City Council speaker throws cold water on Savanna’s Downtown Brooklyn project

Melissa Mark-Viverito says proposed building at 141 Willoughby Street is too large for site

TRD New York /
Oct.October 11, 2016 10:19 AM

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has weighed in on Savanna’s ambitious 49-story mixed-use proposal in Downtown Brooklyn. And, as you might have guessed, she’s not thrilled.

The speaker, increasingly at odds with Bill de Blasio’s administration, spoke out against the private equity firm’s rezoning plan that would bring 270 apartments — 81 affordable — and more than 120,000 square feet of commercial space at 141 Willoughby Street. The plan is favored by the mayor’s administration and was approved by the city planning commission last month.

Mark-Viverto says the plan is too big for the site, which sits outside the area of Downtown Brooklyn that was rezoned 12 years ago.

“The proposal for 18 FAR at 141 Willoughby would allow for a building that is 50 percent larger than what is permitted in other locations in Downtown Brooklyn, and 300 percent more than what is allowed on this site,” Eric Koch, a spokesperson for Mark-Viverito, said in a statement to Politico.

Mark-Viverito’s statement before a scheduled vote is unusual. Typically, speakers defer to local council members on land-use matters. Sources told Politico that the speaker’s statement was to provide “political cover” for Councilman Stephen Levin, who last week expressed concern with the proposal and the precedent it might set.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also suggested there be changes made to the proposal.

Savanna TRData LogoTINY needs a zoning change under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy to receive a 50 percent increase in total floor area over what is currently permitted. Representatives for the developer last week pushed for the rezoning and said an alternative plan could benefit the community far less.

The dispute at 141 Willoughby is yet another example of the challenges developers and a frustrated city administration face in building affordable housing under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. Rezoning applications have been shot down in Inwood and withdrawn in Sunnyside, as The Real Deal reported in its October issue. [Politico]Miriam Hall


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