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As 80 Flatbush decision awaits, a look at Lander's comment that "our highly reactive ULURP process just is not getting the job done"

A resolution on the contentious 80 Flatbush development is expected at or by a City Council subcommittee meeting today, with Council Member Stephen Levin indicating a willingness to accept some more density--a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 15, rather than 12 (plus schools), as previously stated.

But developer Alloy and its partner, the Educational Construction Fund (ECF), have asked for an FAR of 18, which would nearly triple the allowable density at the site, and be 1.5 times the density allowed in the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning. The justification is the cross-subsidization of affordable housing and schools, though the equation remains murky because the Alloy-ECF deal remains under wraps.

As that decision awaits, it's worth looking at the broader framework, and quoting Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander's comments this past Monday, 9/17/18, before the Council-spurred Charter Revision Commission 2019.

He cited 1989 changes in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), but said they weren't enough.

ULURP not working

"But we face some new challenges now, the level of growth and development the pressure that places on neighborhoods, the affordability crisis, the sustainability and resiliency issues, our aging infrastructure. And I believe that, in that context, with those challenges, our highly reactive ULURP process just is not getting the job done."

"Each application is brought either by a private developer or by the administration, and it's not judged against a broad set of goals we've collectively agreed to, for sustainability or affordability or how to share and distribute the challenges and benefits of growth," Lander said.

He suggested "a comprehensive and proactive planning process," which "involves some dialogue, data, and cross-acceptance with communities," thus allowing projects to be judged "in a real and thoughtful and fair way that makes sense to communities, that is less reactive."

With 80 Flatbush, the pressure for affordable housing and schools--the main benefits of an upzoning that could cross-subsidize them--arise from the failure to ensure such benefits in the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.


"I don't think it's simple," Lander said, citing a joke that "sometimes our whole land use process is just REBNY versus NIMBY [Not in my backyard]. Developers that want to see change happen, and people in their neighborhoods who feel that it's going to erode or destroy what's best about their neighborhoods. and we just shout it out. Right now we are not starting from a more comprehensive look at what the challenges the city is facing."

With 80 Flatbush, REBNY--the Real Estate Board of New York--has gotten some free assistance from YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) activists, whose indisputable belief that the city needs to grow is not accompanied by any skepticism about the private deal behind projects like 80 Flatbush.

"I'm not proposing that we undo 'as of right'" projects that do not need special approvals, Lander said, "but it seems to me that land use proposals that align with that plan should be somewhat easier to move through the process."

"I think the land use challenges we face are genuinely hard," Lander said. "Of course one reason they're hard is that developers are profit motivated and trying to make money on their development projects... But there are many others, and it is genuinely difficult, we have a growing city people people are moving here, not because developers are bribing them.... it's not easy to accommodate that level of growth, most people would rather keep their neighborhoods the way they are."


  1. BREAKING NEWS: Brooklyn’s 80 Flatbush gets crucial City Council committee approval - CURBED NY. Unless there is a major lawsuit...this now looks to become a done deal. 986 foot building to be reduced to 840 feet. 560 foot tower to be reduced to 510 feet. FAR to be reduced to 15.75. Council member Stephen Levin gave his approval.

    1. Project received "UNANIMOUS" approval from the City Council subcommittee. With Mayor DeBlasio's support...this is pretty much over.


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