Cortelyou Market Redevelopment Gets CB14 Approval

The owner of the Cortelyou Market and two adjacent properties on the corner of East 16th Street and Cortelyou Road is seeking a zoning change to develop a mixed-use rental building on the lot. Despite arguments from some neighbors that the proposed development on Cortelyou Road would block light and cause congestion, the community at large seems to support the plans to redevelop 1620 Cortelyou Road, and Community Board 14 voted on Monday to approve the application with conditions (24 in favor, 5 against, and 4 abstentions).

Corner of Cortelyou Road and E16th Street. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

The corner currently is home to a laundromat, the grocery, and what used to be an Indian restaurant/coworking space. The buildings are one story, surrounded by three-story buildings on either side along the street and across from it. Along the residential side streets, buildings go up 6 stories.

The proposed development would be up to 9 stories, a mix of 85 rental units, and ground floor commercial spaces – a larger supermarket and another commercial spot, as well as 44 parking spaces in the basement. It also requires a zoning change from R6A to R7D. The proposed building would be 102 feet tall – just a bit taller than what is currently the zoning for the surrounding residential buildings on the block (95 feet). The plans call for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Option 1 – about  21 permanently affordable units at an average of 60% and of the Area Median Income (“AMI”) with 10% percent at 40% AMI.

What could a building look like?

There is no guarantee, however, that this is what would be built – this rendering above was presented to show the bulk of the building that could be built. (If you are interested in more detail, here is the link to filing documents).

The owner, neighbor Tony Doleh, has had the building and the grocery since 1995, and has no plans of selling, despite constant approaches by developers. He’s in the grocery business and worries that if he were to sell, the new owners may do away with his business – which for many of the neighborhood’s residents offers the only affordable food option within reasonable walking distance. But the margins are very slim in the grocery business, and developing the property would subsidize the grocery, his lawyer, Richard Lobel explained at the hearing held two weeks ago by CB14.  Once given the green light, it would take between 18- 24 months to redevelop the site, the project’s architect, Victor Filletti explained.

Cortelyou Road Station. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

Opponents of the project at the hearing argued that that building is out of scale, and that there is not going to be enough affordable housing in the rental building or it was not affordable enough. However, at 60% and 40% of AMI, which the developer – who for a change is NOT an anonymous LLC but a neighbor – proposes, does indeed offer actually affordable units.

Another concern raised was that the platforms at Cortelyou stop are too narrow to accommodate denser development. It is true, that the platforms were jampacked before the Pandemic. However, one could also argue that maybe the community should plan to rezone the adjacent properties and require whoever will redevelop them to include a new, better setup as part of it.

Cortelyou Road platform pre-pandemic. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

Yet another concern was that this spot upzoning would lead to more development along the road.

Last night CB14 board members voted to approve the recommendation of the Land Use committee to approve the zoning changes requested by the developer to enable the project to move ahead with a very long list of conditions:

  • Add to the number of affordable units which will be offered at 40% AMI and commit to an equivalent distribution of affordable versus market-rate studio, 1 bedroom, and 2-3 bedroom units. Maintain Option 1 for the originally proposed 21 affordable units.
  • Enter a binding agreement to fund and contract with CB14’s local CBO’s – FDC/Flatbush Tenants’ Association and CAMBA, to engage in outreach and assist current CB14 residents with application readiness for the HPD-required 50% local lottery preference.
  • Configure the building so that there is a setback that benefits the Cortelyou Road streetscape and decreases the visual imposition on neighboring residential units. The renderings presented are not final plans and the applicant must demonstrate an effort to decrease the visual imposition of the building. One recommended way to accomplish this is to utilize a sky exposure plane consistent with the preexisting R6A/C2-4 zoning district to minimize the bulk of the building.
  • Expand the shadow study to address incremental shadowing on Cortelyou Road, which in the aftermath of the pandemic has become a de facto sunlight sensitive public asset, given the sidewalk cafes and expanded outdoor use.
  • Given that this project anticipates the installation of solar panels, it is imperative that the shadowing study demonstrates that the building will not limit the solar revenue of neighboring buildings. Conduct the shadowing study with all potential setback plans, including the version of the building with the recommended sky exposure plane.
  • Demonstrate that the site has no environmental concerns related to past dry-cleaning use on the property.
  • Commit to exceeding the City’s 2020 Energy Code requirements; advancing resiliency, sustainable energy, waste and wastewater management.
  • Conduct a traffic study that demonstrates a non-disruptive delivery window for the retail components of the building. Provide trip generation data and a Level of Service analysis of the impact of 44 parked vehicles anticipated by the garage design on Cortelyou Road, East 16th Street, and the residential blocks to the south of East 16th Street (i.e. the traffic ingress and egress patterns), during anticipated peak hours (i.e., morning and evening weekday rush, and Saturday peak). Also, provide a parking study of anticipated increase in on-street parked vehicles in light of new residents and users of new commercial space, as well as taking into account loss of on-street spaces during and after construction. Further, provide anticipated truck traffic and road closures during construction period.
  • Ensure the provision of bike storage for residents and exterior bike racks for public use.
  • Commit to supporting CB 14’s efforts to convince MTA to restore the B22 bus route.
  • Commit to support CB14’s request to MTA-NYCT to conduct a station capacity study at the Cortelyou Road Brighton Line station.
  • Commit to a greener streetscape plan and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to ensure maintenance of plantings and street cleanliness along the proposed building line.
  • CD14 ranks near the bottom of all 59 community boards in terms of the percentage of residents who live more than a quarter of a mile away from a park. Furthermore, the Lt. Federico Narvaez Tot Lot on Cortelyou Road would serve as an amenity to residents of 1620 Cortelyou Road. Therefore, an additional condition is to underwrite, through the New York City Comptroller’s Office a fiduciary account, where upfront funding could only be withdrawn by NYC DPR toward maintenance and programming support for the Cortelyou Road Tot Lot.
  • Demonstrate a long-term commitment to maintain the grocery store on site.

The Brooklyn Borough President held his hearing last night, once he reviews and issues a recommendation, the project will go back to City Planning Commission and the City Council.

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Liena Zagare

Editor of Bklyner.com. Tips? Complaints? Suggestions? Email me at Liena@bklyner.com.

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