GL Analysis: Rezoning Weirdness on Grand Street
The battle over the proposed downzoning of Grand Street to eliminate the possibility of towers in a predominantly low-rise neighborhood is coming down to the wire. Much of the impetus to get it done has been an effort to thwart two particularly tall Karl Fischer buildings that developers want to build at Driggs and Grand. One would be 15 stories and the other ten. They would be next to three-story tall buildings. With the help of community leaders, the rezoning, which would cover 12 blocks and limit most buildings to 4-6 stories depending on where they're located, has moved very quickly through the approval process and has had significant support among residents. In the meantime, the developer of one of the buildings has been engaged in what would appear to be one of the clearest examples we've seen of Beat the Downzone anywhere in Brooklyn. The way the process works, if a foundation is done before the rezoning takes effect, the building can rise to 15 stories. The practice has produced some of the most bitter development disputes in Brooklyn, as contractors often violate Department of Buildings regulations with impunity as they race to beat to the clock. On Grand Street, demolition, excavation and the pouring of a foundation have all been going on at the same time at the site of the 15-story Karl Fischer building.
Late last week, a barrage of emails began arriving from opponents of the downzoning who say they've organized a new group called the Grand Home and Business Owner's Organization, which says it represents 100 of 254 property owners that would be impacted by rezoning. The opposition managed to make yesterday's Post, claiming a "cost" of rezoning to property owners of $120 million (assuming they all want to build tall buildings). The group's own emails actually claimed a "cost" of $400 million. One email said the developer of the Fischer building is "prepared to immediately sign-off on an agreement" limiting the building to six stories without a downzoning. Another email said, "What kind of message does this send to developers across the city when the public review process can be bypassed and neighborhoods targeted that are ill equipped to fight back?" Another email predicted that rezoning "will once again put Williamsburg on the teetering edge" of "neglect, rampant crime, and out and out lawlessness."
A commenter on Curbed yesterday said that the "this dust up is an attempt by the developer of the 14 story building at Driggs and Grand to muddy the waters long enough to get his project going before this change goes through." Another said that he had been contacted "by two different developers asking me to make phone calls and send emails to help them put a stop to the down-zoning."
Given the speed with which the developer of the 15-story building is operating, even a short delay could get the "Monster Tower" vested under the old zoning.