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626 Flatbush Ave. project under fire

A tower too tall! Lefferts Gardeners rail against high-rise

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The tower is too damn high!

That is the rallying cry of Prospect Lefferts Gardens residents who protested on the City Hall steps on Friday, demanding the city and state reconsider how tall developers can build along their side of Prospect Park. The activists held the demonstration in response to a planned 23-story tower on Flatbush Avenue that they say will crowd the neighborhood and cast a destructive shadow over Brooklyn’s backyard. Thirty protesters attended and one said they are no knee-jerk reactionaries, but that the area’s current zoning needs to have some sense slapped into it.

“We’re not against development,” said Leah Margulies, who is helping organize area residents through the group Prospect Park East Network. “We just feel it needs to be contextual with the neighborho­od.”

The group is taking a three-pronged approach to keeping the area’s profile low. They are suing the state to force it to do an environmental review, asking the planning commission to lower the maximum allowed height for the neighborhood, and pushing the city to freeze new Lefferts development in the meantime. So far, their efforts have not borne fruit.

“We’re doing a lot,” Margulies said. “But we haven’t gotten any commitments for change yet.”

The lawsuit demands the state reconsider its decision to offer builder Hudson Companies a $72 million loan for the proposed 254-unit tower at 626 Flatbush Ave. between Fenimore and Hawthorne streets because the state said the project would have no impact on the surrounding area, erroneously, according to activists. If the court finds the state erred in its finding, the developer would have to conduct an environmental study before it could continue construction.

The judge has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the project, the foundation of which is in progress, while he deliberates on a conclusive ruling.

The not-next-to-Brooklyn’s-backyard crowd says this compound could be the start of a sky-scraping development boom and note that other sides of the park have the type of height restriction they have long wanted.

“We’ve been asking for this since 2008,” Margulies said. “Why do they get it and we don’t?”

Changing the zoning would require years of study and could take years to complete, which agitators fear could mean developers rush to get shovels in the ground ahead of the deadline even if the change goes through.

“This is sort of the unchecked pot on the stove,” said Quest Fanning, a member of the Prospect Park East Network who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life. “And after awhile it’s going to boil over.”

Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Prospect Lefferts Gardens) attended a town hall meeting held by the group in April as well as the rally. Activists say he has indicated he was working on a bill to implement a moratorium on large-scale development in the neighborhood, but Eugene did not respond to a request for comment. The anti-tower bunch has not seen the supposed draft, but wants badly for it to be written.

“This is the man we’re putting our hopes on for a moratorium legislation,” Fanning said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
I hope De Blasio ignores these "Keep Brooklyn Expensive" activists and keeps in mind the needs of the city and region as a whole.
June 10, 2014, 7:45 am
Joyce David from PLG says:
Mike. You misunderstand - these are "Keep Brooklyn Affordable" activists.
June 10, 2014, 10:26 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
They can use whatever Orwellian language they want.
June 10, 2014, 11:07 am
ty from pps says:
I wonder if there would be less of a protest if the proposed building wasn't a horrible throwback to ugly 70s architecture?
June 10, 2014, 11:47 am
Bob Marvin from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
Is it not far more Orwellian to suggest that building expensive luxury rentals will somehow make Brooklyn less expensive?
June 10, 2014, 12:21 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
No. Because rich people have money. Rich people can either live in housing built for them or they can use their money to buy a brownstone that held 3 apartments and turn it into their single family unit. They can live in the best available apartments and combine units.

Do you think Bushwick would be getting so expensive if Williamsburg and the East Village didn't prohibit building? Bushwick has its charms, sure, but realistically people would prefer to live closer to their jobs.
June 10, 2014, 12:43 pm
Liz from PLG says:
For some reason, the people aginst the new mixed income building never remember that there are TWO towers a block away -- that have been there for 40 years. This tower is contextual with those!

