Gave its blessing: Council green-lights rezoning for Ft. Greene church’s affordable tower

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This church’s leaders are counting their blessings!

Clergy at a Fort Greene house of worship cheered Council following its unanimous approval of their request to rezone a swath of land on S. Portland Avenue, where they intend to erect a 13-story tower of below-market-rate housing.

“We have been serving the Fort Greene community for more than 60 years in faith, learning, and service,” the Hanson Place Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Pastor Bernard Penn said following the municipal body’s vote last month. “We are pleased to continue this legacy by bringing critical affordable-housing opportunities and increased social programming to our vibrant community through this development.”

Penn and fellow faith leaders sought the city’s approval last fall, after revealing plans to demolish the church’s three-story community center at 142-150 S. Portland Ave. between Hanson and S. Elliott places in order to build a 138-foot residential high-rise with 100 below-market-rate units, a new multi-purpose space, and a below-ground medical facility in its place.

But pols only gave the green-light to upzone the development site itself — nixing the proposal’s more-controversial terms that called for extending the rezoning to include the area generally bounded by S. Portland Avenue and Hanson and S. Elliot places, which drew criticism from civic gurus and the borough president as the application snaked its way through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

In January, Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee voted to approve a so-called spot rezoning of the land needed for the new tower alone, supporting an increase of the plot’s allowable height cap from nine to 14 stories. But committee members panned the provision to rezone land beyond the construction site, claiming it would encourage developers to buy up neighboring low-rise or empty lots and then raze them to build taller and denser buildings down the line.

But a month later, CB2’s full board voted down the request in its entirety, arguing neither the upzoning nor the units of so-called affordable housing it would create were a good idea for the neighborhood, and kicked the proposal over to the beep, who then rubber-stamped it with some modifications that also included limiting the extent of the rezoning.

And on June 28, Council took CB2’s Land Use Committee’s lead and voted only to spot rezone the church’s lot itself, according to a rep for Fort Greene’s councilwoman — the pol whose “aye” vote was critical to the future tower’s fate, as it would rise within her district.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene) described the limited rezoning as the best of both worlds, because it will bring more below-market-rate housing to the neighborhood without changing building codes on land beyond what already belongs to the church.

“The decision process called for a delicate balance between preserving the fabric of our neighborhood, and addressing the need for affordable housing and expanded community-facility space,” said Cumbo, who last year shepherded another polarizing rezoning application through Council, when she controversially voted in favor of a plan to redevelop Crown Heights’s publicly owned armory after officials and the city’s chosen builder agreed to axe luxury condos and include more low-income units in the scheme.

The Council-approved version of the church’s rezoning application now moves to the desk of Mayor DeBlasio, whose likely approval will allow faith leaders to break ground on the new tower as soon as next July, according to a rep for the builder working with the house of worship, who said construction is expected to wrap 21 months after it begins.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, July 26, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
"claiming it would encourage developers to buy up neighboring low-rise or empty lots and then raze them to build taller and denser buildings down the line."

Density? A block from Atlantic Terminal? Heaven forfend!

Eric Adams used to care about whether his kids would be able to find places to live in Brooklyn. He's turning disappointing. Maybe his kids found places.
July 26, 2018, 7:55 am
long-time resident from Fort Greene says:
Laurie Cumbo is firmly in the pocket of the developers and seems not to care in the slightest about those of us who live and work in this neighborhood. She marks a sad contrast with our previous council representative, Tish James, whose office was extremely responsive and willing to listen to our concerns.
July 26, 2018, 11:40 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
When you hate the idea of having neighbors, a local church building below-market housing will have to serve as the bogeyman of "the developers."

The fact is that this low rise area is completely out of context with transit and activity available at the Atlantic Terminal. Wealthy homeowners of Fort Greene have the ear of the politicians so gentrification can be foisted on Crown Heights and East New York instead.
July 26, 2018, 11:48 am
Peter Engel from Fort Greene says:
Any idea that Laurie Cumbo will ever act in the best interest of actual voters is laughable. Now that she's a lame duck, it's all about her future employers.
July 26, 2018, 2:48 pm
Jay from Crownheights says:
And i bet the AMI for the affordable housing will be 40%60% and 130% nothing in the between,the missing AMI 70% 80% and 30% same ol b.s.
July 27, 2018, 1 pm
BrooklynLove from Fort Greene says:
Is this new building going to include the adjacent vacant lot on Hanson, or is that parcel not part of this plan?
July 28, 2018, 6:55 am
Cumbo/Church perfect gentrification partners... from Ft Greene says:
You cannot make this stuff up-it comes from the deBlasio REBNY template playbook-honed to perfection.

The Church is LAND RICH-they could, among other things use some of their 38 Lafayette Ave (8 story building) school for their 'programs'...the new "medical floor facility actually already exists & remains two blocks away on Fulton...the current property project could be built 100% REALLY affordable instead of only 25...with 75 remaining being expensive!

The reneging of Ft Greene & Clinton Hill's hard fought commitment is the chipping away of 99 blocks of lowrise character and context and will be the precursor- as so many communities have endured-of the displacement and gentrification that these pols are in denial about as they continue to take REBNY $$$.

Cumbo didn't invite the community to the City Council to watch this reprehensible vote...her MOCADA Church neighbors were there however. Can one imagine that she was embarrassed?

Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on Lobbyists did the trick...
July 29, 2018, 7:24 pm

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