Bensonhurst’s downzone set Dyker Heights rezone is next

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The City Council on Thursday approved a zoning initiative intended to scale back much of Bensonhurst, a neighborhood that, like most of southwest Brooklyn, has experienced an onslaught of new condominium development over the past decade.

Praised this week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 120-block zoning plan came before the full council on June 23, putting to rest a breezy four-month journey from certification to law that took only half the time a similar initiative in Bay Ridge did.

“All in all it’s what we really wanted,” said Howard Feuer, district manager of Community Board 11. “We knew there would be developers that would try to come in and overdevelop Bensonhurst, and now that won’t happen.”

Feuer said that, far from over, he and others would now seek to complete a second zoning plan for the remaining portions of Bensonhurst, which Department of City Planning officials said was left out the first time around in the interest of saving time. Redrafting the entire neighborhood all at once, said City Planning spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff, would have taken inspectors twice the time to survey.

Upon Bloomberg’s final approval, the plan will cover an area bounded by Bay Parkway and 61st Street to the north, McDonald Avenue to the east, Avenue U to the south and Stillwell Avenue to the west. The rezoning establishes height limits where low-rise housing predominates while eliminating the potential for uncharacte­ristically large medical storefronts and buildings designed for mixed commercial and residential use.

While commercial corridors along portions of Bay Parkway, Kings Highway, Highlawn Avenue and avenues O and T would flourish, three quarters of the plan would safeguard detached and semi-detached housing by limiting new development to 35 feet and under.

“This rezoning helps fulfill my promise to protect the city’s primarily low-density neighborhoods by ensuring that new development does not change the character of our neighborho­ods,” the mayor said in a prepared statement. “As a result, residents will know that my administration hears their concerns about out-of-scale development in Bensonhurst and is working hard to prevent it.”

But before moving forward with the remaining parts of Bensonhurst, City Planning officials say they will likely move forward with plans to down-zone Dyker Heights. Centered between Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, the largely one-, two- and three-family home neighborhood has attracted new interest from condo developers warded off by zoning changes on either side.

Councilman Vincent Gentile said this week that plans to rezone Dyker Heights could be certified by September or October. From there, the plan would course through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a roughly seven-month process that requires hearings before and recommendations by Community Board 10, Borough President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Kristin Guild, a City Planning representative in Brooklyn, said that planning technicians began evaluating Dyker Heights in March and hope to complete a survey of roughly 170 blocks.

Among other matters, the planners are studying “transit corridors and building form,” she said.

Raynoff said that City Planning officials could return to Dyker Heights as soon as early fall with a preliminary proposal, which is expected to include the remaining areas of Community Board 10 that were not included in the Bay Ridge plan. In other words, all of Dyker Heights, a neighborhood bounded by 65th Street to the north, Shore Parkway to the south, 14th Avenue to the east and Seventh Avenue to the west.

“The idea is it will include the rest of [CB10] that wasn’t incorporated within Bay Ridge,” said Raynoff. “Our communities have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly we can work, but I don’t want to give an exact time for when it could be certified.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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