Skip to main content

Community Board 6 committee urges restrictions on variance request for apartment building planned for Bergen Tile site across from arena

Not so fast, a Community Board 6 committee said last night to those planning an apartment building at the Bergen Tile site across from the Barclays Center arena, mainly on busy Flatbush Avenue but also extending around to lower-scale--and quiet, for now--Dean Street.

Photo by Tracy Collins
The Landmarks/Land Use Committee urged restrictions on a developer's request for a variance to add density and eliminate parking from a six-story apartment building with nearly 55 units.

PRD Realty, owners of the triangular Bergen Tile building since 1934, want to make sure there's retail on the ground floor, not use it to meet the city's increasingly antiquated parking minimums, spots for 40% of the units.

While nearly everyone at the meeting, board members and commenters alike, agreed that the city's parking requirements don't fit in a zone near transit, some thought that, given the increased--and increasing--competition for spaces in the neighborhood, some spaces should remain in the building's basement, though not on the street level.

Restrictions on variance request

So the committee, which has only an advisory vote, agreed to support the request for a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals, subject to several conditions: 12 parking spaces in the basement; no commercial entrance along Dean Street, with glass extending only some 40 feet from Flatbush; a six-story maximum height along Flatbush; and a two-story extension along Dean Street above the garage space.

The latter would meet context with its nearest neighbor along the south side of the street, but, of course, vastly out of context with the expected 34-story modular tower Forest City Ratner aims to build and the arena nearing completion.

Council Member Letitia James opposed the application as presented, as did the Dean Street Block Association, giving a push to the committee.

The matter goes to the full Community Board in May, and then to the Board of Standard and Appeals, which is not required to agree. The developer, said attorney Ray Levin, would "prefer not" to follow the conditions requested by the committee. Once a plan is approved, construction could take 18 months--meaning it would continue after the arena opening.

While Atlantic Yards was brought up only a few times, it remains a context. Reprising remarks he made at another committee meeting earlier this week, board member Lou Sones observed, "A lot of people in this neighborhood have been basically screwed."

Either they were kicked out by eminent domain or are inundated by bars, he said, adding, "It was a lose-lose for everybody in the area." (Well, certainly not for some retailers.)

Developer presentation

Video of Levin's initial presentation--though not the Q&A/discussion--is below.

Given the triangular site, as well as the presence of the subway below ground, to fit the full amount of parking, they'd have to build a ramp to go up, thus eliminating a lot of space, Levin said. Instead, the basement would be storage for the retailers and building residents.

He noted that, if they built as of right, because parking doesn't count against bulk limits, the building would be eight stories, even farther out of scale with with its adjacent neighbors, which on Flatbush Avenue are only a couple of stories but could be taller.

Levin later said that the site, given that it was across from the arena, was not seen as a "family-friendly location;" thus the tentative configuration was 25 studios, 20 one-bedroom unites, and eight or nine two-bedroom units. If the market changes, units could be combined.

This is consonant with Forest City Ratner's plans for smaller units in the first residential building. While there's clearly a desire for larger subsidized units, the arrangement of market and affordable units must mirror each other, and singles and couples would be more likely to pay the high market-rate rents, valuing location over tranquility.

Levin said the developer plans affordable housing, though he wouldn't guarantee it would be included at that site. The firm would participate in the 80/20 program, gaining tax breaks for making 20% of the units are subsidized and thus affordable or buying certificates that ensure that affordable housing gets built elsewhere in the city. Skeptical audience members suggested that the latter tactic would be far more likely.

Hardship, support, and criticism

Levin said the application includes a financial analysis that explained why it would be a hardship to build differently--a statement that drew some skepticism, given the increased demand for sites near the arena.

Levin maintained it was unfeasible. "We could develop a two-story commercial building with no parking," he said, but the developer doesn't want to do that. "He's a residential builder." PRD has built the Heritage in Park Slope, among other developments.

Then again, in 2008, the owner was aiming to rent the Bergen Tile site out as retail. PRD also has built the Atrium, a clothing store just down Flatbush Avenue. (Note fines over $10,000 for Department of Buildings violations.)

Regina Cahill of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District said the organization supported the configuration of the building, with retail--not parking--on the first floor. She said that, at six stories, the building was in scale with other properties in the neighborhood.

The Dean Street Block Association sent a letter (below) calling for, among other things, no parking at street level but some below ground; ground floor continuous retail on Flatbush Avenue; and a smaller number of units, meaning larger apartments, and thus a lower demand for parking.

It suggested there was no compelling reason to override the zoning along the Dean Street side of the building to allow a larger building envelope on that segment of the structure.

Council Member James sent a letter expressing skepticism about claims of economic hardship and criticizing the design of the building, suggesting the desire for uniformity crowded out the possibility for a varied structure. She suggested any variance be offered not for the entire parking facility, just the spaces not built.

Dean Street Block Association Letter on 215 Flatbush


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …