North Brooklyn Downzoned To Keep Big Buildings From Going Up
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 30, 2008 | 6741 views | 1 1 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Responding to several large-scale developments that have begun to change the skyline of residential neighborhoods in Greenpoint and East Williamsburg, the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning (DCP) has unveiled a proposed rezoning.

The long-in-the-works proposal that was revealed to the community at a meeting on Tuesday night (see next week’s issue of the Star for full coverage) is the product of a collaboration between local elected officials, Community Board 1, and DCP that will effectively limit the scale of new buildings and ensure that new developments include low- and middle-income affordable housing for residents that may have been displaced by the neighborhood’s changing demographic.

The 175-block rezoning includes the majority of Greenpoint, bounded on the east by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, on the west by McCarren Park and Franklin Avenue, and a portion of Williamsburg bounded on the south by Scholes Street and Grand Street, on the west by Union Avenue, and on the east by Kingsland. (For a more detailed look at the boundaries, the map that accompanies the article includes the more intricate borders of the proposal.)

Much of the area that is included in the rezoning is currently zoned R6, a mixed, medium density designation that determines building heights based on the sky exposure plane that can allow for taller, out-of-character buildings. The proposed rezoning would set much of the neighborhoods at R6A or R6B, creating firm height limits for new buildings in the area.

The R6A zoning, which is concentrated around smaller commercial districts like Graham Avenue, Manhattan Avenue (which is currently a C4-3 large commercial district), and Grand Street, allows for a maximum building height of 70 feet (6 to 7 stories), while the R6B zoning, proposed for the more strictly residential blocks in the study, would be limited to a maximum of 50 feet (4 to 5 stories).

The proposed rezoning would also designate portions of Metropolitan Avenue, Manhattan Avenue, McGuinness Boulevard, and Bushwick Avenue as R7A, which would allow maximum building heights of 80 feet and a much larger floor area ratio than allowed under the existing R6.

The zoning proposal would also create a C2-4 commercial overlay on Manhattan Avenue, Union Avenue, Nassau Avenue, Driggs Avenue, Graham Avenue, and Metropolitan Avenue, providing more allowable floor area for the growing retail businesses in the area. In some cases, like Manhattan Ave and Grand St, these overlays will allow for the continued retail use of certain blocks that are being changed to a residential designation from a commercial one.

According to a statement released by DCP, “the contextual districts will impose height limits to prevent the development of taller buildings within the low- to mid-rise context of these neighborhoods. The rezoning is not intended to significantly reduce or increase the total amount of development possible, but simply to ensure that new development is more consistent with the scale of the existing neighborhood.”

The R7A portions of the proposed rezoning were created with an eye towards the city’s inclusionary housing program. Developers in these districts will be permitted to have more floor area in their buildings if they agree to designate a portion of the units to affordable housing. These districts are located close to major transportation hubs, specifically near train L and G train stops, and on major streets.

The DCP will be presenting their proposal to the community over the next several weeks, and representatives are looking forward to community feedback that will be considered and used to improve the proposal.

DCP hopes to begin the Uniform Land Use Review Process by the end of 2008, at which time neighbors, community board members, and elected officials will be able to offer their own recommendations to the plan.

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October 31, 2008
the title is totally misleading. the area has not been downzoned yet. it's only a proposal and not law that is in effect.