Council approves polarizing Garden–adjacent towers in C’Heights

Going up: Council approved a developer duo’s request to upzone land near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden so the pair can construct two 16-story towers, after Crown Heights Councilwoman struck a deal with the builders to create more below-market-rate units as part of the scheme.
Brooklyn Paper
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The city approved a developer’s request to upzone land near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to make way for two controversial towers, after a Crown Heights councilwoman hashed out a deal she claims will nearly double the amount of below-market-rate housing included in the project.

“This is nothing short of a miracle to announce I have secured commitments to increase affordable housing,” Crown Heights Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo boasted at a Dec. 13 Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises hearing, ahead of the body’s full vote on Dec. 20.

Developers Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners originally sought to build two 16-story towers near Franklin Avenue at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St., which would together include 518 rentals, 140 of which would be below-market-rate.

But under the new deal, the builders are required to dedicate space for an additional 118 so-called affordable rentals, bringing a total of 258 below-market-rate units to the area, according to Cumbo.

Almost all of the additional affordable units will be built by affordable-housing developer Asian Americans for Equality, to which Carmel Partners agreed to give a roughly 1,000-square-foot parcel of land in exchange for Cumbo blessing the upzoning request as part of the city’s Universal Land Use Review Procedure.

That land will be rolled into the do-good developer’s existing project at nearby 141 Montgomery St., which will exclusively include affordable housing, according to a spokesman for Asian Americans for Equality, who said the firm previously planned to construct a building with 50 to 60 below-market-rate units, but now can pack in a grand total of 100.

Current zoning regulations only allow buildings up to seven stories or less, and a Carmel rep previously said that, should the city block its rezoning request, the builder would instead only include luxury condos in its project.

The city instituted the seven-story height limit back in 1991, as part of a 13-block downzoning of properties near the Botanic Garden done largely to protect the horticultural museum and its then under-construction Steinhardt Conservatory from the shadows of large buildings.

But Cornell and Carmel’s towers will not stand nearly as tall as the 28-story Tivoli Towers built on nearby Crown Street back in 1979, and Botanic Garden bigwigs did not come out against the new high-rises — despite their condemnation by green-space patrons from across the world — instead repeatedly citing a shadow study Cornell conducted that showed the project would not block too much sun from the growing patch.

Cumbo’s vote to approve the rezoning concluded Cornell and Carmel’s ulurp process just as the public review for another, much larger Botanic Garden–adjacent development is about to begin in her district.

Builder Continuum Company wants to erect a six-building complex with towers as high as 37 stories — featuring some 1,450 units, half of which will be market-rate — on Franklin Avenue between Sullivan and Montgomery Streets, which Botanic Garden leaders already took a hard stance against due to its size.

That land is also currently zoned for towers no taller than seven stories, and Cumbo again will ultimately cast the key Council vote on a rezoning necessary to build it and the hundreds of below-market-rate units included.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, December 24, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
I want t thank the leadership at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for their decisive inaction in this issue. Donald Trump couldn't have handled this issue better.
Dec. 24, 2018, 12:52 pm
Ian from Williamsburb says:
Disgusting and completely out of context with the neighborhood scale.
Dec. 24, 2018, 10:46 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Corruption 101. The city is selling out its citizens for a few dollars more, and the pay-to-play is now done. Someone needs to follow the money between the developers and city officials. Another nail in the coffin of trust in government. The neighborhood should fight this all the way, and get rid of their council woman.
Dec. 24, 2018, 11:06 pm
Kareem from Crown Heights says:
Cumbo delivers for her real estate donors again. She is ever loyal to big money.
Dec. 24, 2018, 11:52 pm
Roberto Gautier from Brooklyn Heights says:
It's difficult to avoid ad hominem eruptions, but I wonder if there was a quid pro quo for Councilperson Cumbo's go-ahead to the developer? What could the leadership of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden possibly gain from hard shadows onto its land? Is a veto by DiBlasio possible? Then again, think of the Mayor's role in the demolition of Long Island College Hospital and the Cadman Plaza library. This all deserves investigative work and a call for sacking the BBG's leadership.
Dec. 25, 2018, 9:55 am
ujh from Sleepy Hollow, Westchester says:
Unfortunately, nothing results in nothing. If more affordable housing is needed, for which developers receive tax benefits but less revenue, they demand the right to build higher to compensate for the loss of income from apartment affordability.
Dec. 25, 2018, 6:54 pm
Florence Weintraub from Windsor Terrace says:
Laurie Cumbo = Enemy of the People who elected her. Enemy of her own constituents. Enemy of Brooklyn. Enemy of parkland. Democrat - No better than Republicans. We should all stop voting for them.
Dec. 26, 2018, 10:20 am
david from plg says:
The buildings bring more housing and more affluence to the area. That's good news for all.
Dec. 26, 2018, 10:33 am
Crawdad from Park Slope says:
The comments are bizarre. This is obviously wonderful news for Brooklyn, which desperately needs more housing. Frankly, I don't understand why the developers can't build taller/denser given the massive existing tower between the two sites.
Dec. 27, 2018, 1:11 am
Jay from Flatbush says:
I wonder if they will have units for families and singles who earn between 47,000 -- 58,000 these are lowincome tax payers to ,who need affordable housing,which is very rare you see these incomes,when it comes to affordable units in the lottery
Dec. 31, 2018, 11:11 am

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