Crown Heights community board inks ‘historic’ deal with private developer

The Grand Avenue rezoning would make way for a 9-story, 64-unit building.

Crown Heights’ Community Board 8 forged a first-of-its-kind agreement with a private developer to set aside space for artisans and light manufacturing in a new, mixed-use development.

The agreement, which the civic panel brokered with EMP Capital, requires sections on the ground floor of the planned Pacific Street and Grand Avenue building to be slated only for uses compliant to the board’s vision for the so-called M-Crown rezoning — which would include space that the board deems useful for job creation.

If the developers behind the building fail to comply with the agreement, the Department of Buildings may inspect the facility and dole out fines — a first for the city’s community boards, whose agreements with developers during the rezoning process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, aren’t usually enforced by city agencies. 

“It’s really pretty unique,” Gib Veconi, a member of Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee told Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t think that a community board has ever negotiated land use stipulations with a private applicant in a ULURP process in exchange for approval before.” 

The agreement requires EMP Capital, which hopes to develop a 9-story, 64-unit building on a currently-vacant lot, to set aside 25 percent of the building’s ground floor specific uses – such as light manufacturing or community space.

Plans submitted to the Department of Buildings by the developer will have to include the designated space, and fines paid by the developer for noncompliance will go directly to Friends of Community Board 8, the non-profit that supports the civic board — and the board will use the funds to support manufacturing uses in the district.

The lot is currently zoned for manufacturing use while the developer goes through ULURP in the hopes of getting the zoning changed to an R7-D — which would allow for some residential use.

The site lies squarely within the proposed boundaries of the M-Crown rezoning, which would affect the strip of land bordered by Atlantic Avenue, Grand Avenue, Bergen Street, and Franklin Avenue.

A map of the rezoning, with M-districts in pink.Department of City Planning

Caught up in years of debate between community members, the M-Crown rezoning aims to upzone the industrial swath of northern Crown Heights to allow for residential development — with the caveat that those developments include light industrial uses in order to preserve jobs in the area. 

Borough President Eric Adams and local Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo threw their support behind the proposal last year, with Cumbo playing a role in finalizing the deal for the Pacific Street development according to Veconi. 

“Brooklyn’s real estate market continues to put pressure not just on working people in need of housing, but also on artisan and creative sector businesses who are now facing unprecedented stress due to COVID-19,” Cumbo said in a statement. “We rely on these creative sector businesses not only to ensure New York City remains our country’s center of arts and culture but also to provide a range of employment opportunities for a diverse population in a gentrifying neighborhood.” 

The proposed development will offer 25 percent of its units as “below market rate” under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, with the regulated units targeted towards tenants making 60 percent of the district Area Median Income — roughly $61,440 for a family of three.