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Rezoning of Bed-Stuy Sites for 296 New Apartments Gets Pushback from Locals

By Camille Bautista | December 8, 2016 5:16pm
 If approved, the proposed rezoning of lots on Flushing and Franklin avenues would bring two new residential buildings to the area, one of which would replace the Rose Castle catering venue.
If approved, the proposed rezoning of lots on Flushing and Franklin avenues would bring two new residential buildings to the area, one of which would replace the Rose Castle catering venue.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A proposal to rezone a stretch of Franklin and Flushing avenues for two new apartment buildings is at a standstill amid concerns that the project would not cater to locals.

Representatives for Riverside Developers USA Inc. presented their plan to build 296 rental apartments, with approximately 90 units slated to be affordable, to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s community board 3 on Dec. 5

The lots, located on Flushing Avenue between Kent and Franklin avenues and Flushing Avenue between Franklin and Skillman avenues, are currently zoned as manufacturing districts, which does not allow for residential use.

Developers are seeking to re-zone the sites to let them build an 8-story mixed-use building and a 6-story residential building, replacing the event and catering venue Rose Castle, a commercial vehicle storage site and other lots.

The proposal received a close vote by at the board's full meeting, with 18 members in favor of approving the project, 17 voting against and two abstentions.

According to board procedure, "yes" votes need to outnumber the combined "no" votes and abstentions in order for the board to issue a recommendation on the matter. The two abstentions mean the meeting was inconclusive.

Members are deciding whether they will vote again on the proposal in the new year, a source said.

Riverside Developers USA Inc., headed by Zelig Weiss, has 25 properties in the neighborhood, including 18 residential buildings and a hotel, representatives said.

After meeting several times with the group, the board’s housing and land use committee raised concerns about the project, including issues with traffic, affordability levels and the buildings’ design.

“They posed some very difficult questions and when we were forced to answer them, I think what ended up happening is we end up with a much better design and for the uses of the building too,” project architect Nick Liberis said this month's meeting.

“Had they not requested these things, I don’t think we would have gone into these issues.”

The developers adjusted the project to reduce the street wall height of the 8-story property at the 376-378 Flushing Ave. site to fit in with the existing character of the corridor, they said.

Proposed access to a parking garage for one of the sites was also moved from Franklin Avenue to Little Nassau Street.

Members said the rezoning plan is the first that has come before the community board since the approval of the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan, which requires developers to include a portion of affordable units in some new construction.

Brooklyn’s Community Board 3 had voted against MIH

Under the developer’s proposal, about 30 percent of units would be permanently affordable to people with incomes averaging 80 percent or below the average median Income, which is $62,250 for a family of three.

The committee suggested another option, where 25 percent of units would be affordable but at a lower income range — an average of 60 percent AMI, or $48,960 for a three-person family.

The developers are “evaluating the financial viability” of the option, but haven’t yet decided, representatives said.

Among other changes, the committee recommended that local development agencies be a part of the project’s marketing for affordable units.

Still, attendees expressed worries that the units, which range from studios to three-bedrooms, would not cater to the neighborhood’s existing residents.

“Our vote is required from the community for this to happen, but a lot of the time our community isn’t seen in these buildings,” a local block association member said.

The sentiment was echoed by other attendees, who were concerned that locals wouldn’t get a chance to live in the new development.

Residents in the district receive a 50 percent community preference for the affordable units, according to Richard Lobel, representative for Riverside Developers USA Inc.

CB3 District Manager Henry Butler added that the board will have the city's Commission on Human Rights monitor new developments in the neighborhood to ensure that all residents can apply, and that new housing does not exclude any groups.

The rezoning proposal will undergo review by the borough president and City Planning Commission before a final decision from the City Council.

The Brooklyn Borough President’s Office will hold a hearing on the project on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at Borough Hall’s community room, a representative said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the community board rejected the proposal. The board has yet to issue an opinion on the plan as a result of December 5 vote.