Good points, Mike from Williamsburg. I keep thinking about how so many of the leaders against the building are already comfortable in their single family homes.
June 10, 2014, 12:54 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How many of you would be supporting this if this was in your area? Of course it's all fun and games until they come for you. Try looking for the causes of the opposition rather than the effects of the opposition. Seriously, I highly doubt that rents will go down just for allowing a lot of luxury housing, because I find that to be very preposterous.
June 10, 2014, 5:45 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I frequently call for more building in Williamsburg, Tal.

I know the cause of the opposition--that old I've Got Mine sense of entitlement. Sometimes it's mixed with a misunderstanding of economics, too.

Rents will never go down. They also don't have to explode like they have over the past decade either though.
June 10, 2014, 8:14 pm
ty from pps says:
"until they come for you" -- hahahahaha!
June 10, 2014, 10:51 pm
Bob Marvin from PLG says:
"Rich people can either live in housing built for them or they can use their money to buy a brownstone that held 3 apartments and turn it into their single family unit"

There are relatively few multi-family brownstones in Prospect lefferts Gardens Mike; most are one or two family and owner-occupied. There are lots of rent stabilized apartments in medium sized apartment buildings with a lot of pressure to get tenants out, so that rents can be increased by fair means or foul.
June 11, 2014, 8:16 am
Eric from PLG says:
Zoning is zoning. The developer is not getting a single variance for the project. I'm not a lawyer, but I assume that changing the rules in the middle of the game will result in a successful lawsuit.

Environmental impact? 254 units in densely developed Brooklyn? What environmental impact? Oh that's right, 100 cars coming and going over a 12-hour period. That should really jam up traffic.
June 11, 2014, 8:43 am
Charles from PGL says:
I live in the neighborhood and I totally support the development, even at its height. PPEN is a vocal minority, and I want the building built so that nicer amenities along Flatbush will arrive. So tired of the dirty bodegas, dollar stores, and garbage along Flatbush. There, I said it. I support gentrification.
June 11, 2014, 8:55 am
Parkside Guy from PLG says:
PLG is probably "gone" in terms of affordability already at this point. This building will only slow the flow of young, college-educated renters into neighborhoods like East Flatbush and East New York. I own a building in the neighborhood and I will benefit whether yuppies move in and drive up rents, or whether the rental supply is artificially constrained which drives up rents. The "NO DEVELOPMENT" crowd is seriously misguided if they want lower prices for the working poor. But I'm sure they have fun reading Marx while sitting by the fire in their single-family home worth millions in the Historic District.
June 11, 2014, 10:28 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Well, Bob, please remember that there is a housing market beyond the borders of PLG.

If you want to protect the rent-stabilized tenants, which I actually do want to do, the way to start is to let developers build units to compete with old stabilized buildings. It would be hard to lure someone with a choice to live in an old building if there's a new one with modern amenities. Or you can just freeze the housing stock so people have to chase after whatever bad options are available.
June 11, 2014, 10:31 am
Bob Marvin from PLG says:
"Well, Bob, please remember that there is a housing market beyond the borders of PLG."

Of course, but that's not what the article is about
June 11, 2014, 10:42 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
To the myopic, this article isn't about how Brooklyn needs more housing. Every NIMBY only cares about his own backyard, after all.
June 11, 2014, 11:37 am
Bob Marvin from PLG says:
Neither myopic NOR unable to read, i.e: “We’re not against development,” said Leah Margulies, who is helping organize are residents through the group Prospect Park East Network. “We just feel it needs to be contextual with the neighborhood.”
June 11, 2014, 12:32 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrookland says:
Supposedly the towers come with affordable housing clauses. I mean the towers represent more residencies. Hopefully with more apartments available hopefully results in driving down the prices.
Going to have to agree with Mike.
And which reminds me Deblasio was able to get more affordable housing with Domino project provided they were allowed to develop taller towers.
June 11, 2014, 2:55 pm
Leah Margulies from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
Again, PPEN is not against development. We want contextual development as it true for every neighborhood surrounding Prospect Park except PLG. We've been asking for it since 2008 and City Planning says No every time, even though they said Yes to Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. Park Slope has old taller towers but that didn't stop them from getting height restrictions around the Park to 60-80 feet!

