No grow: Botanic Garden bigwigs double down on opposition to proposed Franklin Ave megadevelopment

Two towers: Continuum Company bigwigs want city permission to build two 39-story, mixed-use towers a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Continuum Company

These green thumbs are seeing red!

Brooklyn Botanic Garden bigwigs are doubling down on their opposition to a proposed Franklin Avenue megadevelopment near the horticultural museum, and will send a rep to pan the plan at the first meeting of the public-review process its builder must endure to get a rezoning necessary to construct the complex.

“Representatives for BBG will be at the scoping hearing … speaking out against the proposed rezoning,” said garden spokeswoman Elizabeth Reina-Longoria. “We strongly oppose any changes to the existing zoning.”

Botanic Garden leaders last year blasted plans for Continuum Company’s development — which then called for erecting six buildings as high as 37 stories with some 1,450 market rate and affordable units between them on the site of an old factory at 960 Franklin Ave. — citing concerns about shadows it could cast over the green space.

“Its towers could have significant shadow impact on the garden’s conservatory, nursery, and other collections,” Reina-Longoria told this newspaper last June, months after the local Community Board 9 expressed its own reservations about the scheme.

Garden stewards’ concerns about the complex only escalated when a local anti-gentrification group released a study performed by two private architectural firms, which found the tallest structures of Continuum’s six-building complex would cast shadows that could darken parts of the Botanic Garden — including its Children’s, Water, and Herb gardens, and greenhouses at the Steinhardt Conservatory — for more than four hours a day during certain times of the year.

The developer has since refashioned the complex, however, reducing it to two buildings, but upping their height to 39 stories each — on a lot currently zoned for structures no taller than seven stories. And the project’s two buildings will now boast a total number of 1,578 apartments, half of which would still be so-called affordable.

But the recent design changes did little to quell garden stewards’ fears about the lasting damage its shadows could cause, according to Reina-Longoria.

“Buildings of the proposed height will have a significant, negative, and permanent impact on BBG’s conservatories, greenhouses, and nurseries — where plants for the entire garden are propagated and grown — by causing the loss of as much as three hours of sunlight daily in spring, summer, and fall,” she said.

Continuum reps will present their latest proposal at the March 12 scoping meeting, where locals can weigh in on terms for the project’s environmental-impact study — a survey of its potential affects on area sewer systems, roads, schools, and other forms of infrastructure required before the scheme and its rezoning application begin their journey through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Botanic Garden bigwigs’ staunch opposition to the Continuum project is a departure from the neutral stance they took against another controversial development comprised of two 16-story towers near the growing patch, which Council ultimately approved a rezoning for last December after Crown Heights Councilman Laurie Cumbo worked out a deal to pack even more below-market-rate units into the project.

Share your thoughts on Continuum Company’s proposed Franklin Avenue development at the Department of City Planning [120 Broadway between Cedar and Pine streets, City Planning Commission Hearing Room, in Manhattan]. March 12 at 1 pm.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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