Unfair trade: New schools do not justify building Boerum Hill high-rises, neighbors say

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Call it a tower play.

Boerum Hill residents turned out in force on June 28 to voice their opposition to two huge towers with unprecedented density proposed for the edge of their brownstone-lined nabe. Plans for the mega-development include a new elementary school and rebuilt high school, but locals said they should not have to watch skyscrapers rise just to get necessary infrastructure.

“The fact that the proposed plan would bring super-tall buildings is unacceptable, and the community should not be burdened in a trade-off for much needed benefits,” said Howard Kolins, president of civic group the Boerum Hill Association. “We need a lot of things, but towers are not one of them.”

Builder Alloy Development revealed plans in April for 74- and 38-story towers on the triangular block bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Third Avenue, and State Street.

The proposal also included a new 350-seat elementary school and a new building for the already-on-site Khalil Gibran International Academy, which would expand its occupancy from 330 to 350 students.

The city’s Educational Construction Fund — which uses money from developers to build public schools in new developments — hosted the meeting to get community input before it moves ahead with an environmental impact study that will assess how the project will affect the neighborhood.

Residents demanded the city expand the study area from its current perimeter of just 400 feet around the development to a half-mile, in order to better measure the changes the project would bring to a nabe where at least three new high-rises are going up or newly-opened already.

The city needs to approve re-zoning the land for the developer to build higher and with more density than what is currently allowed, and some neighbors said the schools are merely a way to sneak the skyscrapers through, since Alloy will not build the educational facilities without the upzoning.

“It’s nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to pierce the zoning envelope,” said George Canvas, an area resident for 40 years. “It does so by using an existing public school — otherwise a Trojan Horse.”

But the principal of Khalil Gibran — which currently occupies a decrepit former Civil War infirmary — pled a much different case.

He told the room how his students don’t have an auditorium, a gymnasium, or proper electricity, that when anyone uses a copy machine an entire floor blacks out, and that the school can’t have microwaves because they will fry the system.

And he said many of his students come from the Middle East, where they did not have access to schools, and now have to learn in a crummy building.

“Most of my kids come from Yemen, the last time they went to school was sixth grade because their school was blown up,” Winston Hamann said. “I’m losing students every single time I go to a high school fair because we don’t have a gym, or sports, because the building is so run down.”

The president of social service agency the Arab American Support Center also spoke in favor of the project, echoing Hamann’s concerns about the current crumbling building.

Other locals said they understood the need to upgrade Khalil Gibran, but that the city should fund fixing its schools, not rely on private developers’ money.

“Let’s not use the towers as an excuse to right the city’s wrong,” said Fort Greene resident Lucy Koteen. “It’s disgusting the city can’t take care of its schools.”

Alloy’s head honcho, an area resident of 18 years, said his company will continue to converse with community members throughout the re-zoning process, claiming his project will bring many benefits to locals, including below-market-rate housing, schools, and office space.

“Unlike most developers, we only pursue projects that we think will have an enduring, positive impact on their surrounding communities,” said Jared Della Valle. “Our goal here is no different, and to do that, we want to engage.”

Locals can submit comments to the Educational Construction Fund until July 10, after which a document with the study’s final scope will be released to anyone who requests a copy.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:57 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Marcia says:
That's the problem with these people, they don't value education.
June 30, 2017, 6:58 am
Keith from Boerum Hill says:
The affordable housing racket has been wrung pretty dry so now our pols and developers have a bright shiny new con: Luxury towers for schools! Why not tie luxury towers to the jails de Blasio wants to locate in neighborhoods after he shuts down Rikers Island where his builder buddies are itching put a whole luxury tower cluster. Keep the con fresh!
June 30, 2017, 11:16 am
Sid from Boerum hill. says:
No one opposes the school. But we shouldn't have to pay for it by almost doubling the density. If the city would pay for the schools and not give them a zoning upgrade bonus it would be half the height. Even by selling them the air rights and staying within the current zoning it would be at least a third less dense. This is in the boundaries of Boerum hill.
June 30, 2017, 1:51 pm
Shinbang says:
Can we push pause on the developer bashing and idealistic view that the city should just pay for the schools (yes that WOULD BE great) for a moment and talk about some practicalities?

This site is on Flatbush Avenue.
This site is across the street from a MAJOR transit hub.
Brooklyn needs more housing - especially below market rate housing.
Brooklyn needs more schools badly, and sites to house them in transit rich areas are particularly hard to come by.
Brooklyn needs more office space.
Today, without a rezoning, towers could be built on this site with no obligation to provide any of the above.

