Empire rezoning request from commercial to mixed-use
  • 529 Empire rezoning request from commercial to mixed-use

    "In the portion of the rezoning area that is proposed to be rezoned from R5/C1-3 to R7A/C2-4, the proposed action would enable a proposal by the applicant to develop a mixed-use building, with accessory, below-grade parking, on four lots fronting on Empire Boulevard and owned by 529 Empire Realty Corporation. The development as proposed by the applicant would include approximately 68 dwelling units (68,727 sf), approximately 66 spaces of accessory parking, 24,289 sf of commercial space and 21,572 sf of community facility space. The development would be constructed on Lots 66, 74, 75, and 76 on Block 1311 (the “project site”). The proposed building would have approximately 114,588 gsf of new development."

    I personally think this is a great idea.  Not much is going on in southeast CH.


  • If this parcel gets rezoned, it will provide a basis for nearby parcels to be upzoned in a similar manner.

    Readers, 529 Empire is between Brooklyn and Kingston, and is presently being used as an Empire Kosher Supermarket.

    9018445
  • Here is the full Environmental Assessment Statement - http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/env_review/eas/10dcp020k_eas.pdf
  • Here is a partial reaction from the patrons of the supermarket who don't want it to go away:
    image
    CrownHeights.info has learned that a request has been put forth by the owner of the property housing the Empire Kosher Supermarket for a zoning variance that will allow for the structure to be torn down and replaced by residential units.

  • I'm sure that the people building this are part of the community. They may even be the operators of the supermarket. The few times I've driven by there, especially on a Friday, the double parking was so bad it choked off the street. Took about five lights to get past there.
  • I grew up right across the street. The supermarket used to be an Associated before it was Empire Kosher (back then the Associated on Nostrand was an A&P). The description says 66 new residential units; the short form actually says 80 -- either is huge for that area. But Empire is a major commercial strip. And there's been a lot of residential building on the undeveloped/underdeveloped lots on Lefferts and East New York in the past 10 years, so I'm not too surprised. I think six stories would be more in context though.

    It'll be interesting to see if and how the opposition in the comments materializes.
  • I don't believe the property owners are members of the community.
  • Yes, the comments of the CH.info posters are interesting.

    It looks like a classic battle is in the works; One where people assume that an individual's loyalty to the "community" trumps other interests.

    Throughout the world, the battle plays out based on income, hue, religion, language, nationality, etc.

    If the property owners are a member of the community now, they might be effectively ousted from it if they are perceived as building a development which brings integration/diversity into the Frum Zone.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frum
  • Even if the property owners were members of the community (which they don't appear to be), I would not be too concerned for their status within the community.  Similar situations have occurred before and will continue to occur.  In instances like this, I think it is safe to say that the ones making the noise are not the ones with the influence.  When it comes down to the intricacies, the community does not move as a single unit.
  • That is my impression as well.

    And it is part of why I am optimistic that the property owner will get due process during the upcoming battle.

    I.E. Even if Community Board 9 is full of people who want to maintain the community's present mix and the present supermarket, the CB has limited powers to deny or grant a variance.

    The larger community (i.e. NYC) gets to ultimately decide what may be constructed on this site, through entities such as the Department of Planning and the Board of Standards and Appeals.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/bsa/html/home/home.shtml

    I would hate for a property owner's rights to be denied on the mere basis that the community liked the property's present use.
  • Just got back from Community Board 9's monthly meeting where this was presented.  A first for me. Wow! I'm left wondering how anything get's done.  Seems like it is impossible to stay on topic, and I wish people would have the sense to simply sit in silence if they happen to be totally ignorant with regard to the basic fundamentals of the subject, or area, being discussed.  I guess, for some, this is the only soapbox they are going to get.
  • The main purpose of CB Mtgs may be to watch people futilely try to control their surroundings without having the power to do so.  
     
    Boro Hall held a public hearing re: the rezoning on March 19th:


    I assume the rezone of Empire Blvd is now in the hands of DCP/BSA.   

    Needless to say, the eventual outcome may be very good for the property owners in this little section of Empire.

  • Thank you very much for the update, @whynot_31.

    Have you heard anything about re-zoning eastern CH south of EP?  As you can see on the zoning map (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zone/map17b.pdf), it varies from R2 to R4 to R5 to R7-1.  I may be over simplifying it, but I heard that, at least between EP and Empire, they are going to try and make it consistent by up-zoning most of the area while down-zoning certain areas of the R7-1 north of Empire.  There was mention of using a modified R5 or R6 (height restricted in particular).  This may be part of a bigger plan across Brooklyn...

