Call it a split decision.
Borough President Marty Markowitz signaled his general approval of the controversial Rose Plaza development project last week, only raising one objection to the project’s scope.
The decision is a major victory for Certified Lumber’s owner Isack Rosenberg, the developer of the site, and UJCare, a Hasidic nonprofit which has pushed strongly for the rezoning of the 3.7 acre site.
If eventually approved, the waterfront project, located on 470 Kent Avenue, near Division and South 11 Street in South Williamsburg, would provide 801 total units, including 160 affordable housing units (20 percent of residential units).
“We were very pleased by the borough president’s decision. He clearly supports the project,” said Howard Weiss, who is representing the applicant. “The special permit we requested allows the building to be higher than otherwise as of right. By allowing the taller buildings, it enabled us to provide City Planning with a much better site plan and dedicate 70 percent of the lot area to open space.”
Markowitz’s chief objection was to a special permit request submitted by Rose Plaza LLC, the applicant of the project. In his recommendations, Markowitz applauded the applicant for working with the Department of City Planning to produce a project along the waterfront but preferred that the applicant add more affordable units and make the apartments larger, with more bedrooms to accommodate large families living in South Williamsburg, in exchange for the permit to build higher towers.
“For this development, the borough president believes that the developer should provide a percentage of moderate to middle-income units; modify the bedroom mix of the affordable units to favor larger families, address the street end conditions of Division Avenue and commit to a supermarket,” said Markowitz in his recommendations.
Community Board 1 Land Use Committee Chair Ward Dennis said that the Borough President’s recommendations echoed many of the concerns of Community Board 1, which did not approve the project in its December 1 board meeting.
“I think this is an excellent resolution,” said Dennis. “On the development issues, it corresponds with the Board’s resolution, and I am very happy to see the strong support the BP is giving to the Community Board’s participation issues. It is very similar to what we said.”
The United Jewish Organizations, whose leaders opposed the Rose Plaza project at the Community Board 1 meeting and a public hearing at the Borough President’s office nevertheless characterized the decision as a victory and applauded Markowitz for listening to their concerns.
“I think this approval is good for the community,” said Abe Deutsch, an advisor with UJO. “If (Markowitz) is going to amend accordingly, give larger apartments and more for low income people, that’s what we were asking for. We were asking for more for low income residents. I think Markowitz went along with Rabbi Niederman’s proposal. We’re not trying to hurt Rose Plaza. We’re trying to get something good for the community.”
Gary Schlesinger, Executive Board Chairman of UJCare, where the project’s owner is a board member board, noted that Rosenberg cared most about the change in zoning for the site and was pleased with the decision.
“I’m happy that the borough president didn’t get so involved in politics and based the decision on the merits. CB1 based their decision on politics,” said Schlesinger. “The bottom line is the rezoning is more important.”
The Borough President has submitted his recommendations to the City Planning Commission, which is scheduled to take up the project at a public hearing on January 27.