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Report Praises Downtown Brooklyn Development, But BP Calls Area Overcrowded

 Borough President Eric Adams says residential development in Downtown Brooklyn has placed a strain on the neighborhood's infrastructure.
Borough President Eric Adams says residential development in Downtown Brooklyn has placed a strain on the neighborhood's infrastructure.
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A new report attributes the successful growth of Downtown Brooklyn in part to the area’s 2004 rezoning, despite Borough President Eric Adams saying the rise in residential development it caused has placed a strain on the crowded neighborhood.

Since 2004, nearly 41 million square feet of residential, commercial and institutional space has been built or is in the works for the neighborhood, according to the report titled “Downtown Rising: How Brooklyn became a model for the urban development.”

The report, which was released last week by NYU’s Rudin Center, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Appleseed Inc., details the transformation of Downtown Brooklyn over the last 30 years as a residential, commercial, educational and cultural hub for the borough.

“Downtown Brooklyn has transformed into a 24 hour live, work, play neighborhood,” said Sen. Charles Schumer in a statement. “Businesses and people simply want to be here.”

The report cites several key factors in the area’s success, one of which was the 2004 rezoning.

In 2004, the city published its Downtown Brooklyn Development Plan aimed at revitalizing the area. The plan called for a major rezoning of the downtown area, improvements to transit and the streetscape and new public investments in parking facilities and public open space.

Since then, the area has seen more than $10 billion in private investments and an estimated $1.5 billion in city and state investments, according to the report.

Development has surged since 2004 with the completion of 14.3 million square feet of new or rehabilitated residential, commercial and institutional space, the report says.

An additional 11.5 million square feet of space is under construction and 14.9 million square feet are in the planning stages, according to the report.

Yet a separate report released last week by Adams criticizes the 2004 rezoning, saying the plan has strained the local infrastructure by placing an emphasis on residential development over commercial development.

“In many ways the [2004] rezoning was a success…[but] unfortunately, much of the premise for the rezoning has not been met,” Adams said in the report.

“Downtown Brooklyn is bearing a burden of unanticipated new residential development without a comparable level of infrastructure to sustainably support a growing 24-hour community.”

The rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn was meant to result in 4.6 million square feet of office space, 850,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 housing units by 2014, according to Adams.

Instead, only 1.3 million square feet of commercial property has been developed and more than 11,000 units of housing have been developed or are in the process of development, Adams said.

While development has boosted the local economy, adding more than 17,000 jobs since 2002, it has caused the residential population to almost quadruple in the past 15 years, from 5,733 in 2004 to more than 20,000 now, according to the report and Adams.

The increase in population has placed a burden on schools and transportation, according to Adams.

By 2017 the neighborhood is expected to absorb more than 4,000 newly occupied apartments and 1,164 new students, local leaders have said

The number of subway riders has also increased more rapidly in Downtown Brooklyn than in other parts of the city, an increase of 30 percent from 2002 to 2014 compared with a 24 percent increase system-wide, according to Adams.

Adams is asking the city to consider an amendment to the zoning text that would encourage the development of commercial property in Downtown Brooklyn, as well as expand opportunities for affordable housing in the area.

“The gap between what was assumed for the 2004 analysis and what has been developed warrants a fresh look at how to accommodate past and future growth and direct necessary capital budget investment,” he said in a statement.