    In this CH area in particular, being that most of the homes are already over built, there is pressure to bring them withing current zoning parameters and allow for legal living space in basements, attics, and even provide for modest extensions in the back of the property.

    Thoughts?
  • southeast said:


    In this CH area in particular, being that most of the homes are already over built, there is pressure to bring them withing current zoning parameters and allow for legal living space in basements, attics, and even provide for modest extensions in the back of the property.



    What does it mean that a home is "overbuilt"?

    I wonder whether the push to downzone the areas that carry an R7-1 designation has anything to do with the outrage over 626 Flatbush.
  • @mugofmead111 - I am using "overbuilt" to describe a property which can legally have 0.75 floor area ratio (FAR) but was originally built with a higher FAR.
  • The rezoning effort predates the 626 Flatbush proposals.

    As I understand the history, decades ago people wanted to preserve the neighborhood's low density row houses and were able to get large swaths of the area downzoned accordingly.

    This included houses that built "large" before zoning existed, and houses that had illegal work done on them to make them large after zoning existed. 

    The city had periods in which chaos did not allow it to enforce the codes, and periods in which zoning didn't exist. 

    These "overbuilt" homes were given a temporary pass, but they have to be made legal when they are sold: For example, houses that are being used as illegal 5 family dwellings when they only legal for 3 families, need to rip out two kitchens to be sold.

    Often, these kitchens are then put back in after the sale. 

    My opinion? If they have two means of egress for every apartment and a modern electrical box that can safely handle to load, let's legalize the uses that are already happening.

    Let's allow their neighbors who didn't put extensions on their home because "that would have been illegal", to now do so.

    Let's get some taxes out of the deals.

    In short, I am in favor of a small upzone for "off Empire", and a big upzone for Empire itself.
  • These people are opposed:

    image
  • Mr Adams will likely use his forum to say something like "Empire and the surrounding area will be rezoned, but only after your voice is heard."

    Pro tip:  Afterwards, those who want the area:
    - to remain the same and/or
    - become affordable housing when other options are more profitable and/or
    - to prohibit "wealthy people"

    will feel as if they were not heard.

    image
  • Eric Adams is learning that no good deed goes unpunished. He has scheduled his forum on a Friday evening; observant jews can not attend.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140812/crown-heights/friday-rezoning-meeting-irks-observant-jews-others-who-cant-attend

    Although a non binding meeting, this is still a big scheduling error.

    On the positive side, the meeting may be a little more productive: One side of the debate (whether true or not, local jews are believed to be strongly in favor of upzonging) may be so out numbered that a rukus does not ensue.

    Note: I would make the similar comment if the meeting was held in such a way that the side that opposes upzoning could not attend.

    Will people find a way to work themselves into a frensy if most of the people they imagine to be their opponents are not present? We shall see.

  • whynot_31 said:

    Eric Adams is learning that no good deed goes unpunished. He has scheduled his forum on a Friday evening; observant jews can not attend.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140812/crown-heights/friday-rezoning-meeting-irks-observant-jews-others-who-cant-attend

    Although a non binding meeting, this is still a big scheduling error.  



    Sounds like this.
  • Yes. I have also learned that the location has changed a day before the event.

    "There is a change in LOCATION
    Meeting this Friday 8/15/14 at The Full Gospel Assembly at 6:00 p.m. located at 836 Franklin Avenue between Union and President Street."

    Apparently there is more than one location of the Full Gospel Assembly?
  • Rachel is helping to spread the word of the meeting's move, and seems to agree with me that this whole exercise is turning into a lesson on "How not to run a meeting"

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140815/crown-heights/controversial-rezoning-forum-relocated-leaving-many-dark
  • I think the new location is near that pizzeria on Franklin.  I never really paid much attention to the name of the church. 

    The change was due to a death in the family of the pastor of the church on Sullivan Place. I won't give too much grief about this last minute change.

    Can someone report back if anyone goes?
  • Ah, the change of location now makes sense, and makes me a little less hesitant to go.

    I'll try to drop by a little early to spread around some Brooklynian cards. If it appears like it is going to be a variety of crazy that I am in the mood for, I'll stay.

    ...but no promises.
  • whynot_31 said:


    I figured that Tim would.  From his blog:




    "Personally, I think you can have a meeting whenever you want wherever you want, but it makes no sense to call yourself a Crown Heights open discussion and schedule it on a Friday night. That's a rookie blunder, and forgivable as such, but don't blame the Q if the Chabad are rankled."
  • I almost laughed out loud today when I heard this comment about the meeting.

