One more time, a chorus of approbation sang the benefits of the rezoning of Flatbush, this time before the City Planning Commission (CPC).
At the commission hearing, held at Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street in Manhattan, area residents reiterated their support for the plan, which they said would help reconcile area zoning with the existing built character of the neighborhood, and serve to protect the community’s stock of Victorian homes from demolition.
The proposal, said City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, is “a collaborative effort ...that responds to the needs of the community.”
It is “a balanced proposal between the needs of preservation and the needs of enlightened developers,” confirmed Alvin Berk, the chairperson of Community Board 14.
“We consider it essential to the survival of Victorian Brooklyn, an oasis in the city,” added Joel Siegel, the president of the Ditmas Park West Neighborhood Association.
“The proposal corrects serious deficiencies in the current zoning,” agreed Richard Silverman, the president of the South Midwood Residents Association (SMRA).
Residents who have remained in the neighborhood and nurtured their homes through rough times, a couple of decades ago, “Brought Flatbush back from the brink,” stressed Tom Valentino, the vice president of SMRA. “We want to continue that. In order to continue that, we need the down−zoning.”
More than one speaker alluded to the situation on Stratford Road, where several beautiful old houses were demolished by speculators who planned to put up multifamily structures, because the existing R6 zoning on the west side of the street currently permits such development.
As it is now, “You never know when someone is going to tear down a house and put up an apartment building,” attested William Tolbert, who said it was “an emotional issue” for nearby homeowners who have poured money, time and love into restoring their properties.
The proposal, which affects 180 blocks, was certified by the Department of City Planning on March 3rd, triggering ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a mandated formal review process now winding to a close. It has already been approved by CB 14 and by the borough president.
Key among its facets is eliminating zoning districts which could encourage developers to buy up the gracious 100−year−old homes to tear them down and put up apartment buildings in their stead.
To that end, the rezoning eliminates R6 and R3−2 from the Victorian areas. Instead, endangered Victorian neighborhoods of detached homes such as South Midwood and Ditmas Park West would largely be zoned R3X, a category that is used for areas of large, detached homes, and that does not permit the construction of multifamily residential buildings.
Besides rezoning Victorian Flatbush, the plan highlights include up−zoning some commercial strips, and imposing a height limit on apartment building areas that now have none. These areas, now zoned R6 and R7−1, would for the most part be rezoned R6A and R7A, with 70 and 80−foot maximum building heights, respectively. The plan also includes incentives for affordable housing in some areas.
The rezoning will encompass an area generally bounded by Coney Island Avenue on the west; Caton, Parkside and Clarkson Avenues on the north; Bedford Avenue and the CB 14 boundary on the east; and Avenue H and Campus Road on the south.
CPC is scheduled to vote on the plan on June 17th. If the proposal is approved, it will move on to the City Council, which will have the final say on the matter. Once the council votes to approve the zoning, it will become law.