There are still many unknowns about the massive development proposed for Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street in Sunset Park — but what is crystal clear is the reaction of members of a local panel tasked with reviewing the project.
Community Board 10 — in whose catchment area the 6208 Eighth Ave. project is located — is strongly in opposition to what has been proposed, believing it to be way too large.
At its September general board meeting, held at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, the board voted “against the 6208 Eighth Ave. project as presented due to the overwhelming size, scope and impact it will have on the community.”
The vote came at the end of the first leg of an extensive public review process, just weeks after the Dept. of City Planning (DCP) held a public hearing in connection with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently being prepared that precedes the mandated municipal review process known as ULURP.
“We are basically saying it’s a non-starter,” Zoning and Land Use Committee Chair Brian Kaszuba told this paper. Usually, boards weigh in on projects that must go through ULURP once ULURP has commenced, but Kaszuba said CB 10 wanted to get out in front of the process for this particular project, mainly because the area appears to be in the crosshairs of development, with the MTA attempting to lease air rights over the tracks at Eighth Avenue for another potentially massive project.
In addition, plans being pushed for changes in the movement of freight, utilizing the 65th Street railyards, could result in a significant “uptick in truck traffic along 65th Street,” Kaszuba stressed.
“You can’t do this in a vacuum,” he emphasized. “There are other developments in the pipeline. They know about them and we know about them, and they all have to be taken into consideration.”
The project, developed by 6208 Realty LLC and designed by architect Raymond Chan, is comprised of a 12-story residential tower containing 250 apartments (50 of which are affordable housing) facing Seventh Avenue, a 12-story office tower facing Eighth Avenue, and an 11-story hotel with 200 rooms, also facing Seventh Avenue.
The towers, as designed, are situated atop a two-story-tall retail complex, with stores arranged, according to Kaszuba “in a market-style layout.” Also included in the plan are various garden areas, as well as medical offices, private day care and pre-kindergarten and a bookless digital library. In addition, 1,883 parking spaces would be included, in an underground garage with access on both Seventh and Eighth avenues.
The development largely meets the requirements of an upzoning for the site that was approved back in 2007 when a project that combined housing and a Home Depot was planned for the location.
However, because of the site’s proximity to the subway and train tracks, it must go through extensive review. Also requiring review is the developer’s request to change the site’s zoning district, in order to reduce the number of parking spots from 2,100 to 1,883.
Among the questions the EIS will attempt to answer are the impact of the development on the area as well as city services. The study will include a parking analysis, traffic analysis at some 25 different intersections during five different “peak” time periods, as well as an analysis of available public transit options and an analysis of the impact on pedestrians at Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street.
Among the issues cited by CB 10 in its extended recommendation is that, given the small scale of nearby homes and businesses, “This project does not conform to neighborhood character, and will have a negative visual effect.”
Another major issue is the strain the project could put on area infrastructure, the board said. As CB 10 points out, schools, roadways, public transportation and municipal services are already stressed by overcrowding, thanks in part to illegal conversions, “and this development will place a major strain on all city resources in this area,” the board contended in its resolution.
In addition, the board contends that available public transportation would not be adequate to support the influx of residents, workers and visitors to the complex, which would also negatively impact an already crowded commercial area. The board also opined that the area does not need the hotel and additional stores included in the project, and questioned the accuracy of assumptions members believe are being made by the developer that those who live in the complex would also shop there, work there and send their children to school there.
“They have this really lofty view of utopian society,” Kaszuba said. “It’s not going to happen.”
The plan, Chan acknowledged to this paper in a 2017 interview, is something of a “social experiment,” explaining that one of the goals of the developers was to consolidate housing, early education facilities and a variety of businesses in a single facility, to ease the burden on harried area residents, particularly single parents.
At that time, Chan also noted that the development had been made smaller and less dense than what had originally been proposed in 2014.
Once the EIS is completed, ULURP — which incorporates reviews at the community and borough level, followed by a review by the City Planning Commission (CPC) and the City Council, with each step required to be complete within a specified time frame — can begin.
According to the presentation from the Aug. 30 Public Scoping Meeting held by CPC to help determine the direction of the EIS, the estimated build year is by 2023.
The board’s vote is advisory only.