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Developer seeks rezoning for McCarren Park apartments

It is possible that the view from McCarren Park will radically change once again.
A developer is applying to rezone 840 Lorimer Street in order to build a ten-story, mixed-use building across the street from the North Brooklyn park. Applicant Shabsi Parnes is requesting a C4-5D zoning for the property, which would allow for retail and office space beyond the building’s ground floor.
The property has been zoned MX-8 since the large Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning in 2005.
If approved, the new construction would build a ten-story building with 74 apartments, 30 parking spaces, and office space and retail space. Nineteen of the apartments would be affordable housing with income restrictions and rent regulations in line with the mayor’s Inclusionary Housing program.
However, developers’ affordable housing commitments have recently been facing heavy skepticism regarding the starting price for units in affordable housing lotteries (the affordable units at 1 Boerum Place in Downtown Brooklyn recently sold at a starting price of $2,000 per month).
The proposed building would wrap around the current building on the corner, home to the bar-restaurant Bernie’s. The location was previously home to the iconic Park Luncheonette Diner for over 30 years, which was known for the feathers customers would sometimes find in their food that were blown in from a nearby factory.
If approved, the rezoning would radically change the corner of Lorimer and Driggs Street and would add to a trend of development along the perimeter of McCarren Park.
Bernie’s is located next to the Grand McCarren park, a new six-story rental building that opened in 2019 in a refurbished industrial building. Rentals at the Grand McCarren average $3,972 per month.
The project at 840 Lorimer Street is the latest of many Greenpoint properties eyed by developers. The Meserole Theater on Manhattan Avenue is currently set to be replaced by a five-story apartment building.
A passionate Facebook group called The Meserole Theater Project is fighting to halt the developer.
Additionally, developer Schlomo Karpen is seeking a rezoning at 1 Wythe Avenue to build an eight-story, mixed-used structure on the triangular lot.
Hudson Companies, Inc. is also preparing for the land-use review process for the massive Greenpoint Hospital redevelopment at 288 Jackson Street across the street from Cooper Park.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, the Gowanus Rezoning is currently entering the land use review process after a prolonged legal battle.
The project would rezone 80 square blocks of the neighborhood to make way for new developments, including a controversial plan to build housing on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal. The project is currently facing significant community push back.

Judge rules Gowanus rezoning can move forward

This past Monday a Brooklyn judge lifted the temporary restraining order on the controversial Gowanus rezoning. The land use proposal is now allowed to move ahead to the public hearing phase of the approval process after months of bitter legal battles.
The rezoning was originally conceived by ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg, but found new life under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It would rezone an 80-square-block area of the neighborhood to make way for new developments, including a controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal.
The grassroots community group Voice of Gowanus, as well as other elected officials and organizers, have consistently opposed the plan. Their criticism is directed at both the legal process to approve the rezoning and the environmental risks that could come with new development.
In a meeting last month, Voice of Gowanus members argued that the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for city projects should be halted during the pandemic. Alicia Boyd from the Crown Heights group Movement to Protect the People, explained how Virtual ULURP hearings were inaccessible for many New Yorkers.
“Forty percent of our community did not have access for an online hearing,” Boyd explained. “It’s another way to silence people’s voices, there is no way to protest.”
Jason Zakai, an attorney for the group, applied for a motion from the courts that would compel the city to conduct ULURP in person or otherwise more adequately, resulting in the restraining order.
“Before we even get to the political process, we need to make sure it is done correctly,” Zakai explained during last month’s meeting. “We want the city to follow New York City law.”
This past week, that restraining order was reversed when New York Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine ruled to allow the city to continue with the public review process so long as an in-person hearing option was offered for those without internet access.
The in-person hearing will take place at J.J. Bryne Playground in Park Slope and will coincide with the virtual hearing. The date and time are yet to be announced.
However, Voice of Gowanus is still fighting the rezoning.
“The lifting of the temporary restraining order was provisional and contingent upon the city meeting certain requirements, which it has not yet done,” Zakai clarified in a new statement. “The court proceeding continues, and Voice of Gowanus will not waver in its fight on behalf of the community to ensure there is increased public participation, access, and transparency at any public hearings on the massive and controversial rezoning plan.”
Despite the pushback, the two City Council members representing the area — Brad Lander of and Stephen Levin — support the rezoning. In a statement, Lander’s Land Use and Budget director Julia Ehrman spoke of the need for the rezoning and the importance of forthcoming environmental review processes.
“The Gowanus neighborhood has been changing around us with as-of-right development over the last decade,” Ehrman wrote. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a chance to steer its future in the direction of a more integrated, affordable, and resilient community.
“Now that the public process is moving forward, we can have the conversations we need to ensure the rezoning plan addresses critical issues in Gowanus,” she added, “including the clean up, infrastructure, and funding for NYCHA.”
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the world, due in large part to its history as a former hub for industry.
Voice of Gowanus members are concerned that development along the waterway, especially at the Public Place site, could release residual contamination into the neighborhood.
Yet even as the rezoning moves towards public hearings, there is no guarantee that the project will see the light of day. The ULURP process typically takes seven months, leaving time for a new mayor and City Council to change course in Gowanus.

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