Rezoning splits Brighton

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city’s rezoning plan for Brighton Beach was finally unveiled to the public – and resulted in a war of words among neighborhood residents.

The verbal smackdown occurred between some residents who said the plan didn’t do enough to curb overdevelopment and others who feared their property values would decrease and said there should be no downzoning at all.

The battle took a heated turn when Brighton 8th Street resident Shimon Rinkovsky said the entire bungalow community should be destroyed and new buildings should be erected on the land.

Judd Fischler, a resident of Brighton 3rd Street, had enough and rushed to the front of Coney Island Hospital’s auditorium and demanded to respond to the comments immediately. He was held back by Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal before finally relenting and returning to his seat.

The display was a sign of how tense the fight for rezoning has become in Brighton Beach.

Community activists have requested downzoning for the last five years, as they’ve watched one-family homes be replaced with sky-high residential towers that they say are out of place in the community.

At last week’s Community Board 13 general meeting, City Planning representatives finally unveiled the long-awaited rezoning plan.

According to the plan’s project manager, Anna Slatkinsky, the new zoning would “allow for modest growth along commercial corridors with height limits and incentives for affordable housing.”

Much of Brighton Beach currently maintains R6 zoning, which puts no height limits on new buildings, thereby allowing developers to erect towering structures. And apparently, “There are incentives to create tall buildings,” Slatkinsky said.

The rezoning plan, which must go through a lengthy public review process before being reviewed by the City Council for final approval, would establish height limits “where none currently exist,” Slatkinsky said.

On the residential streets in Brighton, the new zoning would allow “modest” home expansions, Slatkinsky said. The area would be rezoned to R5D, which limits building height to 40 feet or about four stories. Existing buildings on these blocks are about 35 feet tall.

In the bungalow district, there could be additional new development – but not skyscrapers.

Currently, “We’re seeing mainly three- to 10-story apartment buildings” constructed in the bungalow community, Slatkinsky said.

The rezoning “provides incentives to create a more patterned development there,” she said.

The area would be rezoned from R6 to R4A or R5D and would create a height limit of three stories.

For commercial areas and blocks with apartment houses, there would be R7A zoning and a maximum new building height of eight stories.

On Brighton Beach Avenue and Ocean Parkway, rezoning would allow for new buildings at 100-125 feet tall. For these buildings, incentives would be offered if developers make 20 percent of the units affordable housing – affordable to a family of four making $56,700, which the city says is the average income for a Brighton Beach family.

That figure was quickly shot down by frustrated residents who said the “affordable” units aren’t affordable enough.

“There’s no way, shape or form we could match $57,000 for an apartment,” said Anna Daratany, a resident of Brighton 5th Street. “There’s nowhere for people like me to go but the shelters or the projects.”

Community Board 13 member Jeannette LoScuito said the rezoning plan supports development.

“What you’re doing to Brighton is putting up high-rises without saying it,” she said. “Traditional Brooklyn is three- to four-story walkups, five- to six-story walkups, seven-stories with elevator. That’s it.”

“You’re not downzoning enough,” said community activist Ida Sanoff.

Some residents said the rezoning plan is too late.

“It’s almost all overdevelo­ped,” said community stalwart Lou Powsner.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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