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9-Story Apartment Block Would Tower Over Vinegar Hill, Opponents Say

By Alexandra Leon | January 19, 2017 12:21pm | Updated on January 20, 2017 4:47pm
 The owner of a parking lot at 251 Front St. is looking to rezone the property and build a 9-story residential building.
The owner of a parking lot at 251 Front St. is looking to rezone the property and build a 9-story residential building.
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Think Architecture and Design

VINEGAR HILL — A property owner planning to transform a Vinegar Hill parking lot into a 9-story residential building had his rezoning application rejected because it would tower over the neighborhood.

Opponents in the local community board said it would rise more than twice as high as other buildings in the "quaint" area.

Paul Tocci filed a proposal with the Department of City Planning last month to build the 110,795-square-foot development with 93 apartments — 23 of which he said would be affordable — at 251 Front St. 

The owner wants to rezone the parking lot, which currently holds commercial trucks, to allow for double the height and density currently permitted at the site. 

But residents voiced concerns at Wednesday's meeting of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee that the new building, designed by Think Architecture and Design, would be out of context in the neighborhood, which is mostly made up of three to four story 19th century townhouses. 

“Vinegar Hill is a very unique neighborhood,” said Vivian Scott, a member of the Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association. “[The proposal] is more than twice as high as the majority of these buildings.” 

Scott asked committee members to “let Vinegar Hill stay quaint.”

Others worried the larger building, which would also include a 37-space parking lot, would overburden the infrastructure of the neighborhood, which has one nearby subway station and is mostly made up of smaller cobblestone streets.

“The York Street [F train] station is overcrowded already and will continue to be overcrowded,” said Front Street resident Patricia Smith.

Residents also said the rezoning would set a precedent for other developers looking to bring larger residential buildings to the neighborhood.

“If this project is supported, other developers will want the same upzoning and, as you can see, the vultures are already circling,” said Aldona Vaiciunas, president of the Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association. 

Vaiciunas said residents are not opposed to development on the lot, as long as it remains within the current zoning restrictions. 

“This site can be developed in a way that is tasteful and congruent with the neighborhood and that puts more thought into our community,” she said.

Tocci, whose family has owned the property for 50 years, said he had no plans to develop the property under the current zoning regulations, noting he wanted to build a rental property that he could pass on to his children.

“It has been suggested to me to build townhouses, but townhouses don’t lend themselves to rentals,” Tocci said.

“Those townhouses would then be sold and I would be out of the property. My intention is to hold it and stay in the community and pass it along to my children.”

The committee ultimately voted to turn down the application, with 11 members opposed to the development and one in favor. 

It will go before the full community board on Feb. 8.

The community board’s vote is advisory and will be taken into consideration when the application goes before the Brooklyn borough president, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.