Brooklyn Botanic Garden fights against shadow-casting Crown Heights towers

March 12, 2019

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is voicing concern over a proposal that would allow real-estate developers to amend the area’s zoning—which currently caps building heights at 75 feet—in order to build two 39-story towers close enough to the botanic grounds to obstruct sunlight in key parts of the garden, including the bonsai collection and desert pavilion. The proposal is subject to city approval and a public hearing will be heard today, with officials from the BBG in attendance, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

960 Franklin Avenue

The development in question is the proposed mega-project from Continuum Companies and Lincoln Equities at 960 Franklin Avenue, which is set to include 1,578 apartments divided evenly between market-rate and affordable units. As 6sqft previously reported, the developers are seeking zoning amendments from the city for a pair of 39-story towers, each 421 feet high plus 40 feet for a mechanical bulkhead. The 120,000 square-foot site—previously a spice processing facility and warehouse—is only 150 feet from the garden.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden via Wiki Commons

The shadows from the towers could disrupt the operations of 21 greenhouses, nurseries and other growing spaces where thousands of plant species—including many rare ones—are grown. “We’re worried that less light can lead to poorer plant health, greater problems with fungal diseases,” said Scot Medbury, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the 52-acre site that was founded over a century ago. Insufficient sunlight could also prevent certain plants from flowering.

Medbury also added that moving the 21 grow spaces and affected nurseries elsewhere is simply not a feasible option. “We have no other place to do this,” he said. “Plopping in a nursery somewhere else just doesn’t work.”

Zoning in the area was last changed in 1991 to encourage mid-rise buildings, according to city documents. Current zoning rules in the area cap building heights at about 75 feet, or roughly seven stories.

If approved, construction at 960 Franklin Avenue will begin in the fall and is slated to run through 2024, with the project’s first phase planned for completion by the end of December 2022 and a second phase to follow as early as October 2021. The development team will be presenting its proposal to the public on March 12 at the New York City Department of City Planning, City Planning Commission Hearing Room, 120 Broadway, Concourse Level.

Update 3/4/19: According to the Brooklyn Paper, at the City Planning hearing, Rowan Blaik, director of living collections at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said that the shadows in question would kill half of the garden’s plants within a decade. In response, a spokesman for the builder said that despite not having yet completed a full environmental impact statement, early reviews shows that “no significant adverse shadow impacts” are expected at the garden.

[Via The Wall Street Journal]


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