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Proposal to replace McDonalds with apartments wins over Cumbo, still can’t satisfy community board

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The proposed development at 840 Atlantic Avenue.
Atlantic Vanderbilt Holdings

They’re not lovin’ it! 

Councilmember Laurie Cumbo agreed to support a proposed development in Prospect Heights after the developers behind the project agreed to shrink the structure’s size — but members of the local community board still rejected the proposal, which would provide over 250 housing units on the site that currently houses a drive-through McDonalds. 

Builders with Atlantic-Vanderbilt Holdings had proposed an 18-story building at 840 Atlantic Avenue, at the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue, which would have brought 300 apartments, with around 95 slated to be income-targeted affordable units. 

After backlash from the community, and Borough President Eric Adams’ advisory rejection of the plan, the developers agreed to reduce the bulk of the building by about 10 percent. 

That concession reduced the number of below-market-rate units to just 54 — although they also agreed to reduce the price of the affordable units to target those making 40 percent of the Area Median Income, which equals to $31,000 for a family of three, for example. 

That deal secured the support of both Cumbo and Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee, which voted in favor of the pre-negotiated compromise on Sept. 2. 

Yet, when the full community board met for a vote on Sept. 9, many local leaders remained critical of the project, especially the remaining 200 market-rate units included in the proposal.  

“Those market-rate unaffordable units are the key drivers of gentrification, in just bleeding out Black people from the community and people of color,” said State Sen. Jabari Brisport, who represents the area. “This does seem like something that’s being railroaded through by the developer and the current councilwoman.”

The lot is currently home to a suburban-style drive through McDonalds.Google

Ultimately, the board failed to reach a majority of votes in favor of the plan — with 14 out of 30 members casting yes votes. Eight people voted against the plan, and eight others abstained, which denied the supporters the necessary majority. 

The community board’s recommendation is purely advisory, and if Cumbo continues to support the plan, it will likely pass muster in the City Council’s binding vote, due to an unwritten practice called member deference, which provides outsized sway over rezonings to the member whose district the proposal falls in.  

The community board, which is made up of members appointed by Adams and Cumbo, rejected the proposal, not necessarily because of their love for the suburban-style McDonalds, but rather to set a precedent for future rezoning applications along Atlantic Avenue. 

While the builders argued that the site’s proximity to the Pacific Park megadevelopment, along with its location at the corner of two busy thoroughfares, made it the ideal spot for higher density of housing units, the board sought a proposal that would be a criterion for lower-hung buildings on the under-developed stretch of Atlantic Avenue east of Barclays Center, which figures to see a boom in construction in the coming years.  

The 840 Atlantic Avenue proposal now heads to the City Council for a binding vote on Monday, and, if passed, will then be sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval. 

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