Council trims Two Trees plan

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A Council subcommittee on Tuesday turned down a controversial proposal by a powerful developer to build apartments on Atlantic Avenue between Court and Clinton streets. The building would be the first exception to the 50-foot height limit in the Cobble Hill Historic District.

The unanimous vote by the 11-member Council’s zoning subcommittee is a victory for neighborhood groups that feared that low-rise historic districts would be threatened by many developers if the DUMBO-based Two Trees Management was allowed to build a 60-foot residence in the 50-foot zone.

Two Trees said it need the extra height so it could turn a profit and also generate sufficient revenue to maintain the landmark Independence Bank building next door, which it also owns. A Trader Joe’s supermarket is slated to go into that space next year.

The developer said that its situation was so unique that no other builder would be able to make the same argument.

Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Cobble Hill) had previously endorsed this proposal on repeated occasions, but surprised many constituents by coming out against it on Tuesday.

“The height waiver is not appropriate,” he said. “This building can [make] a contribution to our community so long as it stays within the 50-foot height limit.”

Councilman Tony Avella (D–Queens), who chairs the zoning subcommittee, told The Brooklyn Paper that Two Trees must now go back to the Department of City Planning and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to come up with a new design.

Before that happens, neighborhood groups were basking in DeBlasio’s change of heart.

“We were tremendously gratified that Bill agreed that the 50-foot height limit would cause a wave of attempts by developers in historic districts,” said Roy Sloane of the Cobble Hill Association.

The unexpected outcome knocked Two Trees back to the drawing board, but reminded it of a lesson learned long ago.

“My mother told me if I didn’t have anything nice to say, not to say anything,” said Jed Walentas, a spokesman for the company, and son of Two Trees’ owner, David Walentas.

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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