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Neighbors slam artists’ lofty plan to convert factory into apartments

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A bid by artists to convert an old factory into a space where they can live and work got a bad review from Crown Heights denizens, who claim the last thing the booming area needs is housing priced beyond the means of many longtime residents.

Community Board 8’s full board did not back a request for a zoning variance that would help the creatives gain permission to construct 13 apartments inside a Dean Street building they purchased in 2011, arguing that properties in Crown Heights’ small manufacturing zone between Franklin and Grand avenues should remain industrial, or be used to leverage developers into offering below-market-rate apartments.

“When they purchased the building they were aware that it was in a manufacturing zone and not suitable for residential,” said board member Sharon Wedderburn in a speech that drew applause. “There is a high desirability to maintain some possibility of affordable housing in the neighborhood and one way we might accomplish this is to maintain the manufacturing zone.”

Members of the board jeered when they received a handout featuring a third party real estate broker’s estimates of residential rents in the building, which is a half-block away from the booming Franklin Avenue strip, ranging from $1,800 to $8,600, depending on the size of the unit.

But the artists, who won the support of CB8’s housing committee earlier this month, stressed their deep roots in the community and promised they are in it for the long haul.

“All these concerns are completely understandable and valid,” said Nicola Lopez, an artist and professor at Bard College. “It is not our desire to flood the market with really high end apartments or make a killing on selling things — it’s really so we can establish a place where we can continue to live and work in this neighborhood.”

In a heated meeting, board members argued that allowing housing in the manufacturing building could set off a cascade of zoning shifts that would pave the way for a residential take-over of the area.

“We are the fleas on a dog, in a bus, that is going into an atomic maelstrom,” said board member Desmond Atkins.

At the end of the night, 13 board members votes against the proposal and four abstained, outweighing the 16 votes in favor.

The artists will next go before the powerful Board of Standards and Appeals, which will make the final ruling on the requested variance.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

JAZ from you ruined it says:
Another place for the invading army of pseudo-creatives to colonize and price out working class New Yorkers. Like Yah!!!!!
March 18, 2013, 8:54 am
jjm from ch says:
They flat out do not want any hippie-looking, black frame beard wearing people in their neighborhood, point blank. Thats basically the same way most people from bk are feeling & its gonna get more vocal. Mark my word on this.
March 18, 2013, 10:32 am
jjm from ch says:
Plus these MF'ers that are trying to do this are not even from ny or the tri-state area for that matter.
March 18, 2013, 10:34 am
BC from CH says:
So - it's better for the neighborhood to leave the building derelict?
March 18, 2013, 10:44 am
jjm from ch says:
Honesty i cant wait til nyc is NYC again & not this bs touristy looking place that bloomturd has created. Once he's gone things will definitely go back to normal. Rip up the bike lanes, tear down the lux condos & push out these transplants who dont respect long-time ny'ers.
March 18, 2013, 10:47 am
ty from pps says:
jjm -- what is your last comment based on? Where are they "from"?
March 18, 2013, 10:47 am
jjm from ch says:
@bc, i'd say why not? People have to realize this is BROOKLYN. if they want all that lux loft bs they can go to the east side of manhattan.
March 18, 2013, 10:50 am
gdt from Crown Heights says:
This is not about one industrial loft, it's about six blocks of industrially zoned buildings. By approving or disapproving this variance, the community is setting a precedence that can then be used for all of the other buildings in the rest of the blocks. This piece meal approach to re-zoning is a testimony to the negligence of the Dept of City Planning. DCP should have re-zoned the entire area as it did in Williamsburgh when faced with similar market pressures. In Wburgh DCP created a mixed-use zoning plan that provided for work and live space and a set aside for affordable housing. Why not here? Perhaps Forest City could pay for the study, given that Atlantic Yards is amping up the pressure on the community.
March 18, 2013, 11:19 am
ty from pps says:
We should all remember that much of Tribeca is zoned as mixed live/work space, specifically for artists... How many of those multimillion dollar lofts (with low taxes) are inhabited by artists? 20%?

I heard they are half-heartedly trying to enforce this upon resale, but obviously those who own multimillion dollar properties are also the ones that have loud political voices...
March 18, 2013, 11:37 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
I am in agreement with the community's opposition, as they have a right to determine, in large measure, the development in their community.

However, the people above's comments only make it easier for the city to ignore the community. Either comment in a reasonable manner or refrain from the discussion. Hate and jealously will get the community nowhere.
March 18, 2013, 1:51 pm
developer from brooklyn says:
The real issue is that if they get the variance, the people who own the building will be getting a real windfall worth millions of dollars.

they got the place for a low price just a couple years ago because it was industrial.

if they're going to get the variance, they should have to provide affordable housing or some other community benefit.
March 18, 2013, 2:37 pm
jjm from ch says:
You guys must really wanna see another crown heights riot huh?
March 18, 2013, 4:45 pm
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
So the most asinine things I have read today are all coming from the same person. Congratulations jjm for once again proving how stupid and close minded you truly are.

"Honesty i cant wait til nyc is NYC again & not this bs touristy looking place that bloomturd has created."

"People have to realize this is BROOKLYN."

"You guys must really wanna see another crown heights riot huh?"
March 18, 2013, 7:11 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
when and what made in the factories - you may want to look at that befoe you name your kids flipper
March 19, 2013, 9:06 pm
homeowner from crown heights says:
So we can have public housing on every block...but not housing for people who can support businesses in the area...I'm tired of living with a terrible police force, rundown blocks, abandoned construction... for 'real nyc'
June 9, 2013, 11:35 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
“It is not our desire to flood the market with really high end apartments or make a killing on selling things — it’s really so we can establish a place where we can continue to live and work in this neighborhood.”

Nicola! Come on! Put some more fight into it! Our job is to convert these little rustbelts into a new high-end economy. Market-rate condos, tech centers, courtyard cafés where goodfellas used to make concrete sneakers. And the whole thing is going to flush out into jobs and housing a plenty for anyone in Brooklyn who wants to work for a living. Being an artist in Brooklyn is a HUGE DEAL! It's much more than just "living and working in the community" like you down with the hood or something. You went to Bard, for Crissakes! What did you study, electroplating? Hospitality management? Come on. You're intelligentsia. You're on the front line of the transformation of Brooklyn from manufacturing to technology. That's what's for dinner. We're ringing the dinner bell. So let me hear it!
June 12, 2013, 10:45 am

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