70−foot fears over Gardens

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A rezoning proposal for Carroll Gardens must be tweaked to thwart the rise of out−of−scale buildings on a handful of blocks, residents urged at a Borough Hall hearing this week.

Although the Department of City Planning−led proposal was met mostly with overwhelming support at the July 14 hearing, some expressed concern about a zoning designation that could potentially allow buildings up to 70 feet to flourish on Clinton, Henry and Columbia streets, as well as First Place and some of President Street.

The proposal, which otherwise enjoys broad support from local lawmakers and community groups, seeks to establish contextual rezoning in an area that has no building height limits, with the idea of keeping newer development in line with existing building heights — a principle dear to the residents of row−house and brownstone neighborhoods in Carroll Gardens and Columbia Street.

Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, which represents Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Street District, said that dialogue on rezoning originally began by drawing attention to the contested streets, and that a 50−foot cap at building heights was what the board was shooting for in the first place.

“When it comes to protecting our neighborhoods, a whole lot of something is better than a whole lot of nothing,” Hammerman said at the hearing Tuesday night, but he also added that the plan was “a huge step in the right direction.”

DCP’s Brooklyn director Purnima Kapur responded to the concerns, stressing that R6A, the disputed zoning designation, is in line with the current floor area ratio (FAR) of the neighborhood. Twenty−six percent of the neighborhood, including corridors of Court, Clinton, Henry and Columbia Streets, would be zoned R6A.

“The zoning that is being proposed is really not so much future developmen­t−planned as much as it is taking what is there today and providing an appropriate zoning solution,” Kapur said.

Kapur also cited some of the DCP’s statistical research on the area, stating that 70 percent of the buildings currently in the R6A zone are built to higher FARs than the R6B zones, which comprise 78 percent of the entire study area. The result of switching over to R6B, she said, would leave some of the existing buildings potentially non−compliant.

“If someone wanted to add a bathroom, or they wanted to add an addition to their kitchen, they would not be permitted to do that,” she said.

But some still took to the podium to voice their concerns that the height of a building could be more important than its floor area ratio.

“If you look at building heights, that’s where we hit an issue,” said 12−year Henry Street resident Rick Luftglass said. “From a technical perspective, if you look at FAR, I understand the rationale for it, but on a human perspective, when you look at the building height issue, which you experience as a resident or a stroller, that’s where the problem exists.”

Many speakers echoed similar sentiments, including a representative for State Senator Daniel Squadron, who read a statement from the senator saying that R6A would encourage “irresponsi­ble and non−contextual development.”

Updated 3:34 pm, October 19, 2011
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