View Full Version : Highs and Lows in Park Slope Rezoning Plan

April 2nd, 2003, 07:03 AM
April 2, 2003
Highs and Lows in Park Slope Rezoning Plan

When the city planning commissioners vote today on a proposal to rezone more than 100 blocks in Park Slope, Brooklyn, they are likely to fulfill the long-held desire of many residents to preserve the small-scale brownstone charm that has long lured refugees from high-priced Manhattan.

The zoning proposal, which was more than a decade in the making and has broad community support, would put restrictions in place to keep developers from building anything too far outside the architectural context of three- and four-story Victorian town houses.

"The building stock is extraordinary, just incredible," said Amanda M. Burden, the commission's chairwoman. "It's one of the great neighborhoods of the city. Its value is really in its architecture, and there had been an increasing number of sore thumbs one after another that have over and over violated the context of Park Slope. And that erodes its value."

At the same time, though, the proposal, which is widely expected to be approved, has a more controversial element. That provision, meant to generate large-scale residential development, would rezone a large swath of Fourth Avenue that runs along the foot of Park Slope. That zoning change would allow 12-story buildings to rise along a corridor now occupied by auto repair shops, gas stations, delicatessens and three-story walk-ups.

"As far as the building form, we can liken it to Park Avenue in Manhattan: It's the same width; it has the same medians that could use some beautifying," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6 and a supporter of the plan. "We think it's appropriate, that it could become a canyon of housing. And frankly, if it's good enough for Park Avenue in Manhattan, it's good enough for Park Slope."

Not everyone agrees. Housing advocates and elected officials worry that any new housing built along Fourth Avenue will be too expensive for typical New Yorkers because there are no zoning requirements for developers to set aside any units for low- or middle-income residents.

"There's a lot of good elements to the plan and we should keep moving forward, but I think it could be improved by explicitly creating incentives to build affordable housing," said Bill de Blasio, one of the City Council members representing the neighborhood. "We just can't do enough to create affordable housing in this neighborhood. There are thousands of people who feel that they are being priced out and there's basically almost no affordable housing being created right now."

Housing advocates are particularly concerned because the Planning Department has several areas throughout the city where zoning changes to spur residential development are pending. Each has its own distinct characteristics, but they include Morrisania in the Bronx, East Harlem in Manhattan and a giant proposal along the waterfront in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Contending that the city should demand something in return for automatically increasing the value of land by doubling the size of what can be built on it, advocates have proposed that developers be offered a zoning bonus as an incentive to produce some proportion of less-expensive apartments.

Called inclusionary zoning, which advocates say has been successful in other cities and towns, it would allow developers to build to a certain minimum height with no restrictions. But to build higher, they would have to set aside a certain proportion of their units for low- or middle-income residents.

"It's not that we're opposed to additional density on Fourth Avenue, but obviously here's an area that has experienced extraordinary gentrification, and market-rate rents are beyond the means" of many people in the neighborhood, said Brad Lander, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a community organization.

"Landowners on Fourth Avenue are essentially seeing their land value doubled," he said. "It's reasonable to ask for some percentage of affordable housing."

But city officials say that the approach is unsuited to the unique configurations of the New York housing market.

Inclusionary zoning has been tried in the most dense residential zones in Manhattan, Ms. Burden said, but has failed to produce many moderately priced apartments. Advocates and developers say that is because there are more attractive tax incentives available for constructing low-cost housing that do not exist in the other boroughs, and not because the concept is flawed.

Along Fourth Avenue, opinion seems mixed. "I think it will be good for the businesses, but it's not going to be so good for the people," said Franz Richard Fairweather, who owns a small real estate and tax preparation business between Eighth and Ninth Streets. "You've got a lot of old families here real old, established families and they are used to the atmosphere of two- or three-family homes.

"Park Slope is already not affordable. It will push out the low-income and middle-income people. They're already doing a good job at that."

And some residents seem to object entirely to the "upzoning" of Fourth Avenue.

"Don't tell me that, don't tell me that," said a woman living on Seventh Street near Fourth Avenue who gave her name as Michele D. "It's so crowded here in this neighborhood to begin with, there is no parking available."

Another woman on the block, Sam Puig, agreed, saying she frequently skips certain errands if her car is already parked.

"I just tried to go up to Seventh Avenue to get a sandwich," she said. "I couldn't even get a sandwich. There was no place to park the car."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

April 2nd, 2003, 02:06 PM
Oh my goodness, there's no parking! So get on a bus, moron.

I'm sure a bunch of 12 story buildings wouldn't 'overcrowd' the neighborhood. Clusters of 40 story buildings seem to do fine in Manhattan, no?

April 2nd, 2003, 03:29 PM
Does anyone else think that if they do create affordable housing, there should be a much heavier emphasis on middle-income folks and not always low-income?

Wouldn't that be better for the city all around? *AND have some more artist housing (very important).