Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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.

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Blogger Nelson said...

The rezoning and going after the tower was misleading at best. The people that started this never told their supporters, neighors, and even friends that their own properties and businesses would get badly hurt. These poor people are now besides themselves. This was a classic Jim Jones. The $400,000,000 figure was estimated on the selling selling of a finished product (condos), the 120M was the actual loss of immediate equity to all these property owners. The would be tower developer handed Council Member Reyna a "Restrictive Deed Declaration" that would limit the property to six stories and an agreement to stop all work at the sight and with draw their permits. This took place with Council's attorney present, in a hearing room at 250 Broadway on 3/25/08. The owner of the would be 9 story tower has also agreed to the same conditions. There is no excuss to pass this devastating rezoning. The property and business owners never knew they were being damaged in the process. I was personally attest to these events. I was there. So were the many attorneys, architects, business owners and concerned members of our community.
Council Speaker Quinn now has the truth, we expect she will act fairly to our community. Before now, pretty much no one new that their property and businesses were being affected. The new zoning would also prevent the replacing of most properties as now exsist, should their property burn or get destroyed. These owners would be forced to build smaller, and sacrafice an entire floor if they wanted any kind of decent cieling height.

Grand Home and Business Owner's Organization.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

many of those who are protesting the zoning are developers themselves albeit small ones and do not care for the neighborhood context nor the long rezoning process. This rezoning has been a city and communitywide action with roots that go way back to the communities 197a plan and goes well beyond one tower. What it will do is prevent another and another tower that would result from combining smaller properties. The protesters speculated at the height of the market and
did not do their research about community process which was open and widely publicized. The cynical view is that they were too blinded by dollar signs. The kinder view is that all business ventures incur risks and zoning changes happen all the time. Some result in loss and some result in gain for property owners. I do hope that there will be some ways these folks can limit any loss but spreading lies and stirring up neighbors with confusing information doesn't help. Several of them were told by their neighbors to come to meetings but didn't pay attention. Others..well who knows. The downzoning was planned by and in the interests of the greater community. It's unfortunate that some lost but that loss may not be as great in the long run as it seems in the heat of the moment.

10:16 PM  

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