Sunday, November 2, 2014

PPEN Statement of Principles

Prospect Lefferts Gardens (PLG) has been a successful, integrated, community for over fifty years. [1]

The main ingredient for our success lies in the richness of our neighborhood. This richness has nothing to do with monetary wealth; rather, it has to do with the many different kinds of people who live here: renters and homeowners, people of color and white people, those who are financially comfortable and those who can barely make ends meet, the native-born and immigrants, those whose native language is English and those who speak other native languages, children, middle-aged people and the elderly, those who live alone and those who are members of large families, all of whom are serviced by small shop-owners who cater to our widely disparate needs and wants. 

PPEN’s Statement of Principles reflects all the strands of our various populations and our earnest desire to maintain in our neighborhood the qualities which each of these groups and subgroups bring to it, thereby enriching it.

Therefore, we offer the following Principles to preserve this quintessentially diverse Brooklyn neighborhood. We call upon our elected officials, Community Board 9 and the City Planning Department to affirm and implement the following principles, and we ask our PLG neighbors to support these principles and make their voices heard.

1. Contextual Zoning. Community input must be the driving factor in creating new zoning. Outcomes must not be predetermined by city agencies or elected officials. There must be a transparent and democratic process for community review and outreach whenever any development and/or zoning changes are proposed based on a clear understanding that zoning should be aimed at preserving the diverse, low-rise historic character of the neighborhood, and that luxury development is a detriment to this preservation.

2. Housing Development. The height of new development and zoning revisions being contemplated by the Brooklyn City Planning office must be in line with the 4 and 6 story apartment buildings and 2-4 story homes that are already serving our affordable housing needs (and not out of scale outliers like Patio Gardens and now 626 Flatbush Avenue).
  • New development. Buildings should be capped at 50 feet; lower height limits may be more appropriate on some blocks or sections of blocks.
  • New development. For any development of more than three units, there should be a review and approval process through the Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP) which is consistent with community involvement as described above. The community should review any new development proposal where the benefits to the community of any new development must exceed all the costs, including those related to infrastructure, harm to neighboring property owners, and secondary displacement of residents.
  • Density. In recognition of the fact that data from the Furman Center show that Community District 9 is the densest district in Brooklyn and includes the highest density census tracts in Brooklyn along the Flatbush and Ocean Avenue corridors, we call upon CB 9 to create a “high density growth management zone” to which real estate interests seeking to develop within the zone contribute annually, proportional to the density they are creating, to three community funds:

    1) A Community Infrastructure Fund to pay for improvements to basic infrastructure and services such as running additional subway trains, building additional public schools as necessary, building and operating community centers, upgrading sewer and electric infrastructure, creating municipal parking facilities, paying for additional trash cans and supplemental street cleaning, paying for additional public parks maintenance etc.

    2) An Environmental Mitigation Fund, which shall be devoted to mitigating noise, traffic, health, and structural damage for residents and merchants within a 2 two block radius of any construction site for a new building or major addition to existing building., and

    3) An Anti-Displacement Fund, whose purpose would be to prevent the displacement of low-income tenants and merchants.
  •  Quality of Life. All new development should require impact studies and analysis on non-building aspects of development to include, but not be limited to transportation, schools, tenant and merchant harassment and displacement, parking availability, affordable food availability, noise, air and light, sanitation and traffic.

3. Affordable Housing. Acting to preserve the existing and presently available affordable housing (i.e., rent-stabilized apartments and affordable market rents [as defined below] in multi-family homes) must be the top housing priority of the elected officials that we voted into office, and all relevant appointed bodies, such as the Community Boards and the various offices of City Planning.
  • In Prospect Lefferts Gardens (PLG), any new development must contain a majority (i.e., greater than 50%) of units that would be affordable to the median family living in this neighborhood, where the current median income is $41,000 per year for a family of four (rather than based on the spurious state formula of using $84,000 as median income, upon which is based the 80% luxury and 20% so-called “affordable” ratio). Therefore, we support housing for low, moderate and middle income individuals and families, consistent with the current income diversity of the neighborhood (see attached data sheet for current income distribution).
  •  Affordable housing units must remain so in perpetuity (the way rent-stabilized units were supposed to be but are not being adequately protected by our governmental bodies) and not revert to luxury market rents, a scheme developed as an incentive to real estate developers, but which threatens the long-term viability of a diverse community such a ours. For example, the 50 or so so-called “affordable” units at 626 Flatbush Avenue only will remain so for 35 years. The reversions to market rents will only serve to create another housing crisis a generation from now.
  •  A development, such as CAMBA Gardens Phase 1, is an example of a development that has been acceptable to Community Board 9 with respect to both scale and the needs of the community for low income housing. This project is 100% affordable and is between 7 and 9 stories in height, constructed on the site of an existing 7-story Kings County Hospital building.

4. Protect Prospect Park. The Park creators, Vaux and Olmstead, had a vision of the Park as a place “where the people of all classes, escaping the glare and glitter and turmoil of the city might find relief for the mind and physical recreation” in a natural setting (New York Legislature, 1859). That was reaffirmed by the designation of Prospect Park as a national scenic landmark in 1981. 

However, on the east side of the Park, which is within CB 9’s jurisdiction, the zoning requirements have remained unchanged since 1961. This has resulted in a marked discrepancy between the zoning on the PLG side of the Park and more restrictive zoning in all the other Park boundaries. 

Failure of this zoning to protect the east side (CB 9) of the Park resulted in a 23-story tower which will be visible above the tree line from within the Park, thus marring the intention of the Park’s architects to create an unspoiled natural vista, especially from scenic spots by the lake, for everyone who visits the Park. 

The creation of this tower also reserves for a few privileged residents the exclusive pleasure of views over the Park. Given the current rush by developers to capitalize on the lack of protective zoning on the East side of Prospect Park, height limitations of 50 feet for all new development bordering the Park must be instituted as soon as possible, by expedited means or by a legislative moratorium on any new development that threatens to go above 50 feet.
 [1] “The original members of PLGNA (Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association) strongly felt that racial integration of the community could be accomplished without destruction of the neighborhood, and in fact worked to publicize the ‘positive’ aspects of integrated community life, an enormous challenge, given the climate of the times” (