Living on a prayer: Board votes down Ft. Greene church’s rezoning proposal before kicking it to beep

Praying for it: Leaders of a Fort Greene church on Thursday revealed their plans to build a 13-story building on S. Portland Avenue with 100 units of affordable housing and a community center, construction of which would require rezoning a swath of land where the development sits.
MDG Design and Construction

It needs help from above.

Civic gurus punted a controversial rezoning application for a plot of Fort Greene land where church leaders want to erect a 13-story tower of so-called affordable housing to the borough president after panning the proposal last week.

“As represented by the very vocal voices tonight, I move that this body votes against this project, and sends the message that we’re not in favor of it,” said Community Board 2 member John Harrison at a full board meeting on Feb. 14.

Clergy from the Hanson Place Seventh-day Adventist Church want to raze the house of worship’s old three-story community center at 142–150 S. Portland Ave. between Hanson and S. Elliott places to make way for a 138-foot residential high-rise with 100 units, a new street-level multi-purpose space, and a below-ground medical facility.

The proposed tower would contain 19 studios, 42 one-bedrooms, 24 two-bedrooms, and 14 three-bedrooms all doled out via the city’s housing lottery according to three income-based affordability tiers. Twenty-five units would be priced at 60 percent of the area’s median income, another 25 would be offered at 100 percent of that figure, and the remaining 50 at 130 percent.

But before the church’s chosen builder can break ground, the city must upzone the area generally bounded by S. Portland Avenue and Hanson and S. Elliot places to allow for towers that rise as tall as 14 stories, five higher than the nine-story structures currently allowed on the land, which contains the development site and other lots including several row houses and a 13-story tower built before the city downzoned the area to its current height cap in 2007.

The upzoning application also proposes giving developers a free pass to build storefronts on the ground-level of new Hanson Place buildings erected within the rezoned area through what’s called a “commercial overlay.”

And it includes extending the Special Downtown Brooklyn district along Hanson Place, which now ends at S. Elliot Place, by one block to S. Portland Avenue.

Expanding the district, which establishes special height and setback regulations to promote the nabe’s residential and retail growth, would limit the construction of more tall towers on the land it covers. Future buildings next to the row houses within it would be restricted to the area’s current height limit of nine stories, even if the upzoning is ultimately approved, according to Community Board 2. And any of the special district’s other regulations, such as mandatory sidewalk widening and parking restrictions, would not apply in the extension, information distributed by the board said.

Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee voted last month to support a spot rezoning that only applies to the church’s property and to reject the rest of the application, because its members feared other developers would scoop up low-rise or empty lots on the larger plot of land in order to build taller and denser buildings down the line, according to the committee’s chairwoman.

“We opted to vote on a spot rezoning because we felt that the church’s program and benefits to the community were worth some special consideration,” said Irene Janner. “But we did not want to extend that large-scale zoning to the other lots where we don’t know what people would choose to do or build.”

But the full board rejected the committee’s recommendation at its Feb. 14 session, and instead voted against the upzoning application in its entirety.

The church’s proposal now sits with the beep, who held a public hearing about it on Tuesday, and will push it along the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process when he issues his own recommendation to the City Planning Commission in the next few weeks.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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