    Jewish guy: "At first I was angry that it was going to be held on a Friday, when lots of people who supported the up zoning couldn't attend. I was afraid they would block it. Now, I think they should have every meeting on a Friday."

    In other words, he is no longer rankled.
  • People like to complain about how Empire is filled with self storage places, and seem to want to blame zoning as the culpit.

    While zoning plays a big role, I wonder if they understand just how profitable self storage units are: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2014/08/24/self-storage-reits-cash-in-on-hot-real-estate-market/
  • The Q at Parkside provided this very helpful zoning map in his blog entry today. 
  • Zoning aside, can we just ban self storage places on the basis of being awful to look at and total block-killers? Empire Blvd is already the most dreary stretch in the neighborhood!
  • Don't worry, the storage places will quickly be converted or demolished when Empire is rezoned.

    For an example, look at Fourth Avenue in Park Slope. Not long ago, it used to be a dreary stretch of storage places and fast food.

    Then it was rezoned.
    ...now it has condos.

    Empire is similar enough that it could experience the same phenomena.
  • dl said:

    Zoning aside, can we just ban self storage places on the basis of being awful to look at and total block-killers? Empire Blvd is already the most dreary stretch in the neighborhood!



    It was dreary long before the storage places came to be. Does anyone else remember that roller skating rink? 
  • I loved that roller skating rink. Had many good times there. 
  • The Q at Parkside provided this very helpful zoning map in his blog entry today. 



    Thanks for this.  The R4 area which starts on the north side of Crown while the south side is R7-1 really irks me. I can't understand why that is a dividing line; Carroll, Crown, and Montgomery are all identical in that area.  I'd love to see the R2 and R4 areas in CH raised slightly, and the R7-1 on Montgomery and Crown lowered. 
  • Not much different on the north side of Sullivan Place either...except for The Plex. The Plex isn't even that tall.

    So, if no one can resolve things at 245 Sullivan Place, @whynot_31, someone can buy the building, knock it down, and replace it with a high rise?
  • I can't verify your reading of how it is zoned at the moment, but will state:

    If it is zoned to allow a larger building then is presently built, yes, the owner of the lot could demolish the old one and build a new one that complied with the zoning in effect.

    The owner could do this "as of right", meaning they would not need approval from the local community board. They would merely need the DOB to agree that the proposed building meets safety regulations.

    If the building was in a landmark area (it isn't) the design would have go thru more layers of approval.
  • The Q at Parkside... Empire Rezoning - Are We Being Sold A Bill of Goods?
  • The Q is certainly correct in pointing out that those who presently live in market rate units and presently struggle to afford the area, will be worse off if the area is up zoned.

    This change, however, won't be made on the basis whether it benefits or harms them.

    It will be made on the basis of whether it benefits the city. It will be designed by citywide agencies, and ratified by the City Council.

    ....which certainly is more "local" than Albany or Washington.
  • I love the Q's blog. Some of the comments made in response are interesting. 

    How would upzoning be good for the city?


  • The city makes a good deal of its revenue thru real estate taxes.

    In many instances, the comparatively wealthy people that will fill the buildings will also consume fewer city services and pay more taxes than the comparatively poor people who will no longer be able to afford the area.      

    I should probably note that neither the wealthy people or the poor people do this "on purpose", nor is it always true.   
  • whynot_31 said:

    The city makes a good deal of its revenue thru real estate taxes.


    In many instances, the comparatively wealthy people that will fill the buildings will also consume fewer city services and pay more taxes than the comparatively poor people who will no longer be able to afford the area.      



    I thought the city was not-for-profit. LOL
  • Under a competent administration/mayor, the agencies of the city pursue what is in their collective best interests.   If approval of the populace is in the best interests, it will be pursued.

    If it isn't, it won't be.

    ...despite the populist election rhetoric of the new mayor, I don't believe the present environment requires he (or the city) to abide.  

    We are going to get a lot of development and rezoning under the rhetoric of affordable housing.  It isn't a hard language to learn, and speaking it will allow you get the same jobs available under the prior administration. 


