Context matters: Pol blasts builder, officials for pushing megadevelopment too big for his district

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The builder proposing a controversial megadevelopment at the edge of Boerum Hill must take its plans back to the drawing board and come up with a solution that better blends the area’s low-rise Brownstones with their neighboring high-rises Downtown, the councilman whose district would include the 80 Flatbush complex said Tuesday in his first public comments about the scheme.

Councilman Stephen Levin (D–Boerum Hill) blasted Dumbo-based Alloy Development and city officials for ignoring the current zoning of the site bounded by Flatbush and Third avenues and State and Schermerhorn streets in conceiving of the five-building project, which would include 74- and 38-story towers with some 900 apartments as well as two new schools, and requires a rezoning the city must sign off on before workers break ground.

“I consider it a transitional block — to provide a transition between the adjacent, higher-density zoning district, and the mid-rise residential neighborho­ods,” Levin said during Council’s hearing on 80 Flatbush as part of its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. “It’s frankly frustrating that there’s a real reluctance to use the word transitional, not just among the development team, but others in the administration as well.”

Alloy wants the city to green-light a rezoning that would nearly triple the development site’s allowable floor-area ratio — a measurement abbreviated as FAR that determines how high a structure can be relative to the size of the land it is on — from its current cap of 6.5 to 18.

And in exchange, the firm plans to include 200 below-market-rate units, along with retail and commercial spaces, new classrooms for the beleaguered Khalil Gibran International Academy high school, and a new 350-seat elementary school within the complex’s five buildings, which include three newly built structures and two already on-site properties that will be refurbished.

Levin, who will likely cast the key vote on 80 Flatbush because it sits within his district, applauded the project’s public amenities, but said its proposed size fails to strike the necessary balance between Boerum Hill’s many smaller, single-family structures and the taller high-rises sprouting up nearby.

“It’s about a scale, and the experience of the local residents,” he said.

And although the complex falls within the city’s special Downtown Brooklyn district — where buildings’ size is regulated by density, not height — its proposed location is on land that separates Brownstones with FARs of 2 and denser towers with FARs of 12, and any structure on the lot must bridge the two densities, according to Levin.

“Nobody here is denying that Flatbush Avenue has high-rises, but this lot ought to be transitional, it’s a logical thing,” he said.

The councilman also chastised Department of Education officials for signing on to 80 Flatbush so that Alloy can foot the bill for new schools in the area in lieu of the agency finding other ways to bring more classrooms to the overcrowded district, claiming department leaders put him in the difficult position of having to choose between the desks or the massive buildings that will house them.

“What I have not seen from the Department of Education, in my eight-and-a-half years, is any consistent real planning for school seats in Downtown Brooklyn,” Levin said during the nearly four-hour hearing. “I‘ve seen a haphazard, ‘let’s take it where we can get it’ approach. That’s not acceptable.”

The pol’s push for a more-contextually zoned 80 Flatbush followed similar comments from Borough President Adams, who suggested Alloy chop more than 300 feet off its taller tower to help the complex better conform to its location in a recommendation he delivered earlier this summer as part of the ulurp process, during which the City Planning Commission approved the divisive project, while Community Board 2 overwhelmingly panned it.

Council will vote on the rezoning request in September, before which, the developer could revise its scheme.

But the project as is fits in with the neighborhood — especially considering how it has grown in the years since the city established the Downtown Brooklyn district — an Alloy bigwig argued at the hearing, before adding that he is open to feedback.

“To rely on text that is 14 years old as an indicator about what we should do for the future is a complicated and nuanced matter,” said Alloy chief-executive officer Jared Della Valle. “Which is not to say I’m disavowing the need to work together. It’s important.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:22 pm, August 15, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
I am always amazed at courageous Steve Levin's ability to stand 22nd in line when taking a stand against a developer.
Aug. 15, 2018, 7:55 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
“Nobody here is denying that Flatbush Avenue has high-rises, but this lot ought to be transitional, it’s a logical thing,”

What is obvious and logical is that the low rise FAR 2 luxury brownstones are out of context. They were built for a Brooklyn of 1890, not of 2020. A transition can be desirable if the luxury brownstones can be densified.
Aug. 15, 2018, 9:33 am
Dan from Crown Heights says:
The idea that we should limit the size of this development to preserve the "transition" to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar brownstones--at the expense of higher rents and worsening displacement everywhere in the city--is offensive and misguided.
Aug. 15, 2018, 12:45 pm
Historian from Fort Greene says:
Fort Greene is on the eve of destruction. Folk have started selling their homes due to the blockage of the sun.

These hot humid days are horrible, there was a summer breeze that flowed through the communities that exists no more.

Sad thing too, the new buildings are just ugly concrete structures with no character whatsoever. Brooklyn will decline, the value of those "slum" towers in the sky (as a young gentrifier put it) will enrich some in the short term, but destroy Brooklyn as we knew it.

Alloy is has no people of color besides their administrator, the owner is not from Brooklyn and doesn't realize his development is cursed. Most Architects will not build where a property is not wanted.

Levin spoke and did what everyone that lived here for so long expected, he spoke right. These developments will encroach on a vulnerable access to infrastructure. Brooklyn is not Manhattan.

When some horrible disastrous atrocity happens, and it will; the overcrowding and greed will reach capacity,
Aug. 15, 2018, 11:54 pm
blogger Bill from from Boerum Hill says:
Has developer Alloy no shame? Let them live
with the zoning maximum and not one centimeter more. Better yet, just go away!
This is a prime example of disrespectful
development. Our Assembly member Jo Anne
Simon who has been involved with local
zoning for decades, broadsided Alloy for it's
selfish, insensitivity to local traffic
nightmares. While it took him a while to get
there, Council member Levin very successfully
got into the weeds of local school planning
of which there appears to have been near
zero as downtown Brooklyn began to explode
20 years ago. His focus on basic zoning
concepts and the realities of supersizing
at the expense of local realities got very
quickly to the nastiness of the Alloy ploy.

Good and balanced article by Julianne Cuba,
looks like a great addition to the Brooklyn
Paper staff.
Aug. 16, 2018, 8:48 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
"Folk have started selling their homes due to the blockage of the sun."

LOLOLOL they sold them for many multiples of what they paid for them and laughed all the way to the bank.

First paragraph: people sell their luxury housing because of less sun. Second paragraph: it's too hot!

To be explicit, I do want the value of real estate to decline. No one can afford luxury brownstones. Market rate housing should be affordable to middle class people, and poor people should get help. What we have in Boerum Hill and Fort Greene is luxury housing affordable only to millionaires, and apparently pretty petty ones if they are selling their homes because of marginally less sun.
Aug. 16, 2018, 9:47 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Density is important, but not at the expense of existing homeowners and tenants. The land was purchased with the knowledge of the zoning requirements. If they change the zoning for the developer, the city is just giving the developer a windfall at the expense of the community. Sounds like another pay to play.
Aug. 16, 2018, 12:22 pm
Tostada Gonzalez from Rikers says:
Great looking building, hope it gets built as is!!
Aug. 16, 2018, 3:26 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Why not at the expense of existing homeowners? As the above clown mentioned, they can sell their homes because of a shadow and turn their land wealth into cash money.
Aug. 16, 2018, 4:39 pm
Bill lombard from Cobble hill says:
Downtown Brooklyn is completely being destroyed from greed, roof top bars with 25 dollar drinks is not progress.
Aug. 29, 2018, 11:54 pm

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