Montagues and Capulets of Brooklyn Development

The Observer’s Eliot Brown has an article out today about the warring factions on either side of the Rose Plaza rezoning. The basic thesis of the article is that the objections to the rezoning are all about politics and nothing about land use – that developer Isack Rosenberg just wants “to do the same to his waterfront land” as other developers have done elsewhere.

If Brown had done his homework, he’d know that the community has a pretty strong record of not supporting developers who want do the same as everyone else.

Rose Plaza proposes 801 units of housing, 160 (20%) of which would be affordable. Brown cites four projects in his opening paragraph that are relevant precedents. Two of these – Schaefer Landing and Domino – have (or propose) much higher levels of affordable housing (40% and 30%, respectively). The community supported Schaefer and supported the level of affordability at Domino (the objections to Domino were on other fronts). The two other projects cited by Brown – the Edge and Northside Piers – are more comparable to Rose Plaza, in that they only have 20% affordable housing. But the community voted against that rezoning, in large part because 20% was seen as too low.

Brown also cites “concerns about overwhelming the neighborhood” as another reason for opposition, but that was not a basis for the community board’s opposition to Rose Plaza. In fact, it was the board’s position that the base zoning (801 units) was acceptable, but that additional affordable housing was warranted because the developer was looking for a raft of special permits on top of the zoning change.

The community has been pretty consistent on this – give us smart, sustainable and manageable growth and sufficient affordable housing. Yes, there is political intrigue within the Hasidic community, but there is also hell of a lot of support for good growth.

2 responses to “Montagues and Capulets of Brooklyn Development”

  1. Halden is absolutely correct that the community found Rose Plaza’s density at 801 apartments acceptable and other than the issue of affordability and a call for more three-bedroom units, there were no objections to the development. And it also is absolutely true that Community Board 1 has consistently called for more affordable housing starting with the proposed comprehensive Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning. However, that has not been the City policy. There has been no other waterfront development in Williamsburg built on privately owned land with private capital that has been required to provide more than 20% affordable housing. The City’s inclusionary housing zoning text requires 20%. Schaefer Landing provided 40% because it was developed on City-owned land and the City provided approximately $16 Million for site demolition, remediation and infrastructure. The Kedem Winery site just to the north of Schaefer was approved four years ago with 20%. Domino proposes 30% but the economics of that project is dramatically different from Rose Plaza, with almost 1600 market rate units (Rose Plaza only 629), 226,000 sq.ft. of retail and commerical office floor area (Rose Plaza only 24,000 sq.ft.), 147,000 sq.ft. community facility floor area (Rose Plaza only 5,000 sq.ft.), 11.2-acre site (Rose Plaza only 3.7 acres). The special permits requested allows Rose Plaza to provide 100,000 sq.ft. of open space with only 30% of the site covered by its three buildings. Isack Rosenberg worked City Planning over a period of nearly six years to develop the plans for Rose Plaza based upon planning principles consistently applied by the Planning Commission and the City Council during that period, including the consistent policy on affordable housing. Any change in that policy should be applied prospectively.

  2. There are legitimate planning concerns on the part of the larger community, and to cast the whole thing as politics (“It’s simply the local politics that’s driving the opposition.”) is just spin. Whatever the politics within the Satmar community, there is a legitimate (and consistent) community concern that major new developments need to find the proper balance of affordable housing, density and open space. You said that in the coming days your client plans to increase the number of affordable units – and I hope that is the case – as you know, that is exactly what the community asked him to do two years ago.