  • Another mtg is planned. Those familiar with the speakers know that they are quite left:

    image
  • press: http://theqatparkside.blogspot.com/2014/09/not-in-my-black-yard.html

    Yup, the Q and I attended the same meeting. Don't mind us curious onlookers in the back....
  • Stop the presses, @whynot_31! :)

    How long was the meeting?
  • I didn't stay until the end, but it was scheduled last until 9. I was only there for 30 minutes, from when it began at 7 until 7:30.

    That was plenty.
  • Here's text an ad from a realtor and property owner that hope the rezoning takes place:

    http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/18897346/1751-1757-Bedford-Avenue-Brooklyn-NY/

    "Epic Commercial Realty is exclusively marketing a property located at 1751-1757 Bedford on the south east corner of Bedford Ave and Empire Blvd. Located on the border of Prospect Lefferts Garden and Crown Heights, an upcoming location for national tenants including 7-Eleven, McDonalds, Td Bank, Burger King, and Rite Aid.

    The property’s prime location also offers the following benefits:

    •Walking distance to Prospect Park, one of NYC’s most beautiful outdoor parks.

    •Surrounded by national retail stores which include Wendy’s, McDonalds, Checkers, BP, Western Beef, Subway, and 7-Eleven.

    •Down the street from the Sterling St [2,5] train and Prospect Park [B,Q,S] train station.

    •In Addition, there have been recent talks of rezoning on Empire Blvd. This would give developers more flexibility on what they can build within the area.

    I look forward to working with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

    Sincerely,

    Yona Edelkopf"


  • I think it's funny that the realtor is mentioning the proximity to those fast food places on and around Empire Boulevard when some people who support the rezoning of Empire Boulevard seem to hate that those things are there. :) 

    I appreciate the realtor pointing out how "prime" the location is. 
    image
  • While this lot is too small, it isn't hard for me to imagine something like PC Richards, Best Buy or Modells if the area isn't rezoned.

    Note: I fully expect it to be rezoned.

    I believe this is merely a question of how quickly.
  • Can this area support a PC Richards? 

    Maybe it can fit a scaled down Best Buy, like the one at Union Square East. 

    ETA: From the listing:

    "The Property is located one block from Prospect Park and three blocks from the Prospect Park B,Q,S & Sterling St 2,5 train stations."

    How can it be one block from Prospect Park and three blocks from the Prospect Park train station when the Q station is across the street from the park (on the Flatbush Avenue/Ocean Avenue side)?

    ETA: I found a 1980s tax photo of the corner lot (1751 Bedford). It seems to corroborate my childhood memory that it used to be a bar. 1757 used to service cars. 
  • Really? A freaking electronics store in the era of online shopping? Talk about setting the bar low.

    I will settle for nothing less than a brand new Crazy Eddie's, with reproductions of 1980's electronics made by local Brooklyn artisans.

  • @grwd - Well, it will become illegal to throw out electronics in the trash per NYS law in 2015. ;) 


    An electronics store that will still draw people would be an Apple store, but I acknowledge that's a pipe dream.

    @whynot_31 - The Q at Parkside's post from today focuses on Alicia Boyd's latest missive about the "war" over the possible rezoning on this area (including Empire Boulevard). 
  • There seem to be two distinct views:

    - The Q seems view this process as one in which "the community" (?) might get something through cooperation.

    while

    - Alicia Boyd and MTOPP seem to believe that they represent the majority of the community and have to power to stop the process (and perhaps time itself) if they don't get what they want.

    I suspect MTOPP is about to learn the limits of our democracy.

    Even if we lived in a more direct democracy, I do not believe her members have a majority in CB9.
  • @mugofmead111 Good point. It'd be nice not to have to drag e-waste very far.

    Also a more serious post about about CB9 zoning:

    I'd like to see DCP (the Department of City Planning) find some way to incentivize keeping the gas station in the triangle (trapezoid) bound by Lincoln, Flatbush, Washington and Lefferts as open space. I know a gas station is not open space, but it hints at what it could be.

    Perhaps DCP can write a provision such that whatever developer scoops that lot up and wants to turn it into luxury condos can instead shift those air rights across the street, turn the triangle into a public plaza, get some super you'd-be-crazy-not-to-make-this-a-plaza FAR bonus, and that intersection can remains a unique node in the CB9 urban fabric.

    Having witnessed the transformation of gas stations in the past 20 years, it's only a question of when that lot turns into something else. Does anybody else agree that a public space here would be worthwhile?

  • @grwd - Why have public open space there when Prospect Park is a block or so away?

    Having it just off of Flatbush Avenue with the dollar vans whizzing by?

