Council approves polarizing Garden–adjacent towers in C’Heights

Council approves polarizing Garden–adjacent towers in C’Heights
Department of City Planning

The city approved a developer’s request to upzone land near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to make way for two controversial towers, after a Crown Heights councilwoman hashed out a deal she claims will nearly double the amount of below-market-rate housing included in the project.

“This is nothing short of a miracle to announce I have secured commitments to increase affordable housing,” Crown Heights Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo boasted at a Dec. 13 Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises hearing, ahead of the body’s full vote on Dec. 20.

Developers Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners originally sought to build two 16-story towers near Franklin Avenue at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St., which would together include 518 rentals, 140 of which would be below-market-rate.

But under the new deal, the builders are required to dedicate space for an additional 118 so-called affordable rentals, bringing a total of 258 below-market-rate units to the area, according to Cumbo.

Almost all of the additional affordable units will be built by affordable-housing developer Asian Americans for Equality, to which Carmel Partners agreed to give a roughly 1,000-square-foot parcel of land in exchange for Cumbo blessing the upzoning request as part of the city’s Universal Land Use Review Procedure.

That land will be rolled into the do-good developer’s existing project at nearby 141 Montgomery St., which will exclusively include affordable housing, according to a spokesman for Asian Americans for Equality, who said the firm previously planned to construct a building with 50 to 60 below-market-rate units, but now can pack in a grand total of 100.

Current zoning regulations only allow buildings up to seven stories or less, and a Carmel rep previously said that, should the city block its rezoning request, the builder would instead only include luxury condos in its project.

The city instituted the seven-story height limit back in 1991, as part of a 13-block downzoning of properties near the Botanic Garden done largely to protect the horticultural museum and its then under-construction Steinhardt Conservatory from the shadows of large buildings.

But Cornell and Carmel’s towers will not stand nearly as tall as the 28-story Tivoli Towers built on nearby Crown Street back in 1979, and Botanic Garden bigwigs did not come out against the new high-rises — despite their condemnation by green-space patrons from across the world — instead repeatedly citing a shadow study Cornell conducted that showed the project would not block too much sun from the growing patch.

Cumbo’s vote to approve the rezoning concluded Cornell and Carmel’s ulurp process just as the public review for another, much larger Botanic Garden–adjacent development is about to begin in her district.

Builder Continuum Company wants to erect a six-building complex with towers as high as 37 stories — featuring some 1,450 units, half of which will be market-rate — on Franklin Avenue between Sullivan and Montgomery Streets, which Botanic Garden leaders already took a hard stance against due to its size.

That land is also currently zoned for towers no taller than seven stories, and Cumbo again will ultimately cast the key Council vote on a rezoning necessary to build it and the hundreds of below-market-rate units included.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.