Streams

Planned Prospect Park Tower Throws Shade on Park, Upsets Neighbors

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WNYC

The Hudson Companies Inc. has started work on a 23-story residential tower a block and a half from Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But some members of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens object to the proposed building, saying it is too tall and will change the texture of their neighborhood.

"Because of the price of the luxury rental market, (the project) is going to jack up rents," said John Way, a member of the Prospect Park East Network. "Landlords will see it in their interest to kick people out and get higher rents."

PPEN has filed a lawsuit against the developer, The Hudson Companies, and the construction company. A judge issued a temporary restraining order on the pouring of concrete at the site. The suit alleges that the project will cause secondary displacement of low income residents, and that the state of New York failed to adequately assess the tower's environmental effects on the community.

"There has been no residential tenant that has been displaced by this project; it was basically a huge parking lot," said David Kramer, principal at The Hudson Companies.

The building is within the zoning regulations of the neighborhood. Additionally, the project will create 51 units for low income residents, that is, those who make between $25,000 and $42,000 per year.

"I've met with countless people who are excited by this project," said Kramer. "This is a neighborhood that hasn't had any investment in new buildings, and they're excited."

The developer will likely receive numerous benefits in exchange for creating the affordable units. It's eligible for a 25-year property tax exemption from the city. Additionally, New York State has allocated tax exempt bonds to the developer that will make the housing tower eligible for federal tax subsidies.

PPEN and other concerned residents want the developer to create even more affordable housing while at the same time lowering the height of the building. That's a request that housing advocates say will be a tough ask of Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. The mayor has said he will entice developers to create more affordable units by guaranteeing them that they can make more revenue from bigger, taller buildings.

Residents say they are also in talks with the city to change the zoning regulations in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood. It is currently zoned to allow for residential towers. 

UPDATE:  State Supreme Court Judge Peter Moulton issued a decision that denied the preliminary injunction and vacated the temporary restraining order he had issued.

In an emailed statement, Hudson Companies said it is pleased with the decision. It added that construction continues at the project.

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Comments [15]

Janet Babin from New York, NY

Thanks everyone for their interest in this story.

I want to clarify the way I use the word 'density' in this story. The word in this instance refers to how many units fit onto a given parcel. I believe that is common parlance, and the way the word 'density' is usually understood in most public debates. Height is usually a separate issue in that debate.

This usage of the word 'density' is also how the Mayor's Affordable Housing plan uses the term.

Thanks so much.

Jun. 11 2014 04:03 PM
Kmain from Brooklyn

Let 'em build! The more housing units that are available, the more affordable housing becomes. This is grade school stuff.

Just don't give them a tax break for it. Let the market do its thing. It will, if we actually let it for once.

Jun. 11 2014 02:58 PM

A twenty-five year tax abatement is ridiculous; that only means increased pressure on rent-stablized tenants and landlords to make up the shortfall. Maybe a forty-six floor tower should be built so the density increases and the older six-story buildings could be torn down.

Jun. 10 2014 06:26 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I don't think that the opposition is solely about the height of this building, but also on what is being promised. There are developers known for making false promises, which was just to get their way to build what they want. For example, Bruce Ratner promised many who would fight for him jobs and affordable housing if he got his way on the Atlantic Yards, and he is still yet to deliver much on that. If you bother to look in just that picture, you will see that there is nothing as tall as what is to be built there, which really makes it feel out of place. I don't see why developers can't just work with the neighborhoods rather than against them.

Jun. 10 2014 02:45 PM
wulgu

"This is a neighborhood that hasn't had any investment in new buildings, and they're excited."

Huh? This isn't true at all, there's another construction project literally a block away from this one that no one objects to. Good work, intrepid reporter!

Jun. 10 2014 11:42 AM
Gail from Manhattan

We certainly need more than 20% of the housing to be affordable! About 90% of us are not able to afford Luxury Housing! And OUR tax money is going to pay the costs of this building's police and fire protection, street paving and snow removal, since it will have a 25 year tax exemption

Tall luxury housing with 20 percent "affordable" units raises the rents and other living costs in diverse mixed income neighborhoods like Prospect Lefferts Gardens. It makes the neighborhood less livable for people who live there now. And where should they move to? Particularly those with rent stabilized apartments will not find it easy to move.

