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Zoning out: Crown Heights civic gurus pan requested upzoning for new tower in nabe

Too big: Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee shot down a developer’s rezoning request necessary to build this proposed 11-story building at 1010 Pacific St.
Brooklyn Paper
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They want this developer to get in their zone!

Crown Heights civic gurus panned a developer’s request to rezone a Pacific Street lot located in a historically industrial part of the neighborhood, even as the local leaders hope the city will sign off on their own upzoning proposal to bring taller buildings to the same area.

But the rezoning sought by builder Avo Construction to erect an 11-story building with commercial and residential space, including 39 below-market-rate rentals, would result in a tower that members of Community Board 8’s Land Use Committee said is too large for the plot, which they previously asked officials to upzone — but only to allow structures of up to eight stories.

“If the board took a position and blessed a proposal that varied significantly from what it has already put forward as a zoning request, other folks would look at it and say, ‘They’re not really serious about it,’” said seven-year panel member Gib Veconi, who serves on the group’s Land Use Committee, which voted down Avo’s upzoning request at a Dec. 6 meeting.

The proposed high-rise at 1010 Pacific St. between Grand and Classon avenues is located within a roughly six-square-block area bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Bergen Street, Grand Avenue, and Franklin Avenue, where construction is crippled by zoning laws that only permit low-rise manufacturing buildings, according to CB8 members, who claimed the regulations “make new development nearly impossible” in a letter requesting to upzone the area that they sent to the Department of City Planning in August.

But the board’s rezoning proposal — which the city-planning agency is currently reviewing, and recommends height limits that vary by street — dates back to 2014, when members began brainstorming ideas to revitalize the area they said is plagued by vacant lots and the vice those attract, according to the chairwoman of CB8’s Land Use Committee.

“Right now it’s vacant lots, truck parking, junk yards, and at night it’s a nightmare,” said Ethel Tyus. “You’re stuck with prostitution and everything else that goes on when people aren’t looking.”

The panel first floated its rezoning scheme to agency officials in 2015, claiming developers of the bigger buildings it would allow could be required to include below-market-rate housing as well as ground-floor commercial spaces for light-industrial use, Tyus said.

“We want people to walk to work at liveable wage jobs in the community,” the chairwoman said.

But the 1010 Pacific St. development’s ground-floor industrial space is too small, in addition to its overall size being too big for the area, according to Veconi, who said his colleagues on the panel will likely be reluctant to approve upzoning requests for any projects that do not fall within the parameters of the board’s long sought after rezoning.

“When you consider the board has put forward a vision to maximize job potential in that area, it makes sense they’d like to see the applicant embrace that vision,” he said.

A rezoning request submitted by the builder of another mixed-used development at nearby at 1050 Pacific St., however, earned CB8 Land Use Committee’s endorsement at the recent meeting, due to the complex’s much larger street-level industrial space and shorter height of eight stories, both of which Veconi said are in line with recommendations made in the board’s upzoning proposal still under review by the city.

“It’s close enough to the board’s vision, it shows that economically it could work, and people will build it,” he said.

The Land Use Committee’s recommendations on each project are purely advisory, and come before an expected full board vote on each rezoning request at CB8’s meeting on Dec. 13, which is also advisory.

The separate rezoning requests that are making their way through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure will then go before Borough President Adams, the City Planning Commission, Council, and Mayor DeBlasio — who ultimately has the final say on both.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 7:47 pm, December 12, 2018
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