It’s far too big!
The builders proposing a massive development nearly three times the size of what can currently go up on a Boerum Hill lot shouldn’t even bother breaking out their shovels, according to one pol who blasted the plan at the first meeting of its public-review process on Wednesday.
“This project should be dead on arrival,” Public Advocate Tish James, who lives in nearby Clinton Hill, said during the hearing inside the auditorium at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, which was so packed that organizers turned some people away.
James joined more than 200 people, most of whom also charged the super-sized scheme has no place in the neighborhood, at Community Board 2’s meeting kicking off the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for 80 Flatbush — a project by real-estate company Alloy Development that calls for constructing 38- and 74-story high-rises as part of a five-building complex on a lot bounded by Flatbush and Third avenues and State and Schermerhorn streets.
The development will also include a new home for the already on-site Khalil Gibran International School, which educators claim lacks much-needed resources in its current crumbling facility; a new 350-seat elementary school; cultural, office, and retail space; and 900 housing units within the two towers — 200 of which will be permanent, below-market-rate apartments that Alloy will create in partnership with affordable-housing builder the Fifth Avenue Committee.
But in order to build the skyscrapers, bigwigs at luxury real-estate firm must get the city to approve a rezoning that would nearly triple the plot’s allowable “floor-area ratio” — a measurement abbreviated as FAR that determines how high a structure can be relative to the size of the land it is on — to 18 from its current designation of 6.5. The builder’s desired floor-area ratio is also 33 percent larger than the citywide floor-area ratio cap of 12 for residential complexes with affordable housing, according to the Department of Buildings.
Leaders of the Department of Education and that agency’s Educational Construction Fund — which uses money from builders to erect public schools in new developments at no cost to the city — gave the project a thumbs up, claiming it would help alleviate overcrowding in the local district by providing a net gain of 164 elementary-school seats, according to an Education Department rep.
But many of the locals at the meeting laughed that claim off, arguing that even if there are extra seats, all of them will likely go to kids of wealthier families who move into the swanky digs because the so-called affordable apartments inside the taller tower won’t be ready until 2025 — three years after the shorter high-rise’s 250 luxury units are completed.
“The current proposal will not alleviate but likely exacerbate both the current student overcrowding issue and the school equity issue,” said Camille Casaretti, the head of the Community Education Council for District 15, which includes schools in parts of Boerum Hill and Fort Greene as well as nearby Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. “To date we have not received even one positive comment about this project from the 30,000 families that we represent.”
And other critics pointed out that the schools may struggle to recruit students because the classrooms will be finished long before the entire development is finished, forcing young minds to put up with ongoing construction for at least three years.
“Living through years of noise, the school will mostly like lose a lot of enrollment,” said Fort Greener Lucy Koteen. “Who will want to send their kids there?”
A slew of reps for other pols including Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, and Assemblyman Walter Mosely — whose districts all include Boerum Hill — joined James in expressing opposition to the towers. But a rep attending on behalf of local Councilman Stephen Levin did not speak, and Levin — who has mostly stayed quiet about the 80 Flatbush towers even though the land they would rise on is within his district — did not show up, and his will be the key vote on the rezoning application when it reaches Council because the project is on his turf.
Levin previously expressed concerns about the increased congestion one of the development’s two proposed loading docks would cause, but last month Alloy leaders revealed minor tweaks to their master plan, which included nixing one of the loading docks and modifying the shorter tower’s street-level facade to more closely recall that of the nearby Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.
And several attendees spoke in favor of the project, including the president of the quasi-public development-boosting Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Regina Myer — who 80 Flatbush opponents nearly booed off the mic — and Khalil Gibran’s principal, who said his bright-eyed pupils are desperate for a better learning house and urged the community to support the proposal.
“Because of our current challenges, and the fact that our students need and deserve a better facility to prepare them for 21st-century expectations, I strongly support this project,” said Winston Hamann. “Despite your feelings about it, I know you support us as a school community.”
Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee will cast its purely advisory vote on the rezoning application for 80 Flatbush on April 18, prior to kicking it over to Borough President Adams, who will host his own public hearing on the proposal on April 30, before it heads to the City Planning Commission, then Council, and ultimately Mayor DeBlasio.
80 Flatbush public hearing at Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St. between Court Street and Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard in Downtown) on April 30 at 6 pm.