City Backs Effort to Upzone Caton Place Property

March 2, 2006 Park Slope Courier article by Charles Hack
This headline for this article is not quite accurate and doesn’t match the content of the story; notably, the online headline is very different from the printed headline that said something like “City Trumps Community”.  This headline is slightly better, but doesn’t impart the idea that this move by City Planning is part of a possible compromise agreement to which Stable Brooklyn is a party–ed.

Story follows:

The Department of City Planning voted to upzone a Windsor Terrace property allowing a seven-story condominium, after local residents opposed a rezoning application from the property owner.

The panel of City Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the developer’s application for the site at 22 Caton Place, but trimmed the owner’s high-rise vision by one story, from eight to seven stories, at the hearing room at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan on Feb.22.

“The modifications were made because of testimony heard at public hearings, so these changes symbolize how important the public process is,” said Jennifer Torres, spokesperson for City Planning.

Mandy Harris, a Kermit Place resident and a member of the Stable Brooklyn Community Group, the lead organization opposing the rezoning, said that until she had considered the detail of the modifications to the application, it is too early to comment on the Planning Commissioners’ decision.

According to information provided to this reporter, the commissioners approved an R7B instead of an R7A.

Rather than allowing a 80- foot, eight-story building with a floor area ratio of four, the zoning will allow a 75-foot, seven-story building with a floor to area ratio of 3.

The street wall can be 60 feet instead of 65 feet.

Under current R6 zoning, the owner had said he could construct a five-story, 44-unit building as of right, with 49,975 square feet and an FAR of 2.2.

The current 7,000-square-foot site has been a one-story manufacturing building.

Residents living near Caton Place had turned up in force at public hearings held under the ULURP process at Community Board 7, the Borough President’s Office and the Planning Commissioners to oppose the application.

Speaker after speaker opposed the new zoning, concerned that the proposed buildings would destroy the low-rise character of the neighborhood, cause excessive traffic congestion, and strain existing services.

There are already three other projects on the horizon, at 346 Coney Island Avenue, at 23 Caton Place 362-364 Coney Island Avenue, which together represent over 200 new apartments.

Horseback riders from nearby Kensington Stables at 51 Caton Place – which has recently lost one of its two stables to condo development – said that additional traffic will scare their horses and cause accidents. They also lamented the loss of the village feel that the city neighborhood had.

After discussions with Councilmember Bill de Blasio, the Stable Brooklyn Community Group sent a letter – with some 80 signatures — proposing a compromise that included the R7B zoning. But in addition, they wanted 100 percent parking below ground, 16-foot side yards on the side of the lot bordering with 81 Ocean Parkway, and an eight-foot yard bordering properties along East 8th Street. They also called for an attractive security wall with landscaping at the rear and sides.

“It is a tough bargain to make because we opposed this type of density,” said June Reich, who lives on Kermit Place. “We are dealing with a bunch of buildings going up in this neighborhood as of right.”

No further modifications were included in the Planning Commissioners decision, according to sources, but hypothetically changes could be made at City Council when they vote on the final approval. The developer agreed to include a two 8-foot side yards, and landscaping will be required. The percentage of parking spaces – probably at ground level – required would be 50 percent of the number of units.

The 22 Caton Place Corporation said they wanted to build a 79,000-square-foot eight-story condo building with 68 units, according to said attorney’s developer, Marvin Mitzner, of Cozen O’Connor, at 909 Third Avenue, Manhattan.

“Our feeling is that we applied for R7A believing that this was an appropriate density for the site, considering the depth to width ratio,” Mitzner said. “But R7B is certainly something we can develop. We believe that under a R7B district we can produce an attractive building that will help to meet the housing needs for the community.”

The upzoned parcel is bounded by Caton Place, a line 100 feet southwesterly of East 8th Street, a line between Caton Place and Kermit Place and a line between Ocean Parkway and East 7th Street.

The Planning Department heralded their decision as a shining example of the public planning process.

“Twenty two Caton Place epitomizes the attention that the City Planning Commission gives on each and every application,” said Amanda Burden, chair of the City Planning Commission following the decision. “This was a relatively small rezoning, however the passionate testimony of community and different stakeholders made a difference,”

“We agreed that the proposed rezoning was not appropriate,” said Burden. “But neither is the existing zoning so we have come up with another plan. Our proposed modification seeks both to provide housing at an appropriate scale to protect the neighborhood character,”

Stable Brooklyn Community Group are to organize to protect the neighborhood and are now running planning workshops to inform residents of their rights, Harris said.

“I hope to have the Planning Department be part of our continuing planning workshops,” said Harris.


©Courier-Life Publications 2006


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