Flatbush rezoning moving forward

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It’s full speed ahead for the rezoning of Flatbush.

After a presentation to the executive committee of Community Board 14 – which greeted the plan warmly – the Department of City Planning (DCP) is moving forward to certify the proposal, which will launch the formal approval process for the rezoning.

During the meeting, which was held in the board office, 810 East 16th Street, DCP received accolades from board members and area residents for reworking the plan to take into account neighborhood concerns.

The plan was originally introduced to the community over the spring. It has been revised to include additional protection for the large, freestanding homes in two Victorian neighborhoods, South Midwood and Ditmas Park West, in answer to concerns raised repeatedly at a public meeting held in June.

“We got an earful,” acknowledged Winston von Engel, the deputy director of DCP’s Brooklyn office. “So, we went back, studied the proposal and made some modifications that we think respond to the concerns raised at the meeting.”

Specifically, DCP has remapped most of South Midwood and much of Ditmas Park West, so the bulk of the neighborhoods would be zoned R3X, a category that is used by the agency for areas of large, detached homes.

Currently, many parts of the two areas are zoned R3-2, which allows construction of attached homes and small apartment buildings. In addition, some portions of the neighborhoods are zoned R6, which allows large apartment buildings and has no fixed height limit.

The agency had originally proposed mapping much of those areas R4A, which – while it would have restricted new development to one and two-family detached homes – would have brought an increase in allowable bulk that could have resulted in the construction of McMansions.

In both South Midwood and Ditmas Park West, DCP “stuck with” what David Parish, a city planner with DCP, called “existing non-compliance,” represented by homes that are larger than what would be permitted by existing zoning, which was crafted after the homes were built.

DCP, said board member Florence Valentino, a South Midwood resident, did, “An extraordinary job in terms of accommodating the requests of the residents of South Midwood. The ultimate result was just about everything the residents wanted.”

DCP did “a terrific job. It’s a good looking piece of work,” added Ditmas Park West resident Robert Gochfeld.

Besides rezoning Victorian Flatbush, the plan highlights include up-zoning some commercial strips, and imposing a height limit in apartment building areas that now have none. These areas, now zoned R6 and R7-1, would be rezoned R6A and R7A, with 70 and 80-foot maximum building heights, respectively.

The general boundaries of the 200-block rezoning are Coney Island Ave. on the west; Caton, Parkside and Clarkson Avenues on the north; Bedford Ave. and the CB 14 boundary on the east; and Ave. H and Campus Rd. on the south.

The four goals of the rezoning are to “protect the detached neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush, match the built character of the neighborhood, provide some incentives for affordable housing in areas where there’s room for growth, and maintain the commercial character of the commercial areas,” explained Parish.

Certification of the proposal is “expected by the end of this calendar year,” said Alvin Berk, the chair of CB 14. At that point, the clock starts ticking on ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), which prescribes a series of steps through which the proposal must go.

The first is review by the community board, including a public hearing; a maximum of 60 days is allotted for that step. The second step is review by the borough president, who has 30 days to issue a recommendation on the zoning proposal. It then goes to the City Planning Commission, which has 60 days to review the proposal and issue a recommendation. The final step is City Council approval. The council has 50 days to hold a hearing, do its review, and vote on the rezoning, which goes into effect once the council has approved it.

“We want to see this move as quickly as possible,” said von Engel, who pointed out that it was possible to telescope the timeline somewhat, if each stage could be compressed.

“There’s a long way to go from proposal to adoption,” stressed Berk, who cautioned residents supporting the rezoning to make their voices heard with elected officials who can move the process along. “It’s a long haul,” he added. “It requires a sustained effort.”

Board member Glenn Wolin agreed. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough how incredibly well they did this in terms of what it is that we need to protect our communities,” he told the group. “But, as we go through these public hearings, there may be people who are going to come out against it, developers or even individuals who would rather have an R6 so they can sell to a developer.

“It is very, very important that we show up with as strong as force as we can at the public hearings in favor of this so it does not get changed through the process.” Wolin added. “This is excellent. It is eliminating all the threats from our Victorian homes. Now it’s up to us to make sure we support it so, in the end, this is what we get.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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