Looking for apartments: Two Trees seeks zoning change to allow more housing near BAM

Looking for apartments: Two Trees seeks zoning change to allow more housing near BAM

A developer has the green-light to put up a skyscraper on a marquee spot right next to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank — but the builder wants to fill the tower with nearly double the permissible amount of housing.

Two Trees Management Co. needs the city to sign off on its plan to put 300 apartments inside the proposed 32-story tower, dedicating about 86 percent of floor space to residences when current zoning only allows a max of about 53 percent.

The development company claims putting about 300,000 square feet of apartments above 50,000 square feet of commercial space and cultural offerings — including three Brooklyn Academy of Music theaters, a new home for the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and a rehearsal space managed by 651 Arts — is a far better proposal than the tallest possible structure it could build without a zoning change, which would set aside about 152,000 square feet for arts and commercial tenants and 171,000 square feet for housing.

“Our design is respectful of surrounding buildings and is a great improvement of what you could develop as-of-right,” said David Lombino, the director of special projects for Two Trees.

But some neighbors are wary of the design by Mexican starchitect Enrique Norten and the increase in residential tenants, favoring a previous Two Trees plan for the site at the gateway to the BAM Cultural District — currently a parking lot bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Hanson Place, and Lafayette Avenue — that called for 180 apartments and triple the space for arts groups and commercial tenants.

“When this was originally proposed, it wasn’t supposed to be luxury housing,” said Community Board 2 member Carolyn Hubbard-Kamunanwire.

Hubbard-Kamunanwire and others also worry a tall, dense building at the development site will block views of the historic Williamsburgh Savings Bank

“[The Two Trees building] does make a gesture to not blocking the tower’s skyline presence, but I think that gesture isn’t quite working well enough,” said architect Gregory Kiss, a resident of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank who crafted renderings showing the proposed skyscraper obstructing the art deco masterpiece from several vantage points. “This building has a unique place in the skyline and it’s clearly got a very unique history; it’s worth trying to preserve as much of that as possible.”

Two Trees — which made a name for itself developing DUMBO and recently branched out to Williamsburg — has already earned the endorsement of power players including Mayor Bloomberg and Councilwoman Tish James due to the plan’s arts offerings and the fact that 20 percent of the proposed apartments will be reserved for tenants with low incomes.

The CB2 land-use committee voted in favor of the plan earlier this month, but enough members of the full-board abstained or voted against the project that it did not win the group’s outright approval last week.

Borough President Markowitz — who has publicly praised the Two Trees design — will host a hearing on the plan tonight before making a ruling.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.