-foot towers.

But Cornell quickly abandoned its plan in the wake of a massive public backlash, which included a petition signed by more than 4,000 people from as far away as Manchester, England that claimed the high-rises would starve the public garden’s plants by blocking the sun.

Some locals, however, are concerned that if the city approves Continuum’s up-zoning application, then Cornell — which has yet to begin any as-of-right construction on its Botanic Garden–adjacent plot — will revive its own request.

“That application can still be produced,” said Alicia Boyd, founder of “anti-gentrification” group Movement to Protect the People. “They’re waiting for the larger development to get the okay, and then will say, ‘If they can get 40 stories, why can’t we?’ ”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.