We are not all homeowners! A key Plaintiff in our lawsuit is Flatbush Tenant's Coalition, with 45 tenants organizations as members, representing 20,000 low income tenants. They know what will happen to their members--secondary displacement, and tenants are already getting harrassed. For the FACTS, not speculation, go to www.PPEN.org.
June 11, 2014, 8:08 pm
Quest Fanning from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
If you look at a density heat map of Brooklyn you will see that these 2 park adjacent sure look like the most densely populated in Brooklyn. Along Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue and adjacent streets and dead-end courts there are many 6-story buildings with Floor-Area-Ratios of 5 ; 626 is set to be a skinny building in the middle of a huge lot (FAR of only 3.44). So much more could be built there and, despite distortions by some, most in the community (including official PPEN positions) want MORE truly affordable housing. That means housing for folks making way below the 50% of Area Median Income (the standard for most of the units at 626) and more reflective of ACTUAL NEIGHBORHOOD INCOME. AMI=~$80k, Neighborhood=~ $35-40k, so 50%AMI is TO HIGH for the lower income earners in the neighborhood (AMI & Neighborhood aveage income numbers based on a family of 4).

Also folks seriously Secondary Displacement IS real. Saying 'more=better' till you're blue in the face doesn't make it so. If the mix is heavy for luxury it incentivises thugish tacktics to wearhouse existing rent regulated units. This is the real world and that's what's already happening; more luxury units will accelerate it and retard efforts to protect tenants. Please tell me in which of the following neighborhoods the addition of luxury units has lowered rents:
Williamsburg?
Greenpoint?
Dumbo?
Anywhere in Brooklyn?

Maybe at some point somewhere in the calculations of how to treat our neighbors some tiny consideration should be given to the existing community that has done so much for so long to make this a nice place to live before we were 'On the map'. Maybe at some point community shouldn't be the very last consideration.
June 12, 2014, 9:54 am
Quest Fanning from Prospect Lefferts Gardens says:
There is a crazy assumption that height=density. If you have a give Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and go taller you are simply using less of the lot, not gaining usable living space. Under r7-1 the 'height factor' building formula actually allows a LOWER FAR than is allowed under the 'quality' (shorter, stouter) formula. Some folks also assume that the desire to keep neighborhood character and build contextually means an opposition to affordable housing. Nothing can be further from the truth.

It's having to deal with the "Mike from Williamsburg"s of the world, who oversimplify things and assume that by not being willing to give up on a nice (though no affluent) quality of life we're not doing our bit for team NYC that takes away from the real issues in this conversation. The Ocean/Flatbush corridor has very high density by Brooklyn standards (and it stays dense for miles); we don’t ‘owe’ any other neighborhood anything. That said truly affordable housing in a proportion that is representative of our neighborhood would help.

Some politicians seem to sufferfrom a delusion; they think it’s still the ‘90s and you need to give away the farm to get developers to build.

The fact that developers start with the upper hand & our community isn’t even consulted when state money is used to hurt us is just icing on the cake.

Nonetheless I am optimistic that the mayor’s plan focuses on preservation over building. There wouldn’t be nearly so much upward pressure on prices now if former quick-fix housing plans weren’t having massive numbers of units deregulated 30yrs after construction.
June 12, 2014, 10:06 am
scott from park slope says:
Yeah I have to say, Mike, that lots of highrise residential has sprung up in park slope over the last ten years (esp. along 4th ave) and it hasn't had any effect on bringing rents down. And BTW those all had "affordable" units (which strangely never appeared to become available to the general public). So empirical evidence does not support your premise. 4th ave has become and is becoming a much nicer and livable space, so that's a good thing; perhaps that's a better argument to make in that it is supported by the evidence.
June 13, 2014, 5:49 am
ty from pps says:
Umm... Scott, the additional units in a 'most desirable' neighborhood isn't going to (necessarily) bring down the rent of other unit in that same 'most desirable' neighborhood. But, guess what? I'd bet ya that the additional "luxury" housing stock on 4th Ave and Downtown Brooklyn and other areas have definitely spared my rent from skyrocketing... in my neighborhood. It's still increasing around me, but at a slower clip than in other neighborhoods.
June 13, 2014, 9:33 am
ekiM from williamsburg says:
"Rents will never go down. They also don't have to explode like they have over the past decade either though."

