New Year, New Development Mooted for Eighth Avenue

The already teeming Eighth Avenue corridor on the border of Sunset Park and Dyker Heights could see even more new development, as one more player has entered the area with plans for a multi-story mixed-use commercial/residential building.

Getty Realty Trust, which owns the property at 6418 Eighth Avenue — a lot at the corner of 65th Street that is the site of a long-standing gas station — is looking to construct an eight-story development with 48 apartments, and with commercial space on the first and second floors.

To do so, it needs a pair of zoning changes, one to change the use of the property from manufacturing to commercial/residential and another — which is mandated by the city in such cases — to require any construction on what would be newly-rezoned property to include a certain percentage of affordable housing.

Should the rezoning take place (which requires a long review process, known as ULURP, beginning at the community board level and ending with the City Council), the property could be the third in a small stretch of Eighth Avenue to be redeveloped.

Already in the pipeline (and currently undergoing environmental review) is a development for 6200 Eighth Avenue, a parcel of land that was rezoned a decade ago for a significantly more modest project that never came to fruition.

The project currently moving forward for that site would incorporate a two-story retail complex, functioning as the base for a total 12-story residential tower with 250 apartments fronting on Seventh Avenue, with a 12-story commercial tower fronting on Eighth Avenue and an 11-story hotel tower planned for mid-block.

In addition, the MTA is seeking a developer for the air space over the train tracks running between 61st and 62nd Streets, between Eighth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway. That project could be even larger than the one currently being reviewed for 6200 Eighth Avenue, with the MTA indicating in its December, 2017 Request for Proposals that it wanted a developer who would “maximize revenue for MTA’s capital program.”

Among the items on the MTA’s wish list for the 3.8 acre development site is that the developer should aim to build to an average Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 6.0. The area is now zoned for light manufacturing (M1-1), with a maximum FAR of 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. The higher the FAR, the denser the project.

The project proposed for 6418 Eighth Avenue would also have a high FAR. According to attorneys representing Getty, who appeared before Community Board 10’s Zoning and Land Use Committee on Thurs., Jan. 3, the zoning change sought would be from M1-1 to C4-RD, a zoning district that allows both commercial and residential uses and which has an FAR of 5.6.

The proposed height of the building would be 98 feet, with a setback above the sixth story, though a tower containing the building’s mechanicals would raise the total height of the structure to 118 feet, according to Frank St. Jacques, who presented the project to committee members at the board’s district office, 8119 Fifth Ave. There would be a total of 27 parking spaces, as required, in a cellar garage.

The project appeared to raise several red flags for board members. While expressing appreciation that attorneys for the developers had proactively approached the board to gauge its response to the proposal, members said they were concerned about the fact that the area that is targeted for rezoning is actually larger than the development lot, incorporating three adjacent lots that are not included in the proposed project, including an auto repair shop on 65th Street, a small commercial building on Eighth Avenue and a significantly larger commercial building at the corner of 64th Street and Eighth Avenue.

If the rezoning proceeds as currently proposed, those three properties could be developed in accordance with the new zoning — creating a sort of wild card in terms of what changes could be made in an area already rife with change. Indeed, as longtime board member Steve Harrison pointed out, extending the rezoning to lots not included in the project would create a “soft site,” property that is underdeveloped compared to what would be permitted there.

Another concern is the strain on city infrastructure. Specifically, the project site is located within the catchment area of P.S. 69, a school that is already significantly overcrowded, in a school district that is one of the most crowded in the city, with a shortfall of nearly 11,000 seats, according to CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

“This section of the district is probably the part of the district that has seen the greatest growth,” Beckmann noted, adding that as manufacturing zones have morphed into ones where people can live, it is, “Bringing a lot more people,” which, in turn, creates strains on existing, and sometimes aging, infrastructure — not only schools, but public transportation, water and sewer mains, and sources of electricity, for example.

The loss of manufacturing areas — which has been a problem around the city — was also noted, as was the heavy traffic along 65th Street, which Beckmann pointed out is a “high-crash corridor,” and one that backs up traffic on intersecting streets.

“If you’re driving north or south on Eighth Avenue,” she pointed out, “when you hit 65th Street, you hit a wall of traffic.”

Whatever happens at the development site could influence future zoning changes and development along the Eighth Avenue corridor, added board member Ann Falutico. “Is this what we want to see going right down the block?” she asked, noting that the community could “have another Fourth Avenue” in terms of development, if the rezoning goes forward.

Also a concern was the fear that, once the property was rezoned it could — like 6200 Eighth Avenue — be sold undeveloped to a different developer with different and possibly more intrusive plans. The original proposal for 6200 — which the board backed — was considerably smaller than what is currently in the pipeline, encompassing a Home Depot and a single, 11-story residential tower.

“If we make the commitment, I would really like to see if we can hold them to it,” stressed Harrison. “We’d be committing to the [zoning] district, not them. They can tell us all day long what they intend to do, but there’s always the worry about flipping.”

“Flipping” the property after rezoning could result in a “much worse” scenario, added board Chair Doris Cruz.

“I don’t think we can afford to be fooled again,” Harrison later added. “The simple fact is that if it doesn’t work, we’re stuck with it.

“This is just one building,” he noted. “The problem is, all those just one buildings become a lot of buildings.”

The development site, as seen in the developer’s presentation.

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