BP Adams gives thumbs down to Atlantic Ave rezone

In a rare move for a Borough President, Eric Adams gave the thumbs down to a 18-story residential building proposed for the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues. Although Borough Presidents only play an advisory role in the land use process, Adams decision signals strong opposition to a project that already received much backlash from Community Board members.

Located on the site of a former McDonald’s and parking lot, the project would bring 300 apartments to Prospect Heights, 95 of which would be designated as below market rate affordable housing. The ground floor would host a dance studio and commercial space.

However when Community Board 8 reviewed the proposal back in march, its members were quick to highlight concerns regarding density and height.

“There is no reason to add density to a neighborhood like Prospect Heights that is absolutely swimming in density,” Elaine Weinstein, Community Board 8’s Land Use Chair, said during a meeting in March. “We cannot walk on our streets anymore. The amount of traffic and garbage is uncontrollable, and therefore it seems unrealistic to build this building as large, as high, and as dense as they [the developers] are proposing.”

The proposal still managed to pass through the Community Board review stage in March, thanks to support from members who believed the rezoning would bring more affordable housing.

The concerns Borough President’s Adams’ brought up this past week closely mirror those of the Community Board.

In a letter explaining the thumbs down, Adams’ office writes: “Borough President Adams generally supports the applicant’s proposal to increase density along wide commercial streets in the district. However, he acknowledges that the project represents a large jump in density from what is permitted in the underlying district.”

It continues: “Brooklyn is one of the fastest growing boroughs in New York City and the greater metropolitan area. Its ongoing renaissance has ushered in extraordinary changes that were virtually unimaginable even a decade ago. Unfortunately, Brooklyn’s success has led to the displacement of longtime residents who can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods. Borough President Adams is committed to addressing Brooklyn’s affordable housing crisis through the creation and preservation of housing units for very low- to middle-income households.”

The letter also cites inefficiencies with the Average Median Income (AMI) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) statistics that are currently used to determine affordable housing prices.

“Data shows that more than 80 percent of New York City households earning 50 percent of AMI or less are rent-burdened,” Adams’ office writes. “Borough President Adams believes that it is time to break the mold in which families already paying too much rent for substandard housing are excluded from affordable housing lotteries.”

While Adams currently only has an advisory role in land use matters, his status as the Democratic nominee for Mayor puts him in position to take a more active role in the process going forward. With a new City Council and Mayor coming into office this fall, many forthcoming and current land use proposals — including the 18-story building at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues — could potentially be altered, paused, or stopped outright.

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, the highly controversial Gowanus rezoning was recently approved by Community Boards 2 and 6 and got the greenlight from Borough President Adams. The rezoning was originally conceived by ex-Mayor Bloomberg but has found new life under Mayor de Blasio. It will see 80 square blocks of the neighborhood rezoned to make way for new developments, including the controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal.

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