Community board votes ‘yes’ to site but ‘no’ to size for proposed Bay Ridge Prep expansion

Members of Community Board 10 voted on Monday, October 17 to approve one half of a two-pronged special permit request put forth by Bay Ridge Prep.

The proposal, if approved by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), 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, nearly 50,000-square-foot facility at 429 89th Street where both the bulk of the planned structure and its location in a commercial/manufacturing zoning district are contrary to city code.

After lengthy debate citing concerns such as traffic, congestion, student safety and keeping in character with the neighborhood, board members ultimately voted to greenlight the school’s location, but not its added bulk.

“The Zoning and Land Use Committee discussed whether the height of this proposed building is in keeping with the scale of the neighborhood as a whole and questioned whether this is really a good direction for the community,” said Committee Chair Ann Falutico, noting that the board may look favorably on a lowered building.

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 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.

For comparison, Falutico further explained that the new building, if approved to stand at its proposed 106 feet, would tower over its neighbor, the Fort Hamilton Early Childhood Education Center, the highest point of which stands at 63 feet.

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.

An updated rendering of the what the building will look like.
An updated rendering of the what the building will look like.

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, as well as serve the community with its proposed performing arts space and swimming pool.

Now pending approval from the BSA, the space – slated to house over two dozen classrooms, a 200-seat theater, a full-size gymnasium, science labs, a fitness room, two squash courts, 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 into the new project.

Cutting back on the bulk, Prep officials said, “would mean sacrificing much needed classroom space and removing the possibility of having a professional theater in Bay Ridge, another vital need to the community.” They also contended that the school “has done its due diligence in finding a suitable location for the building and reducing the height of the proposed building as much as it can without sacrificing the needs of the school and the benefit the project will have on the community.”

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 during the 2018-2019 school year.

“We look forward to meeting next with the Board of Standards and Appeals to gain full approval of the project, including the proposed height of the building,” said Fasano pursuant to the board’s vote.

The community board’s vote is advisory only. The BSA has final say over both requests.

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