Institute off chopping block?

The Brooklyn Paper
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A week after the City Planning Commission hosted a public hearing on the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, it is considering making two major changes, according to sources.

Those changes would include saving an architectural college and removing from the plan’s consideration a plot of land at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues where developer Bruce Ratner is looking to construct the tallest of his Atlantic Yards office towers.

As part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, the city seeks to condemn 130 residential units and 100 businesses.

Included among those is the Institute of Design and Construction, a nearly 60-year-old college at the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and Willoughby Street.

The school would be razed to create clearer sight lines from Flatbush Avenue Extension to a 1.5-acre open space — Willoughby Square — which the city plans to build across the street.

But the school may be saved, according to Dolly Williams, Borough President Marty Markowitz’s appointee to the 13-member City Planning Commission, which is currently reviewing the massive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application for the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.

“This business has really been there a long time. It’s a good Brooklyn employer and provides good service,” Williams told The Brooklyn Papers this week, adding, “I really think we should make a concerted effort in saving this building.”

When he reviewed the Downtown Plan, Markowitz recommended sparing the school and putting the money slated for its condemnation into restoring area parks.

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the massive rezoning and urban renewal plan, which involves 22 separate actions, on May 11.

On April 26, at 1 pm, the commission will discuss the plan at a public review session hosted at its Lower Manhattan office at 22 Reade St.

The commission has the authority to modify, approve intact or disapprove the plan before it is sent to the City Council.

Vincent Battista, president of the design college, said he will believe the school is to be saved when he “sees it in writing.”

Even if the three-story college is spared in this go around, he said, its future would still be far less than certain since the city intends to extend the timeframe for the urban renewal area in which it sits for another 40 years.

“We would have this hanging over us for 40 years,” Battista said, explaining that the city could still swoop in at any time and condemn the property.

According to sources close to the plan, the planning commission is also in considering removing a triangular parcel of land where Ratner seeks to build a 620-foot tower. That skyscraper, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is part of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan, a $2.5 billion residential and office complex centered around a basketball arena to house his newly purchased New Jersey Nets.

The site is the only parcel of land included in both the Downtown Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards plans, and it is where Ratner would build the tallest of his Gehry-designed structures.

That has troubled Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James and other elected officials and residents who believe that the entirety of the two plans should either be looked at as one or as completely separate.

James last week called on the city to remove Ratner’s parcel from the Downtown Plan.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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