New Fort Greene tower gets landmarks go-ahead from community board

Fort Greene’s Community Board approved a Certificate for Appropriateness to construct a 285-foot tower in the landmarked district.

Plans to construct a 24-story tower at 130 St. Felix St. in Fort Greene were green-lighted by Community Board 2 on May 26, marking the first hurdle cleared by developers looking to begin construction.

During a virtual meeting, the board’s executive committee issued a 7-2 purely advisory vote to approve a certificate of appropriateness, which real estate firm Gotham Organization will need to build in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District. Their application will now go before the Landmark Preservation Commission, before it begins the Uniform Land Use Review Process, which developers say they do not expect to start until 2021. 

The proposed building would house an expanded Brooklyn Music School, which currently operates out of an ancient row of townhouses on St. Felix Street and has seen a 27 percent increase in students since 2016, according to the school’s board chair Shelby Greene. 

If approved, the 295-foot tower would provide the music school with a new 20,000-square-foot space, below 120 condominium units, 30 percent of which would be designated “below market rate.” Units below the market rate would be targeted towards households making between $52,000 and $110,000 a year, according to developers. 

“That could be a teacher and a bus driver, that could be a waiter and a social service worker,” said Bryan Kelly, a senior rep for Gotham, which purchased the lot in 2015 for $5.5 million, along with air rights from the music school for $7 million. 

FXcollaborative, the architecture firm designing the tower, said they took into consideration the community’s concerns about the building’s St. Felix Street entrance, which board members previously complained jutted out garishly into the sidewalk.

More recent renderings revealed at the May 26 meeting dial the podium back considerably.

The new rendering for the St. Felix Street entrance.FXCollaborative
The former rendering of the St. Felix Street entrance.FXCollaborative

“We’ve tried to pull the tower away from the street in a way that makes it less imposing to pedestrians,” said architect Dan Kaplan. “I really think what we’ve proposed to you is quite appropriate.” 

During the meeting, held via the teleconferencing app Webex, Fort Greener Lucy Koteen questioned the need to construct hundreds of new housing units at a time when some fear the upper-middle class may flee the city for its suburbs due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

“I am concerned that we will see buildings going up that will remain empty as the middle class leaves the city,” Koteen said. 

The developers argued it was their right to take risks during uncertain economic times, and that the below market rate housing they are offering could play a role in retaining New York’s middle class. 

“It’s our risk to spend our capital and build this development,” Kelly said. “The pencil is on us and we can make that decision on how we price the units, how big they are, we’ll let the market speak to that.”