One local panel of activists is sounding the alarm about potentially being cut out of the process with respect to what could amount to a huge development poised on the border of Dyker Heights, Sunset Park and Boro Park.
At Community Board 10’s January meeting, held at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, 9941 Fort Hamilton Parkway, board members expressed concern about their part in reviewing a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued last month by the MTA, which is seeking a developer interested in building over the Long Island Railroad tracks between Eighth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway.
According to the RFP, the MTA — which wants money for its capital construction program — envisions a mixed use residential-commercial development in the air rights over the right-of-way, which runs between 61st and 62nd Streets.
But, not just any residential-commercial development. Rather, the MTA has specified, for the 3.8 acre site, that the developer should aim to build to an average Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 6.0, in an area zoned for light manufacturing (M1-1), where the maximum FAR is currently 1.0, with FAR being 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.
That means that, potentially, a development at the site could rise 12 stories or even taller, constructed on a platform over the right of way for a length of two avenue blocks.
For board members, the new RFP also raises the specter of a past proposal — Brooklyn Junction, known as the Megamall — that would have seen a shopping center rise over the same tracks between Eighth and 14th Avenues. It took the concerted efforts of board members and local activists — who agreed that the project would have had a severe impact on the quality of life in Dyker Heights — to fight that 20-year-old proposal successfully.
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the MTA, in its RFP, has referred to the site as being wholly within the borders of Community Board 12 [a board that has been considerably more development-friendly than CB 10 over the years], using 61st Street as the location, even though the CB 10 has historically been defined as going to the middle of the overpass between 61st and 62nd Streets, with CB 12 on the other side.
Indeed, back when the Megamall was under review, CB 10 was asked to analyze it and render an advisory opinion. And, it is hardly the only issue on the border between the two boards that has been reviewed by CB 10.
“The MTA has consistently come to CB 10 for issues about the Eighth Avenue station [located on the overpass] and the Fort Hamilton Parkway station [also located on the overpass], so if we’re in their purview for subway issues, what’s happened now? Why did that change?” demanded Chair Doris Cruz.
Board member Steve Harrison concurred. “Twenty years ago,” he recalled, “CB 10 was the driving force behind stopping [the Megamall]. It’s my understanding that some of the people who are involved in this development are the same people who were involved in the development back then. Very coincidental. It makes no sense that it coincidentally stops at CB 12. It seems like what they’re doing is trying to get around CB 10 and the objections we had, because if we don’t have jurisdiction, we don’t have jurisdiction.”
Indeed, as District Manager Josephine Beckmann pointed out, CB 10 services do not stop at 62nd Street but rather extend to the 61st Street side of the tracks.
“Right now,” she told the group, “we’re responsible for the overpasses on Eighth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway from 61st to 62nd Street. The question is where that line is [dividing the two boards]. The M1 zone is certainly shared by both boards. We seem to believe that it should be a shared one jurisdictionally.”
That has yet to be determined by the city. “The board,” said Zoning and Land Use Chair Brian Kaszuba, “has requested a jurisdictional boundary determination be made to see if CB 10 does in fact have standing” to make recommendations as any project proposed for the site goes through mandatory reviews. “If the determination is that we don’t, the committee and board still plan to weigh in as a concerned abutting community board.”
There are pressing reasons for the board to want jurisdiction. While its opinions are advisory only, they can have an impact, as they did when the Megamall was defeated two decades ago.In fact, there are two other potentially large developments poised to commence within the area, stressed Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone.
As Vella-Marrone noted, “Directly across the street at Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street, you have another mega project [combining a two-story retail complex, 12-story residential tower with 250 apartments, a 12-story commercial tower and an 11-story hotel tower], and then you’re going to have this development at the Angel Guardian Home [the size and scope of which are yet to be determined], so within basically a four-block radius, you’re going to have a tremendous amount of density that’s going to come to this area.
“We have to be concerned about that, and we have to look at these projects and make sure they’re being done properly and in accordance with what the community wants and needs.”
Reporting contributed by Meaghan McGoldrick.