In my mind the benefits of what Alloy is proposing far outweigh the "burden" assumed by "the community". The real burden is the one placed on all of Brooklyn if the city continues to neglect its needs and fails to take advantage of opportunities to meet those needs. I think we all know what missed opportunity in Downtown Brooklyn looks like - horribly generic luxury buildings...ones that could be built on this site tomorrow.
June 30, 2017, 10:31 pm
Cameron from Fort Greene says:
Shinbag, do you think Atlantic Yards with its 17 expen shoddy unaffordable luxury towers is a great benefit to the neighbothood? It wiped out the homes a d businesses of 1000 people, including 150 year old pre Civil War homes on Dean where an elementary school is being squeezed in. The school is an afterthoughtto the neigh orhood luxury wipeout. The kids are realtors'pawns.
July 1, 2017, 12:07 am
Barbra from Long term resident says:
Cameron, the problem with Atlantic Yards is that it was too small. You can't feel the benefit because there's only so much a few people can do. We need all the buildings done for the benefits to really to show! I think we all can see that.
July 1, 2017, 5:18 am
Shinbang says:
Cameron, I see your point about Atlantic Yards but I don't think that's comparable to this proposal. From what I can tell the historic buildings are being preserved and the displacement of business and people isn't even close.

I still come back the fact that without any rezoning a developer could build banal luxury apartment towers on the site today, so if I had a choice I would pick the proposal that includes schools, historic preservation and below market rate housing. I don't think that's kids as a pawn.
July 1, 2017, 7:32 am
Sid from Boerum hill says:
The City controls and owns about a third of the site. They can impose whatever rules they want without a rezoning. The loading zones are not allowed to be on flatbush so they have to go on the residential brownstone block. Affordability may or may not be illusory. It depends on the brackets they chose. High rise isn't necessarily the answer. Let them build banal high risers and take the real estate tax money and redo the schools and build another one there. They can't get tax abatement without affordable housing and without them it lowers the price the apartments go for.
July 1, 2017, 9:54 am
Cameron from Fort Greene says:
You're kidding, right, Barbara? 17 big, banal luxury towers and the huge hideous Barclays arena are too small? The unsightliness alone is grotesque, never mind the middle finger to real neighborhood.
July 1, 2017, 11:39 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Maybe schools shouldn't be linked to new buildings, but Boerum Hill needs a lot more dense housing and it needs schools, so why not link them?

We shouldn't listen to the self-serving landed gentry like Howard Kolins. Of course the artistrocrats wants to hoard all the benefits of living there to themselves. They should be mocked, not coddled.
July 1, 2017, 2:10 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If you people are going to mention the Atlantic Yards, then please get it right. First of all, the area it got built, which was the Vanderbuilt Yards, was never rezoned by the city, it was done by the state thanks to Ratner's connection to then-Governor Pataki. Had it been done through ULURP rather than SEQRA, local community boards and city council members would have more of a say, and Ratner wouldn't like that especially if they were highly against his plan, so he felt that he had to use the state to bypass a lot of that. The reality was that the Nets and the so-called affordable housing was really nothing but a Trojan Horse to this plan as the real plan was for him to just have another plot of land where he could build another one of his complexes that would just end up failing in the end just like what he did with MTC over in downtown Brooklyn. BTW, most of those who supported his plan were actually paid and/or funded by his company to do so as in saying that now he owns them. Before anyone who claimed about Daniel Goldstein, a former member of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, he was never a sell out especially if you actually followed the process all the way through considering that he was the last one to stay in his building long after everyone else just left. Nevertheless, I will always see the Atlantic Yards (or even Pacific Park) as nothing more than a gross product of eminent domain abuse and corporate welfare not to mention Ratner as another member of plutocracy, who believes in the term of one dollar one vote. To learn more about the Atlantic Yards, I suggest reading the Atlantic Yards Report by Norman Order, who is known for keeping tabs on this on a regular basis. For the record, I'm not affiliated with either the Atlantic Yards Report or with DDDB by any way or form, and my take on this only represents my views, plus nobody asked me to fight against that project when it first brought up, I did that on my own as well.
July 1, 2017, 3:29 pm
Cameron from Fort Greene says:
Kooter, maybe you're a hipster but I'm definitely not. I grew up in Brooklyn and have never been to Iowa although I would like to go there to visit. The divide is not tall buildings vs farms, it's subsidized luxury buildings that benefit the builders who bankroll the politicians. De Blasio has yet to meet a developer he didn't love. Check out the BQX billion dollar supedup trolley de Blasio wants to subsidize for the big realtors putting up luxury towers on the East River. De Blasio is BFF with Bruce Ratner. Do you want towers driving out rowhouses, do you want children being used as pawns by the pols and developers, do you like the pols and developers making a joke out of affordable housing to be able to build more and higher? If you do, then you're getting what you like. Brooklyn is being turned into towers. Look around. Brooklyn looks like Manhattan.
July 1, 2017, 4:49 pm
Sid from Boreum hill says:
Have you tried to get on the subways lately? They are at the bursting seams. There is no room in the schools and the planned ones do nothing for the new housing only for that that already exists. What makes the city livable isnotmore dense housing...but then no one wants to move to gravesend or canarsie. We have plenty of dense housing.
July 1, 2017, 5:06 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
A 50 story building is not dense enough you need 74?
July 1, 2017, 5:26 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
State rezoned Atlantic yards is the densest census track in the US I have been told. Do you need to add more around it? Denser than Manhattan...most of the large buildings in Manhattan are Not residential. Most of the new west side train yards buildings are commercial.
July 1, 2017, 5:50 pm
Sid from Boerum says:
Reasonable people can disagree and Howard Kolins is one of the more reasonable people I know. I am also a Boerum hill board member I am also a member of community board 2 which covers this area. In fact a made the motion years ago to support the entire downtown rezoning that increases the density which allowed most of the recent construction ...although the city has predicted most of the construction would be commercial not residential although I personally assumed residential. But that included step down zoning between downtown and brownstone neighborhoods. A far of 18 is much too high for this block.
July 1, 2017, 6:41 pm
Sid from Boerum says:
In my opinion
July 1, 2017, 6:43 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
Finally the BQX will not effect Boerum hill. More likely red hook..75 story buildings there? My personal problem with the bqx is that I think it's a poor choice for the bang for 4 billion dollars..i would rather they extent the irt from South ferry to Brooklyn and sunset park through red hook. Also imo
July 1, 2017, 6:57 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Cameron asked an interesting question: "Do you want towers driving out rowhouses,...?"

