CROWN HEIGHTS – On Tuesday, July 30, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) debuted Fight for Sunlight, a new exhibition that addresses “an existential threat facing our Garden.”
The exhibit is a “grassroots effort to prevent massive high-rise towers from blocking sunlight to our greenhouse complex,” the Garden’s newsletter explains. “Specifically selected for its access to sunlight, this complex is the beating heart of the Garden, housing 20 percent of our collection—including rare and endangered orchids, cacti, and bonsai—as well as the growing facilities that help replenish all 52 acres of the Garden.”
The high-rise development posing the threat to the Garden’s collection is the 960 Franklin Avenue project which includes two 39-story mixed-use towers. The towers would rise more than 460 feet on the Spice Factory site, between Montgomery Street and Sullivan Place, adding 1,600 residential units, half of which would be affordable.
In order for the project to move forward, the developers, The Continuum Company and Lincoln Equities, are requesting that the city rezone the lot from R6A (contextual district with 6- to 8-story apartment buildings) to R9D (towers with setbacks) with a C2-4 commercial overlay. The project would need to go through the Uniform Land Use Review (ULURP) process which includes community board review and a City Council vote. Read more about the proposed rezoning here.
The existing zoning for the area bordering BBG, near Washington Avenue, was determined in 1991 to prevent shadows from blocking sunlight to the Garden’s conservatory complex, according to the BBG website. The zoning currently allows buildings to be erected up to 75 feet, or roughly seven stories.
The Spice Factory site is located 150 feet away from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The two proposed towers would block sunlight from BBG’s conservatories, greenhouses, and nurseries for three-and-a-half-hours each day in the spring, summer, and fall, the Garden insists. The facilities house more than 18,500 plants—including endangered orchids and centuries-old bonsais—and are where the greenery is cultivated for the entire Garden.
BBG’s greenhouse complex was built in the 1980s to grow and present plants from all around the world. Along with examining the history of the facilities and how the rezoning will “be catastrophic” to the Gardens, the exhibition instructs visitors on how they can help in the fight for sunlight.
Fight For Sunlight is on view at BBG’s Steinhardt Conservatory daily from 10am to 5:30pm.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Entrances at 455 Flatbush Avenue and 990 Washington Avenue