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CB2: Rezoning is the elephant in the room in DUMBO

A city plan to encourage residential development in parts of DUMBO was narrowly rejected by the neighborhood’s community board on Tuesday night.

By a 13-10 vote, Community Board 2 defeated a city rezoning that would allow old warehouses within a 12-block area manufacturing zone east of the Manhattan Bridge to be converted to residential apartments.

The proposal would limit new building heights to about 12 stories, but opponents said that even that height was too tall — and the board agreed.

The vote follows a split rejection by CB2’s Land Use Committee on March 18. That decision reflected substantial concern from residents, some of them members of the DUMBO Neighborhood Association, who said the Department of City Planning’s vision would overwhelm the enclave with bulky buildings.

“The proposed rezoning will create out-of-scale development in this part of DUMBO,” said Gus Sheha, vice president of the DNA.

The 12-story limit is significantly shorter than other recent additions to the hip, artsy district, such as the 31-floor, glassy J Condo at the corner of Jay and Front streets, and the 18-story Beacon Tower on York between Adams and Jay streets.

But there are several vacant lots and existing low-rise buildings that would be ripe for new development if the proposal becomes reality.

The board also noted another main complaint against the city’s plan, namely that a residential rezoning could expel artists from dual live-work studios, which are permitted on manufacturing parcels.

“[Rezoning] would push live-work spaces and the small manufacturing business out of the neighborhood,” Sheha said.

Other opponents said they were frustrated by a secretive process. For example, the city’s environmental impact statement for the rezoning claims that there’s sufficient capacity at area middle schools to handle an influx of students after the rezoning — yet the environmental impact statement prepared at about the same time for a controversial plan by Two Trees Management to build an 18-story building on nearby Dock Street claimed there was a shortage of middle school seats in the neighborhood.

The same firm wrote both studies.

Concerns aside, the neighborhood’s business group, the DUMBO Improvement District, said it supports the city’s plan because it would foster development and growth.

“It’s such a positive for DUMBO because it will add … more families and businesses,” Executive Director Kate Kerrigan said last month. “That will add more foot traffic — and that’s good for our local businesses.”

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