Mike talks about people using "Orwellian language" largely because he's so adept at it. He's also very good at describing himself while ostensibly describing others: "I know the cause of the opposition--that old I've Got Mine sense of entitlement. Sometimes it's mixed with a misunderstanding of economics, too."

The first statement by Mike is a recent change, because Mike has for months, perhaps years, pushed the specious argument that, in fact, "building more brings rents down." Anyone can look up ANY Brooklyn Paper article and note a curious item about Mike's "understanding" of economics: he NEVER advocates this "build more, rents go down" argument when it involves affordable housing or any housing period EXCEPT for luxury condominium housing. In fact, whenever Brooklyn Paper covers any construction or proposed construction of affordable housing, you will find that Mike, who apparently fancies himself an economist, suddenly dispense with "build more, rent down" formula and start with his "perversions" argument--an equally simple formula.

Mike is not an economist. He doesn't possess much of an "understanding" of economics. He doesn't possess much "understanding" about housing. And when he advances an argument that is categorically false for how long now flying in the face of history and facts and some of that Colbertian "truthiness," and now finally admits but only with a squeak that it is false he also doesn't possess much "understanding" about "Orwell."

No, Mike. You either don't understand economics or housing or Orwell, or, quite simply, are either deluded or deceptive.

But, hey Mike, if you want to keep pretending you're so superior to those you disagree with, especially when you're pretending to know "economics," why don't you try arguing with Forbes, not exactly a bastion of anti-capitalist sentiment, when they shine a light on "build more, rent down," and expose you:

""When libertarians (and liberals) argue that increasing the supply of urban housing will lower the price of urban housing, they’re drawing on some pretty basic and well-established economic concepts. AND YET, THE COEXISTENCE OF GENTRIFICATION AND HOUSING SUPPLY GROWTH SEEM TO PUT A LIE TO THAT THEORY - IN CITIES ACROSS AMERICA, WE SEE NEIGHBORHOODS ADDING HOUSING WHILE STILL SEEING RAPID INCREASES IN THE PRICE OF HOUSING."
[Stephen Smith, "Does Urban Growth Have to Mean Gentrification?" 9/29/2011]
June 13, 2014, 9:50 am
ekiM from williamsburg says:
And here, more about Mike's "economics," namely a bitter mishmash and ad hominem against "those other people with entitlement and misunderstanding of economics because they have the temerity to disagree with me" than any ACTUAL economics. Mike says "rents never go down." Mike is wrong. And Mike is such an advanced economist, all it took to prove him wrong was doing something Mike rarely does: research. And, like that other ostensibly anti-capitalist Forbes Magazine, here is Bloomberg Businessweek, which must be one of those people "with entitlement and misunderstanding of economics":

http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=23523296
June 13, 2014, 10 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Some will just support this project, because they probably have connections with the developer. Why else would they be acting so defensive and call anyone who is against this a NIMBY? Also, what makes the group that opposes this a minority? Was a survey of the entire neighborhood for their stance on this project taken before coming up with that claim? I would think not. Again, nobody is against development, just against cronyism as well as having something that goes with the area rather than against it. Keep in mind that developers have a history of breaking promises and many won't even realize that only until after it's too late and it's already there.
June 13, 2014, 6:52 pm
Alexis Stewart from Flatbush says:
My opinion is that the builders are actually going to include low income and some are pissed because of that and in their twisted minds low income people just doesn't deserve such luxury.
May 24, 2016, 11:41 pm

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