Without board OK, CB2 chair sends panel’s views to beep

The Brooklyn Paper
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When Community Board 2 voted on the Downtown Brooklyn Plan last month it failed to reach a consensus on a recommendation — effectively taking a pass on its chance to forward its official analysis to the borough president and City Planning Commission.

But faced with explaining itself to Borough President Marty Markowitz this week, board chairwoman Shirley McRae and Land Use committee chairman William Vinicombe submitted a letter on behalf of the board urging Markowitz to consider the Land Use committee’s recommendations anyway.

Those same recommendations were shot down on Feb. 3 when the full board’s vote — 19-17 with three abstentions — failed to provide a majority decision of the 40 members present. This week, some board members questioned the propriety of submitting recommendations that had failed to win the full board’s approval.

“We did not have any recommendations to put forth to City Planning,” said McRae, adding, “It’s not uncommon for a board chair to write letters attesting to the work that had been done.”

In the letter, submitted to Markowitz, a copy of which was also sent to the City Planning Commission, McRae says lack of consensus “does not negate the concerns expressed by the committee’s recommenda­tions.”

Instead, the letter explains that there was general consensus among board members and the vote was over strategy — whether a ‘no’ vote with recommendations or ‘yes’ vote with recommendations would carry more sway.

“The split revolves around whether the concerns of the community and formulation of sufficient mitigations would best be accomplished by working with the city during implementation of the zoning amendment or by outright opposition to the plan,” the letter reads.

Several board members were also asking this week what happened to a survey conducted by the board’s district manager, who contacted almost all of the board’s 50 members following the nullified vote.

The board’s executive committee decided not to use that report.

“We look at many different avenues how to address a project, we don’t always use all the avenues we discuss,” said McRae.
Vinicombe told The Brooklyn Papers that after discussing the survey idea with McRae and with city officials, they decided the district manager survey was not a good idea.

City officials say they’ve created the Downtown Brooklyn Plan to keep corporate back office space in New York City,. It would make way for upwards of 7 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail space, 2,500 parking spaces, and 1,000 units of housing. The plan, which actually contains 22 land use actions, also allows the city to seize seven acres of private land including 130 housing units, 100 businesses, and a college.

The city pledged to invest $100 million in streetscape and transportation improvements. But critics have called that investment “chicken feed” and asked for much more in-depth transportation mitigation efforts.

Over the past several months, the community board worked to draft a comprehensive set of recommendations including voting for the upzoning — allowing for soaring office towers. It voted down all condemnation of private land or evictions except for a city-owned site for a Brooklyn Public Library cultural library in Fort Greene that would involve displacing only one business.

The Land Use committee drafted a list of more than 20 suggestions, including mass transit improvements ranging from reopening the Myrtle Avenue subway station to widening the platform and stairways of the Lawrence Street station.

Markowitz must render his recommendation on the plan by March 9. It then goes to the City Planning Commission and City Council for a final vote.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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