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Growing divide: Builder skips meeting with community growers about 80 Flatbush project, sowing seeds of discord

Don’t block the light: Members of the Rockwell Place Garden are fighting the proposed 80 Flatbush project because they worry it will block the sun and destroy their garden.
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These green thumbs are seeing red!

A group of local gardeners turned their proverbial pitchforks toward a developer after the builder ditched a meeting about how a massive skyscraper in its planned Boerum Hill megadevelopment will reduce the amount of sunlight their growing patch receives.

Members of the Brooklyn Bears’ Rockwell Garden bounded by Rockwell Place and Flatbush and Lafayette avenues invited a rep for Alloy Development to the April 14 session to discuss how their meadow will be affected by the real-estate firm’s 80 Flatbush project — a controversial scheme containing residential, commercial, cultural, and classroom spaces spread out across five buildings, including new 74- and 38-story towers that are set to rise diagonally across from the garden on a lot bordered by Flatbush and Third avenues and State and Schermerhorn streets.

But the builder — which over the past year sent staffers to meet with more than 100 local pols, individuals, and organizations about its plans — abruptly revoked its initial pledge to sit down with the growers after word of the meeting spread, according to a green thumb.

“They were annoyed we sent out an announcement that we were having a meeting,” said Ron Janoff. “But our feeling was it should be public.”

The gardeners claim the taller of the two high-rises will destroy their soil-filled sanctuary by blocking out natural light its flowers and vegetables need to survive, another veteran grower said.

“It’s going to take away sunlight,” said Kate Reilly. “It will certainly change the character of the neighborhood, and turn the garden into a dark corridor where people kind of scramble looking for light.”

The developer’s draft environmental-impact statement — a study on how the project will affect the surrounding area, if built — shows that, in spring and fall, shadows cast by 80 Flatbush’s buildings would pass over the green space from approximately 11:20 am to 2:30 pm, leaving its flora with just a four-to-six-hour window to soak up sunshine, which “would significantly impact the health of these species,” according to the report.

In late spring and the dead of summer, the garden would get between five and nine hours of light, according to the study, which shows that, in early summer, the entire patch would get more than five hours of direct sunlight, with some areas receiving more than nine hours.

The Rockwell Garden — which is generally open to the public on weekends from April through October each year, before closing for the winter months — currently gets about eight-to-10 hours of light, according to Janoff, who said any less would prevent its stewards from growing some of the peppers, tomatoes, peach trees, and other herbs and plants that now thrive there.

“It would completely change what could be growing,” he said. “Nobody likes a garden that’s in shade.”

But before Alloy can build 80 Flatbush’s towers, the city must first green light the builder’s application to upzone the development site and nearly triple its allowable “floor-area ratio” — a measurement that determines how high a structure can be relative to the size of the land it is on — to 18 from 6.5, which is currently making its way through the lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

If the application is denied, however, Alloy instead will erect a development that falls within current zoning regulations and includes one 400-foot high-rise containing only market-rate housing and retail space, according to rep James Yolles, who said that other amenities including so-called affordable housing and two new schools would be scrapped from the plan.

Yolles denied accusations that Alloy backed out of the meeting with the gardeners, claiming the get-together simply did not work out, and that company bigwigs are trying to set a new time and place to discuss the rezoning process with the green thumbs.

“We look forward to working with the Rockwell Bears to better understand the issue, and find potential solutions that work for all parties,” he said. “We are optimistic that a lot of headway can be made.”

But Reilly and other growers still insist the meeting be public so that their concerns about the project are expressed in an open forum — and not behind closed doors.

“They wanted us to go to their location, and did not want to have it in an area that we had some sort of control over,” she said. “Their concern is that we are trying to make a political statement with this meeting, and maybe they’re right, but shouldn’t we?”

Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee will cast its advisory vote on the rezoning application for 80 Flatbush on Wednesday, before kicking it to Borough President Adams, who will host a public hearing on the proposal on April 30, ahead of the request’s review by the City Planning Commission, Council, and ultimately Mayor DeBlasio.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Homey from Crooklyn says:
What planet are these people from?
April 17, 6:37 am
Tristan from Ft Greene says:
That's hilarious! The developer with the 24/7 lobbyists accuses these little gardeners of being political. Go, gardeners! You got em surrounded! Politics and petunias!
April 17, 9:08 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
People who like the suburban or rural life should not live next to one of the biggest transit hubs in the country. I won't tell people what to enjoy, but the transit hub is a very scarce and valuable resource.
April 17, 10:55 am
David K from Downtown Brooklyn says:
They can already build a 400 foot building at the site, and none of the gardeners are against that.

This sets a dangerous precedent where developers can build something 3 times the size of what is currently allowed.