YES! And I want homeowners to pay their fair share of property taxes instead of getting to shirk their responsibilities and making renters and condo owners pay for everything.
July 1, 2017, 9:35 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I like to sit in my vehicle and masturbate while looking at children and animals.
July 1, 2017, 11:05 pm
Barbara from Boerum Hill says:
Pootie, you're not a single mom and you haven't "pre-purchased" an apartment because there aren't any to purchase.
July 2, 2017, 12:59 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Pootie, how can you own something when it hasn't been built yet? That just doesn't make any sense. I feel that if it doesn't get built, you should be allowed to a refund just like for a postseason game that didn't get played. Honestly, I feel what is claimed to be affordable in this building won't be affordable to everyone as claimed, which gives me the feeling that the term has been used very loosely here. Overall, I just see this project as just another driving force for gentrification against the lower classes.
July 2, 2017, 7:03 pm
Vitto Tonucci from Staten Island says:
Tal - how can you buy something without owning it? Maybe you've never heard of the native Americans? They didn't have our concept of "ownership". Buying is not the same as owning. Maybe you feel comfortable erasing their history, or maybe you're just playing dumb (very convincingly) because you get sick pleasure kicking a hard working single mom like Pootie out on the street. For you, this building represents a home for her and her children. That's why you don't want it to be built.
July 3, 2017, 8:24 am
Tal Barzilaí from Pleasantville, NY says:
You're absolutely right, Vitto Tonucci. I've made a real boner out of myself this time
July 3, 2017, 12:05 pm
Barbara from Boerum Hill says:
Pootie, you're not a single mom, you're not about to buy an expensive apartment in a luxury tower at Schemerhorn. Single moms with no resources aren't getting in to a luxury tower. You're just a garden variety troll.
July 3, 2017, 1:43 pm
Barbara from Boerum Hill says:
Pootie, I'm sorry. I've looked into it, and you're right. What a food I've been. I've acted like a complete b and looked very ignorant doing so. I'm so appologetic.
July 5, 2017, 10:05 am
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
It's such a Tired ploy: Withholding essential services, schools, libraries as bargaining chips to push through unwanted development. . . So very tired. AND giving in to it just becomes an incentive to withhold more services to get more development!


City Strategy Of Withholding Basic City Services To Blackmail Public Into Accepting Bigger Development
July 8, 2017, 2:19 pm
Ben from Fort Greene says:
Folks - here's the deal about the schools regarding 80 Flatbush. They are a net negative and will contribute to overcrowding, NOT alleviate it.

The DOE / NY SCA (School Construction Authority) formula for students / Brooklyn household is here:

It says every 100 residential units will yield 55 public school students. By that very conservative estimate, the proposed 922 residential units of 80 Flatbush will bring 507 new P.S. students to the neighborhood. That means the buildings will contribute to school over crowding by 157 seats (the 350 H.S. seats are replacement, not new).

The school offer is a Trojan Horse, plain and simple. As Cameron says, the kids are unfortunately pawns in this game.

Another thing to consider is that the largest project Alloy has ever completed to-date is 1 John Street (, which is a 42-unit boutique condo project in DUMBO. What makes a 15-person firm qualified to take on a mega-project with 112 total stories? That's more floors than 1 World Trade Center.

Please take your comments from here and submit them to the public comments for the Environmental Impact Assessment scoping document at:

You can find the Draft Scope of Work document here:

The deadline for submitting comments is this Mon, Jul 10th. The only way to make your voices heard is to participate in the public process.
July 9, 2017, 12:54 am
Ben from Fort Greene says:
Update to the above comment - as a result of community outreach to the elected officials, The DOE and The Education Construction Fund extended their deadline for public comment about the 80 Flatbush EIS scoping document to Fri, 7/28.

You can submit your comments to:

You can cc the elected officials on your submissions as well:

1.) State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
2.) Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon
3.) City Council Member Stephen Levin
July 13, 2017, 12:29 pm

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