Testimony in Support of Carroll Gardens/Columbia Street Contextual Rezoning, With Some Modifications

Testimony in Support of Carroll Gardens/Columbia Street Contextual Rezoning, With Some Modifications

(ULURP No. C 090462 ZMK)

Brad Lander * June 25, 2009

Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify in support of the contextual rezoning of Carroll Gardens and Columbia Streets.  I am the Housing & Community Development Chair of Community Board 6, and a candidate for City Council in the 39th District, which includes Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Waterfront.

I strongly support the proposed rezoning, which would preserve the character of the many wonderful blocks in Carroll Gardens and Columbia Street that are under threat from out-of-scale development under the current zoning.  As we have seen too often in recent years, the R6 zoning which is now in place allows developers to construct buildings that too often tower over their lower-scale neighbors, crowd out light and views, and undermine neighborhood quality-of-life.

I am enthusiastic about rezoning most of the neighborhood to R6B – this complies with the neighborhood’s strongly-stated preference for a 50 foot height limit for the area.  I also appreciate the inclusion of Columbia Street, in response to the request the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association, and the careful work done to restrict commercial overlays to 50 feet, to prevent commercial uses from spreading down residential side-streets.  Brooklyn City Planning staff are to be commended for their diligent work, and their many collaborative conversations with local community organizations and Community Board 6. 

While I am strongly supportive of the rezoning, there are some modifications that I would like to see made as the rezoning proposal moves forward: 

  • There are several areas where R6B would be more appropriate than R6A (which would allow buildings of up to 70 feet): in particular Henry and Clinton Streets south of Degraw, and Columbia Street south of Union Street.  These are not wide streets, and would be better zoned R6B.  
  • There are blocks in the area east of Smith and Hoyt Street where the buildings are predominantly 2 stories high; in these areas, R5B would be more in keeping with the existing built environment.
  • On Court Street, I appreciate the work on City Planning to restrict the commercial overlay to a 50 foot depth.  However, at those corner sites that are residential, R6B would be more appropriate.
  • I share the goal of increasing retail opportunities on Columbia Street, especially north of Union.  However, I am concerned that developers will not include retail space, but instead build on-grade parking, with residential development to the full 3.0 FAR above.  This is not the type of development that will strengthen the area, and I urge that changes be made to prevent it.

While I would like to see these changes, I believe that overall the rezoning is a very good one for the preservation of the neighborhood, and I strongly support it.

Finally, with this rezoning moving through at long last, I want to urge us to continue to build consensus on critical next steps in the area, including the land-marking of additional blocks, especially in the area east of Smith and Hoyt Streets (where two-story buildings predominate), and plans to “fix-the-ditch” and reconnect the neighborhoods across the BQE.  Thank you very much for this opportunity.

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