Rookie developer tries to run city’s rezoning gauntlet 

Nadine Oelsner plans 150 units, retail, manufacturing in Crown Heights

Brooklyn Developer’s 150-Unit Project Faces Judgment Day
962 Pacific Street (Getty, Google Maps)

As a teenager, Nadine Oelsner worked at her family’s Pontiac dealership along a gritty stretch of Atlantic Avenue. Now she has an ambitious plan to turn the former dealership’s storage lot into 150 apartments, an early childhood education center, retail and light manufacturing.

But first she needs a rezoning and a tax break.

Oelsner’s small company, HSN Realty, needs City Council approval to rezone 962 Pacific Street, a long vacant parcel that’s been in her family since the 1960s, from manufacturing to residential. The property lies in a gentrifying section of Brooklyn where plans for a larger rezoning are in the works.

“We need more housing. The housing shortage is real,” Oelsner said. “We love New York and we love Brooklyn. We want to make this Crown Heights community a strong live-work environment and we want a building that’s a real community asset.”

Oelsner said the project would cost $95 million to $115 million. She has already borrowed $11.5 million to get it going.

But the necessary rezoning depends on Council member Crystal Hudson. The Council is scheduled to vote next month, and by custom will vote with the local member.

In 2022, Hudson objected to two developers’ plans to build apartments along Atlantic Avenue, saying she wanted to comprehensively rezone the district rather than considering projects piecemeal.

But rezoning applications have a defined timeline, so pausing wasn’t an option. She ultimately approved the projects after the developers significantly increased the amount of affordable housing.

Hudson did not respond to a request for comment about Oelsner’s pitch for 962 Pacific. Rezoning negotiations often conclude just before the Council votes.

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The clock is ticking for HSN, which started planning its development more than five years ago after several nearby rezonings went through.

“By seeing those rezonings occur, we thought, ‘OK, we can go ahead and rezone our lot,” Oelsner said. “Everything to the east and west have been rezoned.”

Oelsner’s case to Hudson is that her project is modeled on the larger rezoning proposal, known as AAMUP, or Atlantic Avenue Mixed Use Plan.

“It absolutely fits into it,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee and former City Planning Commission member, who is not involved in the project. “These are local developers who have been in the community for decades. They are very knowledgeable about what the community would like to see.”

Oelsner’s 154,000-square-foot building would include 48 affordable housing units. She is also offering $50,000 for anti-displacement efforts.

Even if she gets the rezoning, Oelsner could be unable to get financing for the project without a new version of 421a, the expired tax break that most city rental projects need to secure a construction loan. Efforts in Albany to revive it are continuing, but have made little progress for two years.

Some rental projects pencil out without 421a if the developer has owned the land for a long time, as Oelsner has with 962 Pacific, and don’t have a big acquisition loan to repay. But that won’t matter if she cannot win over Hudson.

“It’s going to be hard to find a small developer like us that is committed to Brooklyn,” Oelsner said. “If this project gets in the hands of another big developer, they’re not going to have the thoughtfulness to give back.”

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