Today’s news:

WE’RE overdeveloped, Ratner foes tell Marty

The Brooklyn Paper


Borough President Marty Markowitz’s decision to hold a little-publicized meeting this week addressing overdevelopment in southern Brooklyn — which he called “suburban Brooklyn” in a recent newsletter — incensed residents in Brownstone Brooklyn, who say they are facing projects of a greater scale.

Residents who learned of the May 10 meeting, held at a public school in Bensonhurst, saw it listed on Markowitz’s Web site and spread the word by mouth and e-mail around Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope.

Those neighborhoods include and border the site of developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards, on which he plans to build a professional basketball arena for his New Jersey Nets and 17 high-rises of housing and office space. Markowitz has from the beginning been a champion of the project, which relies on the state’s condemnation of private property using its power of eminent domain.

Asked last Friday afternoon why no notice had been sent to local media about the town hall-style meeting in Bensonhurst, Markowitz spokeswoman Jocelyn Aframe said she was working on sending out press releases, which were faxed and e-mailed later that afternoon.

“Hopefully they will know about it in time to go to the meeting,” she said, acknowledging that the notice was sent out past the deadlines for every weekly newspaper in the borough.

“If you didn’t read about it on our Web site, I’m sorry,” she said.

[Although the Markowitz press release about Tuesday’s meeting made no reference to it, the next overdevelopment meeting, according to his Web site, is scheduled for May 31 at 6 pm. It will be held at a public school in Marine Park, at 1925 Stuart St. at Fillmore Avenue.]

In Markowitz’s April newsletter, titled “Brooklyn!!,” he touts efforts to rezone portions of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, the latter of which he calls, “the largest rezoning effort taking place in the Borough of Brooklyn today.”

The piece, headlined ‘Saving Brooklyn’s Communities,” blames “rapid, unplanned development in some of Brooklyn’s most suburban neighborhoods” for “changing the character and scale of some communities,” and notes that the borough president asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “make rezoning of overdeveloped Brooklyn neighborhoods and those facing overdevelopment a priority.”

The Ratner project, which will encompass 24 acres and stretch from Atlantic and Flatbush avenues to Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, will host 17 high-rises and at least four skyscrapers — one reaching as high as 600 feet tall — and swallow four city street-beds.

Fort Greene-Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, who fervently opposes the arena plan, said she was insulted Markowitz would overlook her area.

“The project is the largest that this borough has seen in over three decades,” she told The Brooklyn Papers. “A project that is going to fundamentally reshape the borough of Brooklyn and its landscape.

“It’s further unfortunate that, according to the borough president’s own newsletter, he wants to divide Brooklyn in half — urban versus suburban — that this borough president would want to protect ‘suburban Brooklyn’ and not ‘urban Brooklyn,’” James said, adding “Those are his words, not mine.

“It’s a civil war,” she fumed.

Patti Hagan, an outspoken member of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, which formed in opposition to the arena plans, called the terms used by Markowitz to distinguish between the downtown-neighboring residential areas and those in southern Brooklyn “a phony distinction.”

“There is one Brooklyn, and its all very urban,” she said. “That [suburban] Brooklyn doesn’t exist.”

Lucy Koteen, a member of Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, another group that opposes the Ratner plan, said that Tuesday’s meeting actually served to unite the roughly 100 northern and southern Brooklynites who attended. [See related story.]

“Everybody in the room was in agreement and supporting one another in our various development sites,” said Koteen. “This is one Brooklyn, and we feel the same — Brooklyn is an endangered species.

“I said to Marty [Markowitz], ‘You’re talking about suburban Brooklyn, what is it that we in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights are, ‘urban Brooklyn?’ Isn’t that some sort of coded language?”

Koteen, a mother and Fort Greene Association member who owns a brownstone added, “I have labored on my own house with no subsidies.”

But residents who didn’t catch wind of the overdevelopment meeting, from neighborhoods such as DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Ferry and Brooklyn Heights, which have been concerned with height limitations and spot-zoning, say they, too, are concerned that their low-rise neighborhoods will suffer.

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, was surprised this week to hear about the meeting from a reporter and sounded almost amused to find it was in Bensonhurst.

“An overdevelopment hearing in Bensonhurst!” she said.

“We are alarmed by the overdevelopment that we think is taking place in DUMBO,” she said, “But it’s very indicative of what the real estate climate is, and all around the edges of Brooklyn Heights we’ve done the best to try to maintain contextual zoning.

“The schools and the subways are not growing fast enough,” Stanton said, noting the added burden on city infrastructure of all the development planned in Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO.

She also cited the added density of all the housing now planned as part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park development along the waterfront between the Manhattan Bridge and Atlantic Avenue.

“Our historic district is obviously protected, but it’s kind of a site-by-site basis” in other areas, said Stanton.

“With people trying to get every square inch of profit out of every existing footprint, that’s of concern, because some of these historic row houses are being compromised,” said Stanton.

“People are coming here for human scale,” she said. “When people come to Brooklyn they want to see houses,” she said. “If they wanted to live in Manhattan, they wouldn’t be coming here.”

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