Brooklyn Botanic Garden Moves to Stop Construction of Proposed Skyscrapers

According to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, changes to local zoning “will have a lasting negative impact” on their conservatories, greenhouses and nurseries. Photo credit: Anna Azarova

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden wants your support to stop two proposed skyscrapers next door.

Earlier this week, the botanic garden published a petition opposing a rezoning request that would make way for two 39-story residential towers across the street.

“The developers are seeking to rezone multiple lots at the site,” the Brooklyn Botanic Garden says on its website. “These changes to zoning will have a lasting negative impact on Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s conservatories, greenhouses and nurseries—where plants for the entire Garden are propagated and grown—by causing the loss of as much as three hours of sunlight daily in spring, summer and fall.”

The project calls for two buildings reaching over 420 feet into the sky, making them almost as tall as the Montague-Court Building in Downtown Brooklyn. The massive project would tower over much of the surrounding Crown Heights neighborhood, where most buildings are four stories and under. It would also dwarf a planned 16-story development nearby, more than doubling its height.

Current laws protect the botanic garden from high rises, “capping building height at this location at 75 feet (approximately seven stories),” according to the garden’s website. The petition claims that the skyscrapers at 960 Franklin Avenue “will have a lasting negative impact on Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s greenhouses, conservatories and nurseries, which provide plants to the entire Botanic Garden.”

But Lupé Todd-Medina—the president of Effective Media Strategies and spokesperson for developer Continuum Company LLC—said the botanic garden staff haven’t responded to multiple requests to sit down with the developers.

“There have been several attempts to convene a meeting to discuss their concerns,” Todd-Medina said in an email. “There have been attempts as recently as a few weeks ago.”

Brooklyn Botanic Garden didn’t reply to multiple requests for comment from Edible Brooklyn this week, but communications director Elizabeth Reina-Longoria told Bklyner back in October that they opposed buildings this tall on the site because they “could have serious negative impacts on our plant nursery and conservatory gardens.”

Todd-Medina said developers at Continuum Company LLC and Lincoln Equities have a reason to build so tall.

“The density is because there is a need,” Todd-Medina said in a phone interview. “We’re looking to build more affordable housing in an area of need. There is a need, and we’re answering a need.”

The developers’ scoping document outlines plans for about 1,500 units, half of which the developers say will be “affordable.” Todd-Medina said the future residents of the unnamed towers will be “a truly diverse spectrum of lower, working and moderate incomes reflecting the needs of our middle-class families in Brooklyn.”

Alicia Boyd, an activist with Movement to Protect the People, isn’t buying it. Boyd’s organization has fought similar developments in the neighborhood, and she doubts that this project will be truly affordable to neighborhood residents, saying that instead it will attract wealthier newcomers who will ultimately change the character of the neighborhood. Her group is already organizing against the proposed Franklin Avenue towers.

“It will just have a devastating effect on the character of the community, as well as on open green space,” said Boyd, running through a long list of environmental concerns. Among them: the impact on the botanic garden.

The Movement to Protect the People put pressure on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, staging a recent protest aimed at convincing the organization to more actively oppose the high rises, Boyd said. Now, she’s hoping to draw crowds of opponents to a public hearing on the development tomorrow, March 12. That planning hearing will also be where developers address the botanic garden’s concerns, Todd-Medina said, since the two groups haven’t met.

Attend the next public meeting on the 960 Franklin Avenue towers on Tuesday, March 12, at 1 p.m. in the Dept. of City Planning’s City Planning Commission Hearing Room on the Concourse Level of 120 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.