In addition, City Parks need protection. Central Park and Riverside Park have constant need for care, and some of it is expensive. Riverside is showing signs of developing sink holes. By putting an eyesore on the border, shadowing the trees and grass, only makes Prospect Park less attractive. City dwellers need air and space to walk, play and see living plants!

Jun. 10 2014 11:24 AM
Quest from Prospect Lefferts Gardens

HUGE error in the article: This is NOT a low density strip. If you look at a density heat map of Brooklyn you will see that these 2 park adjacent sure look like the most densely populated in Brookly. Along Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue and adjacent streets and dead-end courts there are many 6-story buildings with Floor-Area-Ratios of 5+; 626 is set to be a skinny building in the middle of a huge lot (FAR of only 3.44). So much more could be built there and, despite distortions by some, most in the community (including official PPEN positions) want MORE truly affordable housing. That means housing for folks making way below the 50% of Area Median Income (the standard for most of the units at 626) and more reflective of ACTUAL NEIGHBORHOOD INCOME. AMI=~$80k, Neighborhood=~ $35-40k, so 50%AMI is TO HIGH for the lower income earners in the neighborhood (AMI & Neighborhood aveage income numbers based on a family of 4).

Also folks seriously Secondary Displacement IS real. Saying 'more=better' till you're blue in the face doesn't make it so. If the mix is heavy for luxury it incentivises thugish tacktics to wearhouse existing rent regulated units. This is the real world and that's what's already happening; more luxury units will accelerate it and retard efforts to protect tenants. Please tell me in which of the following neighborhoods the addition of luxury units has lowered rents:
Williamsburg?
Greenpoint?
Dumbo?
Anywhere in Brooklyn?

Maybe at some point somewhere in the calculations of how to treat our neighbors some tiny consideration should be given to the existing community that has done so much for so long to make this a nice place to live before we were 'On the map'. Maybe at some point community shouldn't be the very last consideration.

Jun. 10 2014 10:06 AM
Alan P. Berger from Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Unfortunately one of the main points of the opposition to
the current plans of this project, 626 Flatbush Ave., is being misunderstood
or lost in this discussion. None of the groups that I have heard in the many
neighborhood meetings I have attended in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, have come
out against new developments and more housing. They have advocated
for more contextual housing development that takes into
consideration the current housing stock of the neighborhood, as well as how it will
impact the neighborhood, its resident, and the local environment. The environmental
reviews required of such a project were never conducted and that is why a judge
issued a temporary restraining order to the Hudson Companies.

Furthermore, every other neighborhood bordering Prospect Park has zoning that limits the height
of new development to about 4-6 stories - in context with the bulk of their current housing stock.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens does not, and is seeking the
same contextual zoning as these other neighborhoods (Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, etc.).

Jun. 10 2014 09:57 AM
SF from nyc

so sad to see what's becoming of quiet neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens.
Why did I ever think they would be immune from being manhattanized (i.e. auspicious millionaires everywhere).
This is so ugly.

Jun. 10 2014 09:44 AM
Mike from Williamsburg

If these people want their community to be affordable without building, even on parking lots, then the city should cease their trash collection and police protection. It will be quite affordable then.

On the other hand, if making the city worse isn't a viable strategy, the only thing that's left is to build and then build some more. People want to live in New York and we need places to put them.

Jun. 10 2014 09:14 AM
Leslie Gulick from Flatbush-PLG


I am part of PPEN, the neighborhood group spearheading the lawsuit. The 23 story luxury tower is not dense! It's density is 3.4 while good affordable housing density standard is around 6. The building has 80% market rents with 20% so called "affordable" but still out of the reach of most people in this neighborhood. This is only because the developer got a $71+ million loan from the state, so they are required to build an 80-20 building. Median income in this neighborhood is $41,000. Actually, this is the densest area in Brooklyn with thousands of rent stabilized tenants. They are already feeling the pressure--more people are being harassed, basic amenities, denied. The neighborhood is more than 60% African American and Caribbean, One plaintiff is the Flatbush Tenants Coalition, representing more than 20,000 low income tenants in the Flatbush area. They are represented by Brooklyn Legal Services. Go to our website www.PPEN.org for the full story. 

