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Institute off chopping block? • Brooklyn Paper

Institute off chopping block?

Vincent Battista, 58, president of the Institute of Design and Construction, stands in front of the school's building at 141 Willoughby St. The building may be spared from the city’s Downtown Plan, w
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A week after the City Planning Commission hosted a public hearing on the
Downtown Brooklyn Plan, it is considering making two major changes, according
to sources.

Those changes would include saving an architectural college and removing
from the plan’s consideration a plot of land at Flatbush and Atlantic
avenues where developer Bruce Ratner is looking to construct the tallest
of his Atlantic Yards office towers.

As part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, the city seeks to condemn 130 residential
units and 100 businesses.

Included among those is the Institute of Design and Construction, a nearly
60-year-old college at the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and Willoughby
Street.

The school would be razed to create clearer sight lines from Flatbush
Avenue Extension to a 1.5-acre open space — Willoughby Square —
which the city plans to build across the street.

But the school may be saved, according to Dolly Williams, Borough President
Marty Markowitz’s appointee to the 13-member City Planning Commission,
which is currently reviewing the massive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
application for the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.

“This business has really been there a long time. It’s a good
Brooklyn employer and provides good service,” Williams told The Brooklyn
Papers this week, adding, “I really think we should make a concerted
effort in saving this building.”

When he reviewed the Downtown Plan, Markowitz recommended sparing the
school and putting the money slated for its condemnation into restoring
area parks.

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the massive rezoning
and urban renewal plan, which involves 22 separate actions, on May 11.

On April 26, at 1 pm, the commission will discuss the plan at a public
review session hosted at its Lower Manhattan office at 22 Reade St.

The commission has the authority to modify, approve intact or disapprove
the plan before it is sent to the City Council.

Vincent Battista, president of the design college, said he will believe
the school is to be saved when he “sees it in writing.”

Even if the three-story college is spared in this go around, he said,
its future would still be far less than certain since the city intends
to extend the timeframe for the urban renewal area in which it sits for
another 40 years.

“We would have this hanging over us for 40 years,” Battista
said, explaining that the city could still swoop in at any time and condemn
the property.

According to sources close to the plan, the planning commission is also
in considering removing a triangular parcel of land where Ratner seeks
to build a 620-foot tower. That skyscraper, designed by architect Frank
Gehry, is part of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, a $2.5 billion residential
and office complex centered around a basketball arena to house his newly
purchased New Jersey Nets.

The site is the only parcel of land included in both the Downtown Brooklyn
and Atlantic Yards plans, and it is where Ratner would build the tallest
of his Gehry-designed structures.

That has troubled Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James and other
elected officials and residents who believe that the entirety of the two
plans should either be looked at as one or as completely separate.

James last week called on the city to remove Ratner’s parcel from
the Downtown Plan.

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