Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Monday, February 27, 2017

Give 'em some FLAC!

A new activist group was formed the other night, FLAC, Flower Lovers Against Cornell (Realty), the lead developer seeking a spot up-zoning along Franklin Avenue, roughly between Tivoli Towers and Ebbets Field. They argue that tall towers are contextual for this reason.

In so doing, the developers are conveniently omitting that the area was specifically down-zoned in 1991 in order to protect the Botanic Gardens from unsightly, light-stealing towers, intrusive in terms of both sight lines and shadows. This was 30 years after the citywide rezoning of 1961.

The ULURP Committee voted to tell the developers that they may only build as-of-right, 7 stories, but of course, the decision ultimately rests in the hands of Councilperson Laurie Cumbo, a person who demonstrates only as much knowledge of the community's opposition as her intentions allow. She had the nerve to ask a Council spokesperson to present his "Land Use 101" powerpoint to those in attendance at her public meeting on the issue at Medgar Evers. Really? You think you need to explain what the letters F-A-R stand for to this community?

The super-confident Ms. Cumbo doesn't even prepare notes for her presentations (I attended the meeting about the future/fate of the Armory too). She prefers to wing it, and is prone to ask herself aloud, "What's the best way to say this?" or "What's the best word for that?" The Armory meeting drew an audience unanimously opposed to the plan the Councilperson presented. It turns out that in contemporary New York it doesn't matter whether the land costs $1 or 50 million dollars; the ratio of "affordable" to market remains the same and no matter what there will be tens of thousands of applications for every so-called affordable apartment. Growing exasperated with the very vocal opposition, Cumbo blurted, "Maybe you all would like it if we just had a recreation facility," only to find that everyone would in fact be very happy with "just" a recreation facility.

Let me dwell on the design of the recreation facility. The drill hall ceiling is probably 100 feet or so at it's highest point. Available recreation space could be doubled by making the drill hall a 2-story space, an idea I guarantee never occurred to the architects. This is because the architects' clients are the market-rate folks, the fancy people, or "whitey," in my lexicon. And if there's one thing fancy people really dig it's huge vaulted ceilings under which to perfect their Plank pose. I guarantee never a thought was given to the benefits to the existing community presented by a doubling of recreation space. My shouted question was, "Who's gonna drain the pool after Community Swim?"

Then there's the matter of the lease. The question was asked, "How much will the developer have to pay for the land every year. What's the rent?" Two million dollars! Gee! And the rent never goes up over the 99 years? Wow! How much does anyone wish they were paying the same rent on their pad as was paid 99 years ago? Everybody?

Cumbo pointed out that she's never voted for any up-zoning in the community, only to be reminded that she voted for MIH in defiance of the community-supported CB9 recommendation, a unicorn moment if ever there was one. She said she hasn't supported MIH in her district but thought it was an important tool to be used elsewhere. The City Council approved MIH in defiance of the recommendations of over 90% of community boards citywide, so Cumbo is hardly alone in failing to represent her constituents in this matter.

Councilperson Cumbo is up for re-election. Give her some FLAC!

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