As for it being a transit hub, this area is already overburdened with development and their plans do not address the enormous traffic and subway congestion in the area.
April 17, 11:48 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
You act like "what is currently allowed" was handed down on tablets to Moses and not simply the product of bad laws that promote climate change.
April 17, 12:13 pm
Ft. Greener from Fort Greene says:
Barclays has some of the most uncomfortable seating I have ever experienced.

These little green spaces we have left should be given priority. Go Gardeners!
April 17, 10:26 pm
Cynthia from Boerum Hill says:
A call to all neighbors and neighborhoods in Brooklyn! 80 Flatbush represents the end of the Brooklyn we know and love. These type of "spot" upzoning developments are going on in many of our neighborhoods and they are invasive and un-just. Why should super rich billionaires be able to buy their way out of zoning requirements? They have spent half a million dollars lobbying our local officials and contributing to local groups, like Brooklyn Ballet and Transportation Alternatives in order to garner their support. They are not offering the citizens of Brooklyn anything substantial and will make hundreds of millions off of this project! They are not offering two schools! Only a renovation to one school and a half-sized elementary school that will only end up serving the rich people living in their tower! Come out tonight and sit with us to witness the CB2 land use committee and let them know you want them to vote No To 80 Flatbush! Thank you
April 18, 10:57 am
Morris from Mill Basin says:
Re 80 Flatbush: Where are the 911 conspirators now that we need them?
April 18, 11:36 am
Lucy from Park Slope says:
Far-right, faux-liberal zealots like Cynthia provide as good a reason as any for New Yorkers to support this project.

Most progressive New Yorkers understand that the way to bring down housing costs is to build more -- and what better place to do it than on Flatbush Ave near a transit hub that -- despite the unformed but sadly typical local ranting -- is nowhere near capacity? Buck the get-the-hell-outta-my-neighborhood/keep Brooklyn unaffordable Cynthias and come support this project!
April 18, 12:22 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Cynthia's got hers, so she can afford to build a wall to keep everyone else out.
April 18, 1:54 pm
Lucy from Fort Greene says:
We now have high rises sitting half empty because they are too expensive. Adding to the pool of market and luxury units does nothing to relieve the need for housing for poor, lower and middle class New Yorkers. The developers don't pay taxes or contribute to the failing infrastructure. That is left to the rest of us who don't get subsidies. Laughable how the developers say that they are building schools and amenities at zero cost to the City.
April 18, 4:12 pm
Sid from Boerum hill says:
The cb 2 land use committee voted unanimously with one abstention against the project.
April 18, 9:20 pm
Pedro from Boerum Hill says:
BREAKING - The CB 2 Land Use Commitee just voted 10-0 AGAINST this terrible project (with one abstention). Looks like the hundreds of thousands of $$ the developers poured into lobbying our local officials haven’t succeeded (yet). CB2 listened to the community. Next up is the big April 30th meeting at Borough Hall where public testimony will be before Borough Pres Eric Adams. Hope the neighborhood shows up to that as well!
April 18, 9:30 pm
Gargoyle from Newkirk Plaza says:
Build the entire project anywhere on drab Coney Island Avenue.
April 18, 10:41 pm
Latoya from Ft Greene says:
Lucy from Park Slope, you should testify at the Boro President's hearing on 80 Flatbush. It's April 30th. You can get up and say you love the developer and want him to build 1000 ft towers all over NYC to allievate homelessness. Developers love your kind of progressivism. It's EXACTLY like de Blasio's, helping the poor by helping billionaires. De Blasio's from Park Slope too! Are you a neighbor of our developer-dependent mayor?
April 19, 1:32 am
Bruce from Boerum Hill says:
Lucy from Park Slope you are right. Building giant luxury towers for to house low income tenants is virtuous. How about a couple of monster luxury towers in Prospect Park? After all why should that choice property on the top of a hill be the playground of rich Park Slopers? Shouldn't low income people be able to live on the 70th floor and enjoy the view of NY harbor from their apartment just like rich people on the 75th floor of 80 Flatbush?
April 19, 3:27 am
NN from Boerum Hill says:
On the one hand, 500 school seats for Brooklyn kids and new homes for 900 families. On the other hand, a dozen angry people might have to move their tomato plants.
April 19, 3:41 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Lucy is right about this. It's very easy to love something when it comes to bells and whistles. Fortunately, there are those who can see right through what is really being promised here. More importantly, when they say affordable housing, it makes me question who will it really be affordable to especially since it will be privately owned and such housing is always loosely defined when it comes to that. Pretty much, that's how developers do a bait and switch and even try to divide and conquer on communities. Keep in mind that how FCR got his way with the Atlantic Yards (now called Pacific Park) and now those who supported it are starting to feel buyers remorse on that even though they were told what was really going on numerous times before and could have stopped it then. In reality, building more like 80 Flatbush Avenue isn't going to bring housing down considering that it's another luxury housing, plus I find such a claim very hard to believe as well. Whoever came up with that claim must have been something that I don't want any of.
April 19, 5:52 pm

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