Bruce Eichner out of Crown Heights project; owner to go it alone

Original plan was killed by fear of shadows over Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Ian Bruce Eichner with 960 Franklin Avenue (960 Franklin)
Ian Bruce Eichner with 960 Franklin Avenue (960 Franklin)

UPDATED 6/17/22 9:43am A Crown Heights spice importer has filed plans for a residential development on the same land near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where Bruce Eichner’s Continuum Company spent years trying to build a much larger one.

The new filing for 960 Franklin Avenue, from Zev Golombeck, calls for six stories and 293 apartments. It’s one-fifth as many homes as the 1,500 that Continuum and Lincoln Equities filed to build in 2020 in two 39-story towers spanning 1.4 million square feet.

The reduction will spare the project from the rezoning drama that doomed Eichner’s plans.

Since 1991, the site has been zoned so that no development on it can rise higher than 70 feet. When Eichner applied for new zoning to build his towers, locals raised hell because they would send shadows rolling over the Botanic Garden across the street.

In a rare intervention, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio came out against the project in the middle of the public review session. Continuum rallied union support, briefly hired a strategic communications firm and floated a smaller version of its project, but that too was shot down.

Reached by phone, Golombeck said Continuum is not involved in the new project, though he would not clarify if he has another development partner. “I really don’t want to get into this discussion,” Golombeck said.

He won’t have to, given that he needs only financing and building permits, not new zoning. It also means Franklin Avenue will get far fewer affordable units than Eichner was offering.

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But Continuum has yet to rule out a future at 960 Franklin.

Since the rezoning fell apart, Golombeck and Continuum have been locked in a court battle over the land. In 2017, Continuum had agreed to buy Golombeck’s two parcels for $42 million, with the deal contingent upon rezoning approval. The courts previously sided with Golombeck, but an action to compel him to sell the land to Continuum according to the terms of their 2017 agreement is still active.

“Litigation is pending about whether the Golombecks properly terminated Franklin Avenue Acquisition’s right to buy the property. Merely filing plans does not eliminate or undermine in any way my client’s right to purchase the property and complete the Crown Heights project.  It is odd, however, that after a long period of inactivity, these plans were filed approximately a week before an important hearing in the case,” said Jennifer Recine, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres representing Continuum.

Continuum did not respond to request for comment.

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Continuum Company founder Ian Bruce Eichner and the former Spice Factory at 960 Franklin Street with a rendering of 960 Franklin Avenue (Getty, Google Maps, Continuum Company)
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Golombeck’s development will stand 60 feet tall and cover 198,000 square feet, according to city records. Few other details about the new plan are public, though he lists Shmuel Wieder as the architect, not Hill West Architects, who designed Eichner’s development.

Continuum had said that it could build an as-of-right condo project with 518 units.

This story was updated with comment from an attorney for Continuum that came in after publication.