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‘Wide’ loophole closing up

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Efforts to protect Carroll Gardens from out-of-character development are poised to yield some tangible results this week.

Community Board 6’s Landmark/Land Use Committee has approved a Zoning Text Amendment designed to close a loophole in the law that could mean more height and greater bulk on quiet residential streets if not rectified.

The proposed Zoning Text Amendment defines six blocks in Carroll Gardens as “narrow streets.” Up until now, zoning regulations have classified 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and 4th Place, as well as Second Street, Carroll Street and President Street between Smith and Hoyt streets as “wide streets.”

But after a long fight, the community has finally convinced the Department of City Planning that it is a mistake to include the neighborhood’s signature front gardens in the “wide street” calculations.

Those fearful that large, out-of-context development is rapidly overwhelming Carroll Gardens worry that without the Zoning Text Amendment, buildings as high as 11 stories or more could be erected on the blocks in question.

They say that new developments like William Stein’s 70-plus-foot tall Oliver House at 360 Smith Street are already too tall.

Borough President Marty Markowitz supports the Zoning Text Amendment and will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes at Borough Hall on May 7.

Barbara Brookhart, community activist and member of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Associ-ation, has long maintained that the original deeds to Place block homes clearly specifies the northern and southern limits of the streets, denoting that the street line begins at the sidewalk edge and not at the building line as presently defined.

A surveyor named Richard Butts designed the six-block area back in 1846. Each house on the blocks is set back behind garden courtyard measuring some 33-and-a-half feet.

Some individual homeowners have complained that the proposed Zoning Text Amendment would hamper their ability to enhance the value of the homes with new expansions.

Others like Brookhart, however, argue that the value of their homes has already been compromised, in some cases forcing residents like her who once enjoyed bright and open views to look at nothing but cinderblock walls outside their windows.

If ultimately approved by the New York City Council, the proposed Zoning Text Amendment would impact the height, setbacks and floor area ratio of all new construction on the designated blocks.

City Councilmember Bill de Blasio says that the proposed changes would be the first step to downzoning the rest of Carroll Gardens and protecting the traditional low-rise brownstone community from out-of-character development.

The May 7 public hearing at Borough Hall will start at 5:30 p.m. inside the Community Room at 209 Joralemon Street.

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