    I think someone over on The Q at Parkside blog had a similar idea.
  • @mugofmead111

    Good question. Grand Army Plaza is an example of a unique place that, while adjacent to Prospect Park, has a different use (sometimes a farmer's market). Across the street - why do people hang out on the steps of the library when they can just go inside Prospect Park?

    I imagine that a public space on Flatbush & Lincoln would be one that is more oriented to the local businesses, rather than to bucolic scenery or greenery.

    Perhaps a better example can be found over in Fort Greene - Fowler Square at Fulton Street & S. Elliott Place. Having recently been expanded into the roadbed, it is an example of the business-oriented plaza. Sure, you could just walk one block north over to Fort Greene Park, but there are also reasons to be there, despite the traffic on Fulton Street (while it is lacking in dollar vans, it makes up for it in buses).

    Another example from Manhattan are the numerous small parks on Mercer Street or on Sixth Avenue. Why would anybody go to such places when they can just walk over to the larger, more well-known Washington Square Park? I'm sure that by now, you can see what I'm getting at.

    Let's assume that gas station gets bought up and becomes a solid 2-3 story building mass - I imagine that the stores along Washington Street would suffer from a lack of visibility from the main drag on Flatbush. In my opinion, maintaining open space here is an opportunity to strengthen the local area.
  • grwd said:

    @mugofmead111


    Good question. Grand Army Plaza is an example of a unique place that, while adjacent to Prospect Park, has a different use (sometimes a farmer's market). Across the street - why do people hang out on the steps of the library when they can just go inside Prospect Park?



    BPL's Central branch now has tables and chairs (and sun umbrellas if/when someone puts them out there). Aside from that, there are at least a couple of benches built into the marble by the main entrance. If I were sitting over there, it'd be beacause I was heading in that direction anyway (either to or from the library or heading north on Flatbush). :)

    While we're at it, I wouldn't mind a bench or two being installed by the SB B41 bus stop. :)

    grwd said:


    I imagine that a public space on Flatbush & Lincoln would be one that is more oriented to the local businesses, rather than to bucolic scenery or greenery.


    Another example from Manhattan are the numerous small parks on Mercer Street or on Sixth Avenue. Why would anybody go to such places when they can just walk over to the larger, more well-known Washington Square Park? I'm sure that by now, you can see what I'm getting at.



    It's funny you mentioned this example. I work near Washington Square Park. I'd rather hang out in Washington Square than the little triangle park on Bleeker Street and 6th Avenue or the little park at the corner of W.4th Street and 6th Avenue - but that's just me. :) 


    @whynot_31 - I heard a teaser on NY1 this morning that on tonight's Inside City Hall, one of the subjects of discussion will be development in central Brooklyn. The teaser didn't specify which neighborhood, but I suspect Crown Heights/PLG may be involved.
  • City Hall meetings are mostly announcements and theater with regard to planning; nothing actually gets decided there.

    First DCP does a study, then has meetings about what they would like to do. The public gets to state its opinions:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml

    Then, the City Council holds a public few hearings about the proposal and votes:

    http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx

    Most DCP proposal pass the city council with large majorities.

    Then, the Mayor signs it.

    ...then it becomes law.

    Note: I may have left out some of the really boring parts.
  • The Q at Parkside says that the former Toomey's Diner at Rogers and Empire is going to become apartments. There is a question as to how the lot is zoned though.

    At least they'll have a SBS stop right outside! :) 
  • Damn, I didn't realize that Toomey's closed.  When I used to live nearby, there were several trips over there for weekend breakfast/brunch.. It was a good place if you liked hearing people winning small amounts of money on scratch tickets while consuming sustenance. 
  • I thought Toomey's was closed for renovations. I didn't realize it wasn't ever coming back. :-\ 
  • whynot_31 said:

    City Hall meetings are mostly announcements and theater with regard to planning; nothing actually gets decided there.

    First DCP does a study, then has meetings about what they would like to do. The public gets to state its opinions:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/luproc/calbeg.shtml

    Then, the City Council holds a public few hearings about the proposal and votes:

    http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx

    Most DCP proposal pass the city council with large majorities.

    Then, the Mayor signs it.

    ...then it becomes law.

    Note: I may have left out some of the really boring parts.



    This article re: the mega project at Astoria explains the various levels of approval that a large project (such as the rezoning of part of CB9) has to go through, and the position of the various players:

    http://therealdeal.com/blog/2014/10/28/astoria-coves-major-players/

    The rezoning of sections of CB9 will not be much different.

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