The Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn is undergoing a period of rapid gentrification and development as new projects sprout across the area in rapid succession. Perhaps the largest, or at least most audacious, proposal in recent years is 960 Franklin Avenue. The project is backed by developers Continuum Company and Lincoln Equities, and, were it to be built, would rise as two 34-story towers on a multi-block site just blocks from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, casting a shadowy pall over the cherished Brooklyn institution. However, in a possibly consequential turn, Brooklyn Borough President (and likely next mayor of New York City) Eric Adams voted down the proposal in an advisory public hearing.
New York-based firm Hill West Architects is the architect for the project and the renderings suggest a multistory street wall clad in brick below the glass-predominant towers. The project also includes the demolition of the largely intact Interboro Brewery located on the site, which was built at the turn of the 20th century. The developers are seeking to rezone the lots to permit a greater density and height; a variance that would net 790 below-market-rate apartments out of approximately 1,500 units. The site’s existing zoning permits a building height of only 70 feet and dates back to the administration of Mayor Dinkins, and specifically aims to protect the Botanic Garden’s access to daylight.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the community at large have vigorously opposed the towers, which, in their proposed height and massing, could leave the 52-acre oasis shrouded in shadow nearly every morning of the year. Critics argue that it will both degrade the quality of the grounds, including 23 conservatories, greenhouses, and nurseries, and negatively impact the Botanic Garden’s education outreach programs.
As reported by The Real Deal, the local community board has also rejected an additional proposal by the developer to scale back the towers to 17 stories, with a subsequent reduction in affordable units. Continuum Company will proceed to build as-of-right if either rezoning fails to go through with a much smaller project consisting of 550 apartments in more modest-sized buildings reaching up to seven stories; the catch is that none of the units will be affordable.
The input of the Borough President and the community board is purely advisory, and the final decision will ultimately come down to the City Planning Commission towards the end of September. The department can either approve or reject the current scheme or set forth a series of modifications. The latter of which will require final sign-off from the City Council.