Critics: Heights library housing plan separates rich and poor

Critics: Heights library housing plan separates rich and poor
A tale of two apartment buildings: The below-market-rate apartment building a developer plans to erect at 911 Atlantic Ave., and the market-rate tower it wants to raise on the site of the Brooklyn Heights library.
Marvel Architects

It is off by a mile.

A developer’s plan to build luxury apartments on top of the Brooklyn Heights library but construct the development’s below-market-rate housing on a separate site in Clinton Hill will unfairly segregate the rich from the poor, say local residents.

“The proposal calls for building apartments for the poor in a poor neighborhood a mile away from Brooklyn Heights,” said Cobble Hill resident Donald Fleck, one of several residents who spoke against the divided housing during a public hearing on the plans for the library development at Borough Hall on Tuesday. “This proposal perpetuates the two-cities model by keeping the poor with the poor and the affluent with the affluent.”

Developer Hudson Companies is seeking the city’s okay to buy the book repository on Cadman Plaza West at Tillary Street for $52 million and build a 36-story residential skyscraper on top, with a new library at the bottom.

The company is promising to include below-market-rate housing as part of its pitch, but the city doesn’t require developers to actually build so-called affordable housing in the same property as its market-rate units — just the same community board — so Hudson is instead proposing to construct the cheaper units across two new nine-story buildings at 1041 Fulton St. and 911 Atlantic Ave. in Clinton Hill.

The developer says it is not trying to keep lower-income residents out of its tony Heights tower — but it claims it can offer more below-market apartments if it puts them on a separate site than it could by building them in the library high-rise.

One for the books: Hundreds of people showed up to the Beep’s hearing on a proposal to sell the Brooklyn Heights library and replace it with a skyscraper.
Photo by Jason Speakman

If it kept them in one spot, the less-expensive pads would compete with the market-rate ones for space in the tower, and the project would not be financially feasible, said David Kramer, principal at developer Hudson Companies.

Kramer says the company chose sites in less-affluent Clinton Hill for the below-market buildings because they were the right price at the right time.

“We found two sites, and it was very hard to find any sites, because it’s a difficult market out there,” he said.

But one detractor claimed Hudson could still turn a profit with below-market-rate housing on-site, pointing to Manhattan’s Donnell Library, which another developer bought for $59 million in 2007 and is now asking $60 million for the top two floors alone.

“They’re selling the penthouse for more than they paid for the site,” Paula Glatzer said of the Manhattan development.

Hudson plans to build 139 units of housing on the library site and says it will build another 114 units in the Clinton Hill buildings — three-quarters of which will go to people earning at or below the city’s median income — which the state says is $60,000 for a single person to $86,000 for a family of four. The remainder of the apartments will be designated for people making more than the median, plans show.

Weighing his options: Borough President Adams must choose whether or not to support the controversial plan before it goes to city council for a formal vote.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The below-market-rate rents will range from $850 to $3,623 per month, depending on apartment size and the number of residents, according to the developer.

Tuesday’s meeting was part a public review process the city and developer must go through to sanction the property’s sale, build a new library, and modify existing zoning permits on the site.

Community Board 2 already okayed the plan in July. Now it is on Borough President Adams’s desk, before it heads to the City Planning Commission and then City Council — which ultimately get to say yea or nay regardless of what the community board or Beep decides.

Adams said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll support the plan, but generally, he believes the more below-market-rate housing the better.

“I lean toward getting the highest volume of affordable units as possible,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Mix it up: David Kramer, a principal at developer Hudson Inc., says his company’s proposed below-market-rate housing in Clinton HIll may not contribute to a mixed-income Brooklyn Heights, but it does make Community Board 2 a more mixed area overall.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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