Not in our hood: Dyker Heights residents speak out against proposed 86th Street development

Two days after a public hearing at which a proposed development for 86th Street in Dyker Heights was overwhelmingly panned, the developer has withdrawn the proposal, according to Councilmember Justin Brannan, who posted the news on Facebook.

Brannan wrote, “I have spoken with the applicants …, and they have agreed to withdraw the rezoning application. The applicants expressed an understanding of the concerns of the surrounding community, and look forward to working with their neighbors in determining a better path forward to address those concerns.”

Citing a negative impact on their day-to-day lives, hundreds of local residents had turned out on Monday, April 24 at a Community Board 11 public hearing about the project, and as if with one voice, spoke out against it.

As presented at the hearing, the project was intended to incorporate 32 apartments, including an anticipated 10 units of affordable housing, with ground floor retail, in a six-story, 65-foot tall structure with 25 parking spots.

The development site. Eagle photo by Helen Klein

“We don’t want this,” one speaker asserted to cheers from the crowd. “Homes here are three stories high. I live on 85th Street. This is our view. We’ll lose sun, privacy, parking. Our quality of life will go. You’ll rezone one building, then the next, and the next and the next. It will change the landscape of the neighborhood.”

Her neighbor agreed. “It’s been shown that as the density of the population goes up,” she said, “the quality of life goes down.”

The development was planned for 1421 86th Street, the site of Romantique Limousines, a one-story building. The intention was to house the company in the first-floor commercial space, according to Richard Lobel, the attorney for the developer, Thomas Aellis. This is the second time the developer has backtracked on the proposal. Prior to the hearing, plans had been released for a nine-story building.

In order to go forward with either plan, zoning map and text changes would be necessary. This triggered New York City’s mandated land use review process, ULURP, whose first step is a public hearing at the community board level.

The board, whose role is advisory only, had intended to vote on whether to support the project at its May 4 general meeting, which will be held virtually via Zoom.

Lobel tried to make the case that the location was a perfect one for such a development, given what he said was the city’s “housing crisis,” citing the width of both 86th Street (100 feet) and 14th Avenue (80 feet). And he stressed that Aellis had tried to respond to neighborhood concerns with a “more moderate proposal.”

In addition, in response to rumors that have been flooding social media since news of the project broke, Lobel emphasized that the building could not become a homeless shelter, citing a restrictive declaration that the developer intends to enter into, that he said specifically prohibits that potential use “forever.”

But, the residents in attendance weren’t buying what Lobel was selling.

“Whether it’s a nine or a six-story building, it doesn’t belong here,” contended Barbara Vellucci, a member of neighboring Community Board 10, who attended the hearing on behalf of the Dyker Heights Civic Association. “Once they do it,” she warned, “they’ll do it over and over again.”

Patrick Mooney, who said he lived for a while on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, agreed. “I saw that neighborhood decline because of never-ending development in the name of more housing,” he said. “This neighborhood is compact. The infrastructure can’t support what we have now. There are plenty of areas that need redevelopment. Not Dyker Heights.”

Parking is already difficult, numerous speakers said. “I already go around the block five or 10 times to get a spot,” one woman commented. “Imagine what it will be like with this project!”

One man pointed out that traffic along 86th Street during the morning rush and after school lets out is already horrendous. “You can’t drive down the street,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Another issue brought up by residents in attendance was the already overcrowded schools in the area. “Where are we going to put all the kids?” one speaker demanded. “The schools are already bursting at the seams.”

And, then, of course, there are the Christmas crowds that descend on Dyker Heights each year to view the holiday displays. “The neighborhood is already inundated by tour buses and thousands of people,” one man pointed out. “I’ve seen ambulances, fire engines, police cars not be able to get down the block. You can’t keep stacking people in like sardines. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I have a question for Tommy Aellis,” one woman said, toward the end of the hearing. “Why are you doing this to our neighborhood?

At one point, Laurie Windsor, the co-chairperson of the CB 11 Planning & Zoning Committee, which was holding the hearing, asked the SRO crowd if there was anyone in the room who had come to speak in favor of the project.

Not a single person replied.

The hearing was held at Il Centro, 8711 18th Avenue.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.