Monday, January 14, 2008

Borough President Writes Planning Director About Carroll Gardens Rezoning

Markowitz Excerpt

Ever since the controversy over 360 Smith Street developed, Carroll Gardens residents have been pushing for fast action on a downzoning of their neighborhood, although the time frame that has been heard most often is 24 months. In response, the CORD group has been pushing for an interim moratorium on buildings more than 50 feet in height. CORD and others fear that delays in rezoning would encourage developers to race to build taller "as of right" structures before the downzoning. CORD had written to Borough President Marty Markowitz and got a reply from his deputy director for planning and development Richard Bearak that "Marty supports you in your desire to preserve Carroll Gardens’ special neighborhood aesthetics and qualities. He believes that we can achieve such preservation while finding appropriate opportunities to direct growth." Mr. Markowitz has also written a letter to Planning Director Amanda that is supportive of the Carroll Gardens downzone and ones for Bedford-Stuyvesant North and Crown Heights and asks about the timetable. "I would like to know whether it might be feasible to embrace new zoning initiatives that have been requested for Bedford-Stuyvesant North in Community District 3, Carroll Gardens in Community District 6 and Crown Heights in both Community Districts 8 and 9," Mr. Markowitz writes.

Here is a bit more from the letter:
As for Carroll Gardens, the residents have been quite vocal in their disappointment in the lack of action to stop out-of-context development. In addition to seeking a rezoning, they requested a moratorium and began consideration for becoming designated as an historic district. Some have even questioned the century-old legislation that resulted in the “Place” streets meeting the definition of a wide street for zoning purposes...

The “Place” streets in Carroll Gardens, while physically narrow, actually have an official city mapped width of 116’-10 ½” and include the front gardens of the buildings along the blocks. The city’s Zoning Resolution allows buildings on defined wide streets to be bigger and taller than on narrow streets such as Carroll and President Streets. The premium right to develop properties fronting First, Second, Third and Fourth Places between Henry and Smith Streets has not only resulted in the proposal at Smith and Second, but also led to a substantial number of building enlargement applications for more than 600 properties along physically narrow streets that are defined as wide streets...

I look forward to being advised of when analysis might begin for those neighborhoods seeking zoning modifications respectful of neighborhood context.
Assem. Joan Millman also wrote a letter in December that is very supportive of the Carroll Gardens request. Carroll Gardens should "be considered an immediate priority for a rezoning today," she wrote. The moratorium request will get a push forward at the end of January with a City Council resolution from Council Member Bill de Blasio, who many residents have bitterly criticized for not taking substantive action to push a fast downzone, and a rally. Residents we spoke with said they were skeptical about the resolution and concerned that it is simply a political gesture if there is no real push for a moratorium or action to get the downzoning fast tracked. Ms. Burden has replied in the past that the city can't commit "to a precise time frame" for action. There is more detail about the letters as well as links to copies of them on the CORD blog.

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