Local residents got their first look at precisely what Bay Ridge Prep plans for the piece of property it has acquired at 89th Street and Fifth Avenue during a lengthy Community Board 10 Zoning and Land Use Committee meeting held on Tuesday, September 6.
At the meeting, school officials presented an application for a special permit that would allow Bay Ridge Prep – a co-ed, K-12 college preparatory school in the neighborhood – to go ahead with plans to build a six-story, 49,594-square-foot facility at 429 89th Street. Both the bulk of the planned structure and its location in a commercial/manufacturing zoning district are contrary to city code, which is why Bay Ridge Prep needs approval before it can proceed.
The detailed nature of the proposal was such that committee members, eager to digest all the information prior to making a recommendation, will meet again later in the month, with the proposal to be voted on by the board at its October general meeting.
The board’s recommendation (which is advisory only) will be submitted to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which will ultimately decide whether the school can get the zoning relief it is asking for.
Specifically, Bay Ridge Prep needs a waiver of existing zoning to build a school in a heavily commercial/manufacturing zoning district (C8-2, currently occupied by many car dealerships and related facilities) where housing cannot be constructed as of right. Generally, schools can be built anywhere housing is allowed.
In addition, Bay Ridge Prep’s plans call for a building that is considerably denser than what would be allowed as of right, to accommodate its needs, which exceed what would be permitted by the as-of-right floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.0, a measurement that reflects the ratio between the total floor area of the building and the square footage of the lot on which it is built. According to Bay Ridge Prep, the additional floor area requested is 10,000 square feet.
Bay Ridge Prep presented the committee with a multi-page proposal, which the panel then promised to examine thoroughly before presenting its final thoughts – some of which already include traffic and safety concerns for students, as well as worries about the building’s proposed bulk and height – to the applicant.
“The committee members had some questions in terms of the bulk and height of the proposal; it’s a tall building,” Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann explained, “and so the committee has asked for some more answers in terms of feasibility, and for Bay Ridge Prep to address some of the height concerns.
“But, it was a very impressive and thorough presentation with a lot of different parts,” she went on. “I think committee members felt that it was a lot of material [to review in one sitting] and wanted to take a further look.”
The school, established in 1998 by co-founders Dr. Charles Fasano and Dr. Michael Dealy, began with a student body of just 35. Today, the school boasts an impressive 400 students, but, according to Fasano, both its home-base at 8101 Ridge Boulevard and its second-coming at 7420 Fourth Avenue were quick to outgrow themselves.
This new building would consolidate Bay Ridge Prep’s high school and administrative functions – now dispersed into seven locations throughout the neighborhood – into one place.
Pending approval from the community board (and ultimately, the city), the space – which will house over two dozen classrooms, a 200-seat theater, a full-size gymnasium, science labs, a fitness room, two squash courts and dedicated space for music, dance and the visual arts, and more – will become the sole building for Bay Ridge Prep’s upper grades.
The lower grades, Fasano said, will continue to learn out of Bay Ridge Prep’s Ridge Boulevard building, though all other leases and rental agreements will be terminated with those funds currently going towards rent pouring back into the new project.
Initial plans for the facility – which will also include a rooftop terrace featuring a garden and additional green space – were filed with the New York City Department of Buildings in March of this year, with a goal of opening the new building by September, 2018.
Representatives from Bay Ridge Prep were happy with the meeting’s turnout.
“We were pleased with how thoughtful the committee was when studying this project and their support in meeting the needs that Bay Ridge Prep has to continue serving our students and the community,” Fasano, head of school, told this paper. “We are also excited about the positive impact this building will have on the broader community.”