Jun. 10 2014 08:47 AM
Brooks White from brooklyn

The mayor's desire for increased density through high-rise structures is reminiscent of urban planning the brought the City its crime infested projects. Weren't many of these just torn down? The new mantra is mixed use. Should note that the Hudson proposed project on Flatbush Ave (not on Ocean adjacent to Prospect Park)ties affordability to 20% of the area's median income. Real estate developers take a long view, so if more do similar 80/20 high density projects in the area, over time the area's median income will rise and affordability will diminish. It should be tied to a percentage of the Federal Poverty Level as are most social programs (especially if 25 years of tax benefits are being provided). Tax benefits should decline if other tax incentives/benefits are afforded to the 20% residents (e.g., SCRIE), and if affordability is outside the FPL % range.

Brooklyn is losing its light and air even to market rate housing. The Prospect Park vista was reduced by the so-called Modern classic at One Grand Army Plz (do they have their Cert. of Occupancy yet?). Hudson builds mixed use housing of all sizes throughout NYC (has a project planned at Caton). On Flatbush near this project there looks to be about 16-17 story buildings and they could top off at that level. NYC and Brooklyn is being overbuilt, considering demographic changes which will occur within 10 years and the City's declining financial base (e.g., finance industry) to support it and these tax giveaways. These tax incentives do not fund the schools and other infrastructure demands that come with these high density developments. NYC should price this all in before following the mayor down this high density "affordability" path.

Jun. 10 2014 08:32 AM
JC from Brooklyn

The economic ignorance of so many of us is outstanding.

Building more and nicer housing does not displace people in and of itself. It adds to the supply of housing, thereby driving prices down, and it adds to the expectations for housing quality, making existing housing worth less by comparison.

The only way adding nicer housing could do the opposite is by regulations that stop more of it from being built to meet increased demand for housing in that rejuvenated area. (Which is precisely what we do in this city.)

Want affordable housing? Let developers build more housing! It's simple supply and demand. The last time developers "overbuilt" luxury condos, we had the Harlem Renaissance. Not a bad outcome for society.

Unless we subsidize their losses (which we should not do) the only people who lose during fancy housing "overdevelopment" are the developers, and upper middle class people who refuse to think rationally and responsibly before buying something as important housing.

When will we New Yorkers learn? It's time to go back to school and stop being a city of 75% economic ignoramuses.

Jun. 10 2014 08:01 AM
Judith Levine from Carroll Gardens, BKLYN

Not to mention the shade it's going to cast across Prospect Park.

Every NYC administration, probably since the 17th century, has been owned by real estate interests. Why did we think BDB would be different?

Jun. 10 2014 07:36 AM

Mayor "de Fargio's" mandate for delusionary zoning addresses NYC's "housing shortage" by sprinkling a sample of the lower middle class households among the residences of the affluent. All of the rest of the 99% (especially the "poor") will be sentenced to compete for ever more expensive private housing and the rat-breeding, socially toxic "public housing" mausoleums.

" . . . The subsidy to each family getting an affordable two-bedroom unit at Abington House will be worth nearly $90,000 a year. That money could cover rent for several families in a middle-income neighborhood in boroughs outside Manhattan, like Sunnyside, Queens. . . . "

" . . . Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to create more affordable units by making inclusionary zoning mandatory: In areas rezoned to allow more density, developers would have to set aside inclusionary units, whether they used the additional density permitted by the zoning or not. By imposing this mandate, the mayor hopes to get both bigger buildings and more affordable units within those buildings. . . . "

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/upshot/affordable-housing-thats-very-costly.html?_r=1

Jun. 10 2014 06:48 AM

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