A controversial proposal to redevelop 1620 Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park has the support of local Council Member Mathieu Eugene and is likely to be approved.
“After many conversations with the applicant, the community board, members of the community,” Eugene said at a meeting of the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on Thursday, “we have finally reached a place of consensus, trust and commitment to responsible development. The simple fact is that the as-of-right scenario here offers no public benefit in terms of affordable housing, or ensuring community-serving retail on an active transit and commercial corridor.”
The subcommittee voted in favor of the project, and Eugene’s support means it will almost certainly receive final approval by the full Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The site, located between East 16th and East 17th Streets, is currently home to a one-story Key Food supermarket and a laundromat. The existing R6-A zoning allows a seven-story building to be built. But owner Tony Doleh is looking for a larger R7-D designation, in order to develop a nine-story, mixed-use structure with 44 parking spaces and a new supermarket on the ground floor.
The latest plans, according to Doleh’s attorney Richard Lobel, are for 80 apartments: two studios, 47 one-bedrooms, and 31 two-bedrooms. Under Option One of the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning policy, 23 of the apartments would be designated affordable to households making 60% of Area Median Income—about $47,000 annually for a household of three.
Those numbers were adjusted from an earlier proposal, Lobel said, based on conversations with Eugene and other stakeholders who wanted more multi-room units, deeper affordability and a less bulky facade.
Doleh, who has owned the building since 1995, and operates the Cortelyou Market Key Food at the site has said he needs the extra space to make running the supermarket economically viable. But some community members are skeptical of that claim, and have argued the new building will be too tall for the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is a ridiculous upzoning of an upzoning” said Linda Allende of the group Respect Brooklyn, referring to a 2009 rezoning of the area. “The developer can already build all the affordable housing they want and get a bonus they don’t need, and do not deserve permission to evade existing zoning to build an out-of-context and out-of-character tower.”
Respect Brooklyn also accused Eugene of “blatantly lying” about the process, saying he hadn’t consulted community members as much as he’d claimed. Several candidates running to replace term-limited Eugene in the Council have voiced opposition to the rezoning as well.
Another group that has opposed the rezoning, Save Cortelyou, told Bklyner in a statement that the vote was “a missed opportunity for the entire city to have precedent-setting rezoning, and meaningful conversation about housing needs and construction.”
But opposition was not universal; Brooklyn Community Board 14 voted in favor of the project, as did Borough President Eric Adams. And yesterday, residents held a rally in support of the zoning; organizer Anthony Finkel told News 12 Brooklyn that “right now, more than ever, it is more important that we are able to bring affordable housing units to the community.”
The subcommittee ultimately voted 6-1 in favor. The dissenting vote came from Council Member Diana Ayala, who said at the hearing that the affordable housing set-asides in the project were insufficient.
“I just feel really strongly about rezonings being our one and only opportunity to really leverage as much affordable housing” as possible, she said. “And I think that the developer has had an opportunity to seek subsidies to allow for more development of affordable housing in this project and decided not to.”
But Lobel told Bklyner those extra subsidies could slow the project down, and said the project was a win for both Doleh and the surrounding neighborhood.
“Instead of luxury condos,” he said, “the community will now benefit from 23 permanently affordable apartments, most of which will go to community residents, and a supermarket that will continue to provide affordable groceries as it has for over 20 years.”