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Well over 100 people packed the chapel of the Grace Reformed Church on Bedford Avenue last Tuesday night to protest construction of a 24-story glass tower in their community.
Standing at some 270 feet in height, the 86-unit luxury condominium project slated for 27-35 Lincoln Road would easily dwarf any other building presently surrounding it and residents fear it’s just the tip of the spear.
“The construction of high-end housing on such a massive scale will just accelerate a process of uprooting long-term residents that is already well underway,” said teacher Nancy Hoch. “We’re already seeing rapidly rising rents that threaten both residential and small commercial tenants.”
Lenox Road resident A. Victoria Hunter said that she worries about being able to continue residing in the community where she’s lived since the 1970s.
“I like living in this community,” she said. “I like living near the park. I like living near the central library and the botanical gardens. We have a beautiful community, a beautiful mosaic…and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Another resident named Mary Gumbs said that exploding rents forced her to pack her bags in 2007 after 40-plus years on Rutland Road. The retiree was one of the lucky ones, however, securing an affordable apartment not too far away on Albany Avenue through a lottery system.
As an as-of-right project, opponents of the new glass tower slated to rise next to the Prospect Park subway stop on the B and Q lines, have few options in fighting it.
The site lies within an R7-1 zone with a C2-3 commercial overlay. L. Rickie Tulloch, former chair of Community Board 17’s Land Use Committee argued that the height of the planned building is still way out of context with the neighborhood.
“Without re-zoning to insure that the heights of new buildings conform to those surrounding them, our blocks and community will encounter an acceleration in the construction of outsized buildings,” he said. “This in turn will lead to the demise of the fabric and essence that make our community special.”
Members of the Concerned Residents of Greater Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association – sponsors of last week’s meeting – are exploring some sort of contextual zoning or landmarking to protect the character of their neighborhood.
Those options, however, as demonstrated in other Brooklyn neighborhoods can be long and complicated.
Some frustrated residents at the Bedford Avenue meeting said that they were ready to handcuff themselves together to stop construction, while others echoed activists in Carroll Gardens in calling for a moratorium on new building.
Both the Metropolitan Council on Housing and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) are lending their support,
FUREE community organizer Theo Moore charged Mayor Mike Bloomberg with only being interested in bringing a million more “rich people” into the city.
“People here need to understand that it’s not about this one ugly glass tower on Lincoln Road,” Moore said “It’s really about all of Brooklyn…just because you aren’t rich doesn’t mean that anybody who has more money can come into your neighborhood and tell you what is good for you.”
City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene urged neighbors to channel their efforts into trying to get Park Tower Associates, LLC principals Steven and Henry Herbst to reconsider their plans.
“We are going to win only if we work together to try and pressure the owners to sit down at the table,” Eugene said.
Designs by Tom Gilman of Gilman Architects reserve the first two floors of the 24-story building for retail space. Opponents charge that the overall height of the building intrudes on Prospect Park and even poses a hazard to migratory birds.
Another community meeting focusing on displacement and development will be held on June 7 at 4:30 p.m. inside the Church of the Evangel, located on Bedford Avenue at Hawthorne Street. Those interested in attending should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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