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UPDATED: Community Board to Revamp Proposal to Rezone Crown Heights

 The proposed area in Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens proposed to be studied for rezoning by Community Board 9 in Brooklyn.
The proposed area in Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens proposed to be studied for rezoning by Community Board 9 in Brooklyn.
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Brooklyn Community Board 9

CROWN HEIGHTS — Crown Heights' community board is making big changes to its request to the city to study rezoning in the neighborhood.

In a newly drafted letter to be sent to the City Planning Department, Community Board 9 removed specific references to increasing density along Empire Boulevard near Flatbush Avenue and instead is asking for the city to consider increased density on "appropriate blocks and lots."

CB9 is also going to ask for "contextual zoning," which means that building size will be determined partly by the height of existing buildings on the block. And the community board wants to ensure buildings are no taller than 70 feet.

The board’s previous letter  sent to City Planning last spring to start the process of changing land use rules in southern Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens  was scrapped in December following an incorrectly tallied vote on the subject and months of protests from a local activist group, Movement to Protect the People.

The new letter was sent to all board members this week and will be up for discussion at a CB9 land use committee meeting on Monday, before the board makes a final decision.

To prepare for the rezoning debate, CB9 held an informational meeting Thursday night led by zoning experts from the borough president’s office and City Planning.

There, city representatives gave other examples of recent zoning changes in the northern part of Crown Heights and in East New York to explain how the process works.

Residents in the room  including members of the activist group  grilled the city representatives about how much input the community would have while the city studies the rezoning. Residents also wanted to know how likely it would be that the community would be “upzoned,” or changed to allow taller and more dense buildings.

Winston Von Engel, the director of the Department of City Planning’s Brooklyn office, explained that upzoning would be determined through extensive negotiations between the city and residents. But he stressed that the city is anxious to meet Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal for creating 80,000 new units of affordable housing in 10 years, which will likely require allowing taller and more dense buildings. 

“We have citywide need for housing and we’re bursting at the seams. We are losing affordable housing and we need more  to preserve it and create more. So, it is a two-way conversation,” he said.

“It is always a give and take, even under previous administrations,” he continued. “We make compromises with each community... And for the most part, communities accepted that negotiation because they understand that they’re part of a larger goal.”

The Community Board 9 ULURP committee meeting will be held at the St. Francis de Sales School’s auditorium at 260 Eastern Parkway at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26. For more information, visit CB9’s website.

UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, the Jan. 26 meeting has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in the same location (the St. Francis de Sales School).