Carroll Gardens gets in the (re)zone

This old longshoreman’s union clinic at the corner of Court and Union streets has been sold to the Clarett Group, which could build a 21-story building under current zoning.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

The rush to restrict building heights on 86 blocks of Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Street Waterfront District moved forward last week when the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee approved height limits on new construction in the historic brownstone neighborhoods.

The plan has widespread support of residents who mobilized in recent years when real-estate developers planned a spate of tall and bulky new edifices for the neighborhood.

“The community spoke with a fairly unified voice and no one actually seemed to object to the overall acknowledgement that the neighborhood was worth protecting through a contextual rezoning,” said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of CB6, whose committee approved the measure on Thursday night.

The recession has stalled construction at several of the controversial work sites, such as the former site of the longshoremen union’s medical center on Court Street, but the landowners apparently passed a minimum threshold to be grandfathered into the old zoning regulations.

Just last year, the City Planning Department hastily pushed through a smaller adjustment to zoning regulations in Carroll Gardens in response to the outcry that the Italianate architecture would be dwarfed by rampant overdevelopment.

The city fathers heard impassioned criticism about one L-shaped section of the plan on Clinton Street from Degraw Street south to First Place and east to Court Street that could permit building heights of about seven stories. That’s a taboo number for many activists, who prefer to cap the height at five or six floors.

“We don’t want to have the possibility of 70-foot-tall buildings in this area,” said John Hathaway, a member of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association. “The city says seven stories is unlikely. Well, unlikely is nice, but it’s not impossible.”

Hathaway added that “in general, the city did a very good job.”

Following a spirited debate, the committee adopted an amendment calling for the city to tweak this sliver of the plan to forbid the 70-foot-tall monsters.

After an expected approval by the full board of Community Board 6, the plan goes to Borough President Markowitz, the City Planning Commission and the City Council as part of the city’s rigorous land-use review process.

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