Gotham Org’s Fort Greene project overcomes local opposition

City Council approves zoning for 23-story structure as court dismissed foes’ case

New York /
Oct.October 25, 2021 09:00 AM
Gotham Organization Chairman Joel Picket with the proposed development at 130 Felix Street (Grid Properties, Rendering via FXCollaborative)

Gotham Organization Chairman Joel Picket with the proposed development at 130 St. Felix Street (Grid Properties, Rendering via FXCollaborative)

UPDATED Oct. 25, 2021, 10:54 a.m.: Gotham Organization got the green light Thursday from the City Council for a controversial plan to develop a 23-story mixed-use building in Fort Greene.

The developer would raise the building at 130 St. Felix Street. The project, featuring more than 120 residential units, including 36 below-market condos, would also include an expanded Brooklyn Music School.

Most mixed-income developments in recent years have been rentals, but the St. Felix Street development’s affordable ownership model was not enough to sway residents, including of an adjacent 529-foot building, who may have their views altered by the 267-foot-tall project.

The Council approval — which came despite the Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee’s advisory opinion against the rezoning in May — backed the project in a 41-1 vote. Seven council members were absent, including Laurie Cumbo, who represents Fort Greene and negotiated the plan, as Council custom grants the local member veto power over rezonings.

In a statement, Bryan Kelly, president of development at Gotham, said the project is “anchored by Brooklyn Music School and an equitable mixed-income affordable homeownership model that hopefully sets the trend for future developments.”

Cumbo, who was present at the Council subcommittee meeting where the negotiated zoning was initially approved,  did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development would replace an open-air parking lot, incongruously located just steps from Atlantic Terminal, the largest transit hub in Brooklyn. Gotham closed the lot after purchasing it in 2015, a representative said.

Will Thomas, executive director of Open New York, a volunteer-led pro-housing organization, said his group supported the project because it would create mixed-income housing in a transit-oriented, desirable neighborhood.

“It’s a smart, desperately needed investment,” he said.

For supporters of the project such as Shaurav Datta, 39, of Downtown Brooklyn, this is the type of development that would have allowed his friends — young families — to stay in the city rather than relocate to such places as Texas or Tennessee, where housing is significantly less expensive.

“I was particularly excited about this project because it’s really unique in that it was offering affordable home ownership opportunities in a part of Brooklyn that is just simply out of reach for so many people,” he said.

But Preserve BAM’s Historic District, a group of residents of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District, which includes the project site, argues that the new structure would alter the character of the district, which mostly consists of 30- to 40-foot buildings. The group sued the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, alleging that its decision to approve Gotham’s plan was swayed by “political and social issues.”

The group includes residents of One Hanson Place, the condo project in the 529-foot-tall, landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, just south of the proposed site. Michael Gruen, attorney representing the group, said the historic district was designated to preserve the view of the iconic bank building from afar.

“If this is built, it will cut off the view of the lower half of the bank building in large part and will almost completely obliterate the northern wall of the bank building,” Gruen said. “It’s going to make a huge difference.”

Coinciding with the City Council’s vote Thursday, the state Supreme Court moved to dismiss the group’s petition. Gruen said the group is considering filing an appeal.

“No final decision has been made,” Gruen said. “But the decision is, in my opinion, very open to question.”

This story has been updated with a statement from the Gotham Organization.





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