Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Text Amendment Testimony Continues....

Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association
7 May 2008

Borough President Marty Markowitz,
Ms Amanda Burden, CPC Chair and DCP Director, Ms Purnima Kapur, DCP Brooklyn Director Ms Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker, Ms Melinda Katz, City Council Land Use Chair, Mr. Bill DeBlasio, Councilman Brooklyn

Community Board Six

Public Hearing of the Borough President’s office

Re.: Land Use Review Application N080345, Carroll Gardens Zoning Test Amendment

My name is John Hatheway. I come before you as a co-chair of the Land Use and Zoning committee of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, and as a 25-year resident of Brooklyn – specifically a resident of Carroll Street between Smith and Hoyt Streets, one of the garden blocks affected by the proposed Zoning Text Amendment.

Let me state that I am strongly supportive of the proposed amendment and I, along with numerous other residents, have been working on addressing this wide-street anomaly for nearly a year. In September of last year I produced drawings that interpreted the 1846 law that created this planned community and I presented these drawings for discussion at various general public meetings of the CGNA. On October 1st, 2007, I submitted a letter to Magdi Mossad, the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, requesting that the DOB interpret these garden blocks as “narrow” streets in light of the 1846 law that explicitly defined their street width as 50 feet, thus a narrow street.

I support this proposed text amendment because it corrects an inappropriate interpretation of existing laws and their intentions. Original intentions are at the heart of this issue – intentions of the 1846 law that created these garden blocks and its designer/planner, Richard Butts, and the intention of the Zoning Resolution. Richard Butts, in striving to create a special and spacious set of streets, elected to eliminate one street in the normal street grid and then evenly divide up that left over space to create courtyards between the street lines and the building lines. But since there were no zoning laws at the time, the law was written to keep the court-yard space under city ownership so that the land could not be built upon. In 1961, the city enacted the Zoning Resolution, which set out to regulate development in an orderly, planned manner. It created Commercial, Manufacturing and Residential districts and, within those districts, regulated the bulk of the buildings. Bulk regulations were generally designed and defined to accommodate most of the buildings that already existed to minimize non-conformancies; category R6 suited most row house districts.

Then, 21 years ago, in 1987, the Quality Housing Program was enacted as a part of the zoning resolution. Its intention? I quote from the Zoning Resolution:

The Quality Housing Program is established to foster the provision of multi-family housing that:

(a) is compatible with existing neighborhood scale and character;

(b) provides on-site recreation space to meet the needs of its occupants; and

(c) is designed to promote the security and safety of the residents.

The significant here point is paragraph (a): compatibility with neighborhood scale and character. The bonuses it gave were slightly more bulk (floor area, height and lot coverage) than would otherwise be permitted. But it distinguished between development on wide streets and narrow streets. Wide streets were assumed to be avenue-type streets where taller bulkier buildings were generally found and were to be promoted. Narrow streets were assumed to be side streets of a lower scale. The text did not take into account the anomaly of these side-street garden blocks. Neither did the street width definition in the zoning resolution address the special condition of the courtyards, separate from the street, that were created in 1846.

The result is that the garden blocks are presently considered “wide” streets and therefore enable development that is directly contrary to the intentions of the Quality Housing Program. It is enabling development that is NOT compatible with the existing neighborhood scale and character!

I am very pleased that the city has listened to our neighborhood’s concerns and responded with this text amendment that restores the understanding of these garden-block, side streets as “narrow” streets. I particularly want to thank Purima Kapur and Jen Posner of the Brooklyn office of City Planning for their technical work and support, and Bill DeBlasio for his political support of this issue.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify and to urge you to support this text amendment.

Respectfully submitted,

John H. Hatheway, Jr.

(RA 16631)


With the "Protect Our Homes" petition, CORD was formed in May, 2007. This petition arose as an overwhelmingly negative response to the coming of the over-sized 360 Smith Street Development at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place (Aka Oliver House; aka 131 Second Place). This petition, which had well over three thousand signatures, led to a new zoning text amendment in summer of 2008.

To: Our Elected Officials, Community Leaders, The MTA:
(MAY, 2007)

We the undersigned Carroll Gardens homeowners and residents, are appalled by the "as of right" ruling which allows owners and developers to erect buildings in our neighborhood with no regard to the impact they will present to our quality of life and the value of our homes........