WINDSOR TERRACE – Focus Property Group (FPG) presented its plans to build a 13-story mixed-use residential complex by Park Circle at 312 Coney Island Avenue last Thursday to the local Community Board 7. The developers are seeking a rezoning that would allow the towering complex to include housing, commercial space, medical offices, parking, new school facilities for the International Christian School, a K-12 private school that teaches about 100 students, and a new home for the International Baptist Church who owns the property and has leased it to FPG.
Location is prime – the plot is located on Park Circle, with unobstructed views of Prospect Park, across the street from Parade Grounds ball fields and tennis courts, close to PS130 and served by both buses and F train. However, the current zoning allows for easy construction of hotels, storage facilities, and medical offices, rather than large scale residential developments.
A perfect example is being completed across the street from the International Baptist Church – a storage facility with unobstructed views if it had any windows – and no ground floor anything despite advertising “retail” on its scaffold. It is to be completed shortly, workers said, when Bklyner passed by a few weeks ago.
Pastor Ray Cazis says the proposed expansion would help beautify the neighborhood and provide the church with the funds to better serve the community.
“[The Church is] not a particularly attractive building,” said Pastor Cazis. “So in addition to helping us correct that, we feel that this will position us to really be a help to the community.”
The proposal for development with rezoning, anticipates 140 bike spaces, 80 parking spaces, 36 of which would be reserved for Church use, and 278 housing units. Seventy of the apartments would be set aside for affordable housing under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) for those making 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The affordable units in the proposed building will be priced at $856 for a studio, $1,081 for a one-bedroom, $1,309 for a two-bedroom, and $1,504 for a three-bedroom. Prices for market-rate rental apartments have not yet been set.
If the rezoning were not to be approved, developers have indicated they may construct a hotel instead – a much taller (an additional 50 feet) but less bulky structure. For anyone interested in this project in great detail, the Environmental Assessment has a wealth of information including proposed locations for entrances, the tentative arrangement of various facilities, impact on rents as well as lots of shadow models.
Neighbors raised concerns from sewer capacity, traffic, and affordability.
Walter Blankenship, one of the owners of the nearby Kensington Stables which offers horse rides through Brooklyn, wants to ensure that construction is carried out in a way that protects the horses.
“When we have a lot of rainfall — and we expect more rainfall as the environment is changing — we’ve had rivers coming from Park Circle down Coney Island Avenue and into the lowest points in front of the stables,” said Blankenship.
He worries that these periods of flooding could expose the horses to chemicals from the construction site.
He also raised concerns that increased traffic in an area that frequently sees a mixture of horse and car traffic could lead to accidents or significant congestion.
Some Windsor Terrace locals at the hearing raised concerns that the proposed building doesn’t fit with the quiet, residential character of the area.
“Do you care about this neighborhood? This is not this neighborhood,” said Darryl Alladile, a local resident at the meeting. “I moved here in 2000, and it was a totally different part of New York which I loved. And y’all keep building and building and closing out the light and closing out relationships. We don’t even know half the people anymore.”
“The question of affordability is ridiculous,” said Rebecca Lurie, a concerned neighbor. “We have to say as a community and as a community board that affordable housing with the MIH isn’t affordable… It won’t be affordable to us and our children.”
Charles Mangiardi, a Windsor Terrace resident, argued that new developments like the one proposed by Focus Property Group can keep rent low on existing apartments.
“I moved to New York from San Francisco, which took a very hardline no-build mentality, said Mangiardi. “People are coming. People will move into apartments that are affordable, and if they are not moving into new apartments they will move into apartments that already exist.”
Julia Ehrman, the Land Use and Budget Director for Councilmember Lander’s office, emphasized that providing affordable housing is a complex issue with many different approaches.
“The councilmember takes affordability very seriously,” said Ehrman. “There are tradeoffs with every option. When you go through those in detail they’re very complicated, but we are very open to the discussion about affordability.”
Danette Francis, a single mother and teacher, worries that she’ll be forced out of Windsor Terrace by the rising cost of living.
“I’m a working-class mom,” she said at the meeting. “I cannot afford to live in Brooklyn anymore. Looking at this kind of proposal, it makes me think I have to go back to the Midwest.”
The community board hearing was the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Testimony for or against the rezoning can be submitted to CB 7 until they make their recommendation one month from now. Next, Borough President Eric Adams will hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the City Planning Commission (CPC). If the CPC approves, then the City Council can hold their own public hearing and vote to approve, modify or disapprove the proposal. Finally, Mayor De Blasio can approve or veto, and a veto can be overturned by a two-thirds majority of the City Council. The full process takes one year.