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City Planning Commission Modifies Downzoning Plan

Next stop, the City Council. The effort to rezone select parts of Community Board 15 sailed through the City Planning Commission last week, setting the stage for ratification and new building regulations within the next few weeks. Amanda Burden, chairperson of the City Planning Commission, called the changes that would cap the height of buildings on eight blocks in Sheepshead Bay a “finely-crafted neighborhood preservation plan.” Critics of the plan, however, charge that it does nothing to rein in runaway condo development across the greater Sheepshead Bay area. Community Board 15 called on the city to expand the scope of the rezoning effort this year when it agreed to support the current zoning proposal last fall. Burden said that the rezoning plan set to become law shortly was developed at “the request of community residents to respond to concerns about out-of-scale development in the area and to preserve the predominant bungalow character of this neighborhood.” Far more intensive remapping went into the second part of the current downzoning plan, which affects roughly 80 blocks in Homecrest. Here again, Burden said that the rezoning proposal was a “considered, balanced rezoning proposal that protects the low-rise character of the Homecrest neighborhood.” She also said that the new rules would “preserve the option for new contextual apartment house construction on major avenues in the area that already contain large apartment buildings and are well served by transit.” The City Planning Commission did not approve the plan affecting Homecrest without first making alterations. There were changes in the Homecrest rezoning proposal, Winston von Engel, deputy director of the Department of City Planning’s Brooklyn office confirmed, “in response to the testimony that we received and that the commission heard at the public hearing, as well as the borough president’s recommendation and the recommendation of the community board.” Those changes include a chunk of Ocean Avenue between Avenue S and Avenue U where the commission changed the zoning designation of R-6A, allowing the construction of apartment buildings up to six stories high with a setback for a penthouse, as well as smaller homes. “Conditions on the ground changed so much, there was such an acceleration of development, that our proposal no longer fit,” Von Engel said. Downzoning changes were also relaxed along East 19th Street between Quentin Road and Avenue R. Here the originally proposed R4-1 designation was bumped up to R5B, replacing the existing R-6. “We heard testimony from homeowners that they wanted more ability to expand,” von Engel said. Von Engel also said that the change reflected the fact that “There had been more construction on the block.” “The R5B designation, allows for buildings up to three stories, with a FAR [Floor Area Ratio] of 1.35,” he explained. “The .9 FAR for R4-1 allows for considerably less expansion. A major issue had been the fact that the R-6 designation allows for FAR up to 2.4. “That gives an incentive to tear down small homes. R5B, while higher than R4-1, provides no incentive to tear down homes, but allow for expansion.” The rezoning part of the plan affecting Sheepshead Bay was approved as certified with no changes. - Helen Klein contributed to this article.

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