The Council’s land-use committee shot down a developer’s pitch to rezone an industrial Carroll Gardens lot for condos after the builder refused to include any below-market-rate housing, rejecting the plan unanimously on Wednesday and giving the firm a tongue-lashing in the process.
The proposal especially enraged Councilman Brad Lander (D–Carroll Gardens), who got into a heated exchange with the builder’s lawyer at a hearing a few days earlier, at one point threatening to walk out.
“You’re taking away something that’s useful to the public … and adding nothing that is useful to the public,” said Lander at the zoning subcommittee hearing on Monday. “I don’t understand why we’d even consider supporting it.”
Oestreicher Properties first applied to erect a 10-unit complex on 14–18 Carroll St. between Columbia and Van Brunt streets in 2012 after buying the vacant land for $1.5 million.
But a series of delays, including Hurricane Sandy, pushed the lengthy rezoning process back and the city then introduced its mandatory inclusionary housing scheme, which requires builders to include so-called affordable housing in new properties of more than 12,500 square feet.
Oestreicher insists it should be exempt because its proposal squeaks in just below at 12,459 square feet, but Lander and the local community board told the developer it would need to comply anyway if it wants their blessing — and the pol was outraged when the firm came before the Council this week with no intention to do so, leading to the showdown on Monday.
The builder’s lawyer Adam Rothkrug accused the Council of saying, “Pay us this money and you’ll get your rezoning” — and Lander then said he’d storm out of the hearing if the legal eagle didn’t retract.
“I think you should step back that comment — no one here is trying to hold anyone up for money,” the councilman said.
Rothkrug took it back and the hearing continued, but he maintained that it is “wrong” to demand Oestreicher include below-market housing when there is no legal obligation to do so, while the members explained that it is unprecedented for a developer in the DeBlasio era to seek a rezoning with no low-income housing.
If the developer’s honchos want the community to sacrifice manufacturing space in a neighborhood where rising rents are driving industry out, they need to give something back, Lander said — he suggested three below-market units.
“If there’s not a significant public benefit we should leave the manufacturing zoning in place,” he said. “We don’t need a few new market-rate condos.”
The developer is willing to make a “mid-to-high six-figure” donation to an organization that supports below-market housing, Rothkrug said — but Lander scoffed at the suggestion.
The mandatory inclusionary program has an option to pay into a city-controlled fund for affordable housing to be built elsewhere, but Rothkrug said his firm would be on the hook for $2.2 million, which he claimed would be a “project killer.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick) responded that it was “absurd” for the real estate tycoons to insist they must make a profit when they chose to pay way more for the industrial land than it is worth.
“You paid the price of a Lamborghini for a Civic,” he said. “You made a bad investment.”
Oestreicher did not return a request for comment.