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Could A High-Rise Emerge On Cortelyou Road? A Rezoning Proposal Begins

(Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)

A new building proposal for Cortelyou Road could dramatically change the Ditmas Park skyline, and some wonder if it will trigger a rezoning cascade effect.

Property owners are asking for approval to build a nine-story apartment complex on top of the Key Foods Cortelyou Market, at 1610 Cortelyou Road between East 16th and East 17th Streets.

With his lawyer and architect, an owner brought the initial proposal to Community Board 14 late last week. The development would require a rezoning for the single-story commercial property that extends from the corner laundromat to the dry cleaners a few storefronts down.

The property, which spans from 1600 to 1620 Cortelyou Road and includes the Key Food, laundromat, nail salon, dry cleaner, and “soon” to open Cafe, is zoned for both housing and commercial use, with a maximum building height of 80 feet.

The initial proposal suggests plans for a nine-story building with up to 88 residential units, an enclosed cellar parking garage with 44 spaces, and retail space on the ground floor. In order to build, the applicants would have to get approval to rezone to an R7D district, which would raise the maximum allowed height to 100 feet.

The proposed building would stretch higher than all other buildings nearby.

The rezoning would also trigger the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing laws, and either 25 or 30 percent of the units would be reserved for affordable housing units.

The supermarket will stay, according to Richard Lobel, a lawyer working on the presentation. Khalid Doleh, better known as “Tony” to his customers, has co-owned the property for 22 years and is committed to keeping the Key Foods as an affordable supermarket in the area, said a store representative.

“I love Cortelyou Road,” Tony told us when the market opened in its current form, in 2015.

“The neighborhood needs an affordable supermarket, this is a problem all over the city,” said Steve, who told BKLYNER he works for the store. He also mentioned that they’re considering bringing in a bank to the new retail space.

This proposal is still in its infancy, according to officials and store reps, and we were told that it’s too early to answer many of our questions. The proposal has to make its way through the community board, city planning, and city council, and a series of ULURP hearings — during which time many proposals can change, said Alvin Berk, Community Board 14 District Manager.

“If anything, construction wouldn’t even start for another two or three years,” said the Key Foods rep.

(Photo by Carly Miller/BKLYNER)

Some Community Board members glimpsed a preliminary rough rendering, and we’re still waiting to see if that is available to publish. In the meantime, one person present at the meeting said, “the model appeared to be modern and glassy — something you’d expect from a new high-rise along 4th Avenue in Gowanus.”

As far as the current tenants, their future remains unclear. We spoke to some business owners on the block, many of whom had only heard faint rumblings of the plan.

Khaled Yafai, who has owned the East 16th Street Laundromat for 10 years, said he’d support the expansion as long as businesses were allowed to stay. But he expressed concerns about the ventilation system for his dryers, which is currently connected to the roof. “It’s going to be hard,” he said, of restructuring the building.

But what is clear, is that a nine-story building would be the tallest on the block — rising on top of what has been a single-story structure since 1930. It would bring new housing opportunities and so-called affordable housing options. It would change the Cortelyou Road skyline. It could trigger an upzoning race for other building owners nearby, or remain standing as a solitary as an icon of change.

Zoning plays a crucial role in restricting or encouraging development, especially when it comes to the snowballing trend of densification in Ditmas Park – Flatbush.

The neighborhood, which was rezoned in 2009, is in a district that allows “high lot coverage, seven- and eight-story apartment buildings,” according to the City. In an overheated real estate market, developers have been swooping in to raze single-family homes and replace them with multi-family buildings at the maximum allowable size.

While some say that this development helps to address our city’s crushing need for housing, it also has important socio-economic and urban planning implications. And last but not least, it dramatically changes the neighborhood’s physical qualities and connection to history. Read more about Ditmas’s dramatic densification trends here.

Stay tuned as we continue to cover this developing story. As this proposal is in its very early stages, there is still plenty of time for community input. We will announce more details about a public information session coming up in the fall, where developers will present more concrete plans before the CB 14 vote.

This is a developing story. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Usually spot upzonings like the property owners (1600/20 REALTY CORP) want are not granted and may not even be legal. City councilmembers have virtual veto power over zoning changes in their respective districts.

  2. this neighborhood is bursting at the seems with its overcrowding this would not be a good idea

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