Split decision: Vote on Downtown tower galvanizes board before majority pans project

New skyline: Developers want to erect a 40-story mixed-use tower on Fulton Street.
Slate Property Group

It’s an “aye” toward compromise.

Community Board 2’s full board last week outright rejected a developer’s request to rezone Fulton Street land in order to erect a 40-story tower — but not before the civic guru who cast the lone vote in favor of the 80 Flatbush megadevelopment when the full board voted against it earlier this year urged his colleagues to follow suit this time around, arguing doing so would at least give the panel a seat at the table for discussions should the project move forward.

Clinton Hiller Lenny Singletary, CB2’s second vice chairman, told the panel that by not flat out opposing the proposed high-rise, it may be in a better position to negotiate some changes to the project in order to make it as beneficial as possible for the community.

“In this particular case, there is nothing wrong with making our own recommendation on what we want conditions to be,” Singletary said at a Wednesday full-board meeting. “It’s not whether you are pro or against development. It’s not an all or nothing thing.”

Last month, the board’s Land Use Committee panned Manhattan-based builder Slate Property Group’s application to upzone a Fulton Street plot between Rockwell Place and Flatbush Avenue in order to erect the 558-foot, mixed-use tower with 139 apartments, roughly 40 of which will be below-market-rate, and office space.

And despite Singletary’s appeal, the full board ultimately voted to pan the proposal 19 to 13 with one abstention — even after other panel members urged their colleagues to think carefully before simply saying no, noting their opposition to 80 Flatbush did little to stop Council from approving a slightly shrunken version of the five-building complex in the end.

“We as a community board have to think going forward, we can pretty much tinker around the edges ” said John Dew, who once chaired the panel. “Our job is to do what’s best for the community, not stand and stomp.”

Singletary said board members could have used their concerns about the development — which include that it offers too little affordable housing, and creates too few jobs — as ammunition to demand the builder find ways to add more below-market-rate units and employment opportunities if they voted to approve the project with conditions, instead of simply telling the firm to take a hike.

“We have the opportunity to support affordable housing. Number two, there’s a constant conversation about jobs, and this is an opportunity to say we want jobs,” he said. “What I recommend is that we take the full comments that are inclusive both of the development and the community.”

In January, CB2’s Land Use Committee voted to approve, with conditions, a Fort Greene church’s rezoning request in order to erect a new 13-story building with below-market-rate housing on S. Portland Avenue.

The full board, however, unanimously cast its purely advisory vote against the proposal a month later. But that did not stop Council from green-lighting the project in July , a decision that led leaders of anti-development group Preserve Our Brooklyn Neighborhoods to sue the city in an attempt to stop construction of the tower, according to the organization’s president, who said its lawyer filed an Article 78 appeal — a motion that challenges decisions made by local or state agencies — last week.

And CB2’s full board voting to reject developments outright isn’t a new phenomenon, according to the panel’s district manager, who said he couldn’t recall a single time in recent history that its members voted to approve a project with conditions.

“Nothing immediately comes to mind,” said Rob Perris.

The rezoning application for the Fulton Street tower now moves to Borough President Adams, before going to the City Planning Commission, Council, and finally Mayor DeBlasio as part of the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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