Today’s news:

Question Mark On Fulton Street

Is it a bird, a plane, luxury condominiums or affordable housing? The only thing anybody seems to know is that the low-rise buildings at 655 through 671 Fulton Street between Ashland Place and Rockwell Place is about to be developed. “We’ve been informed by downtown development experts that the building will be residential, but not a hotel,” said Robert Perris, district manager for Community Board 2. “I’ve called the Clarett Group [the Manhattan-based developer who bought the property] and even asked third parties to contact them and ask for them to come and speak to our Land Use Committee and we have never heard back,” Perris added. City Councilmember Letitia James is also concerned about the issue and particularly vexed that several small businesses and a storefront church have been shuttered since the Clarett Group bought the properties for a reported $12 million last year. Among James’ concerns is that the properties in question enjoy as-of-right zoning that could see a residential and commercial building going up as high as 30 stories. “The addition of a large number of luxury units will affect all of Fort Greene and the surrounding area. This is why I have requested repeatedly to meet with Clarett to discuss this project, but I have received no response,” said James. “A church lost its lease and other businesses were displaced along Fulton Street. This is not a good foot for Clarett to start on in their first Brooklyn project,” she added. James, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Roger Green also wrote a letter to the company asking their intentions. They have not received a response. While many think the property will be developed for luxury condominiums, Perris said current zoning also allows for incentives if some affordable housing is in the plan. One government official who may know what development will take place on the property is Borough President Marty Markowitz, who had a meeting with the Clarett Group last month. However, Markowitz’s office, if they know anything about the project, is playing it close to the vest. “They paid a courtesy visit to Marty in the first half of December,” said Markowitz spokesperson Regina Weiss. “As he [Markowitz] always does, he recommended that they meet with other elected officials representing the area they plan to work in,” she added. Clarett Group spokesperson Joyce Baumgarten would only say the company is “working on their plans for the building, but will not reveal their plans until they are complete.” Baumgarten did say that the site will not be a hotel and refused comment as to whether it would include an affordable housing component. The block also houses the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Harvey Theatre Building at 651 Fulton Street and the building at 647 Fulton Street from which BCAT (Brooklyn Cable Access Television) operates. The City of New York owns those two buildings and leases them back to the cultural non-profits for $1 a year. A BAM spokesperson said the properties in question don’t have anything to do with BAM. “We have had little information or involvement in that matter,” the spokesperson said.

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