Class dismissed: Developer ditches plans for 580-seat school Downtown

The building between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Street will host spaces for small businesses and nonprofits, which proponents argue is sorely needed in America’s Downtown. But the daycare center that currently occupies the lot may have to find a new home if it can’t afford the higher rent once the building goes up, according to the developer’s lawyer.
Marvel Architects

School’s out forever!

A developer scrapped plans to build a six-story public school at the base of a proposed Downtown office tower after the city raised concerns about the building’s size and location, a rep for the builder said.

Borough Park firm Leser Group offered to include a 580-seat elementary school in the lower levels of a planned 21-story commercial development at 101 Fleet Pl. — located between Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Street — as the developer seeks city permission to rezone the lot from residential to commercial.

However, bureaucrats with the Department of City Planning complained that the influx of school busses and pint-sized scholars would overburden the narrow, one-way Fleet Place, in addition to criticizing the tower’s density and lack of loading facilities, according to Raymond Levin, a rep for Leser Group, who discussed the developer’s plans with members of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee at a meeting Wednesday.

In response, the developer choose to simply ax the school and reduce the tower’s overall height to 14 stories, Levin said.

“We were in negotiations with the School Construction Authority for almost a year and had plans. City Planning had tremendous concerns about having that many kids on the street, in order to have a school we couldn’t have a loading dock, so City Planning didn’t like that either,” Raymond Levin told Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee.

One board member blasted City Planning officials for failing to promote the school, while questioning why the agency allowed the mega-development at nearby 80 Flatbush Avenue to include two new schools, while forbidding the Fleet Place tower’s single educational facility.

“This is mind boggling,” said Ernest Augustus. “I appreciate your comment and it’s new to me that City Planning have failed the school at that location and that street — but not 80 Flatbush.”

A spokesman for the city agency said officials were correct to raise concerns about the building’s density, saying its size remains troubling even in its reduced state. The agency should not, however, be blamed for axing the school, which it has no authority to approve, or disapprove, the spokesman explained, noting that only the city’s School Construction Authority has that power.

“The Department of City Planning did not refuse the inclusion of a school as part of this project,” said Joe Marvilli. “We did express, and continue to have, concerns about the requested density for this mid-block site on a narrow street, but we did not make a determination on the school.”

Now, instead of adding new school seats to the neighborhood, the tower is poised to eliminate a childcare facility currently located in a squat, one-story brick edifice at the lot, and operator Brooklyn Community Services will have to make a decision whether to pay a higher rent for digs at the new building, or seek out cheaper accommodations elsewhere, Levin said.

“They would have to make a decision fairly soon as to whether they want to come back, because there are a number of requirements,” he said.

The day-care center and its operators could not immediately be reached for comment.

Levin presented the developer’s new plans for the Fleet Place building to board members seeking their purely advisory approval for the rezoning application as part of the city’s months-long public-review process, which the proposal will have to survive before builders can break ground.

The tower would host office space for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, and is set back at the ground floor to widen the narrow foot path.

Reps from the property service union 32BJ SEIU, the neighboring University Towers co-ops, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Bid all spoke in favor of the new plan to build 14-stories of small offices, which they said were sorely needed in America’s Downtown.

It also has a 33-foot-deep loading berth for deliveries, which would mostly be for smaller dispatches because of the smaller offices, according to Levin, who conceded that deliverers often fail to use these docks and instead park their vans on the sidewalk regardless.

“You’re going to get Fed Ex deliveries, not 40-foot trailer trucks. They’re going to be small package delivery services in most instances,” he said. “My experience with that, unfortunately is not going to make you happy, is that even though the loading dock is there for them, they park on the curb, deliver their stuff and go away.”

The rezoning will be voted on by the full board this month before it heads to Borough President Eric Adams’s office, who will hold a public hearing on it in either early or late July before he gives his also advisory vote, his rep Inna Guzenfeld said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
No-school zone: Borough Park developers Leser Group scrapped plans to build a six-story school at the base of a proposed 21-story tower and reduced its proposed height to 14 stories on Fleet Place after the Department of City Planning raised concerns, according to a lawyer for the firm.
The Leser Group

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