Today’s news:

Brighton Beach rezone - CB13 to hold hearings on plan to revamp 50 blocks

The Brighton Beach downzoning plan is now in the public review phase.

Last week, the Department of City Planning certified its long-awaited rezoning plan. Community Board 13 now has 60 days to review and vote on the plan.

Marion Cleaver, chair of Community Board 13, said she has “no sense right now” of how the board will vote when the plan is presented at its February 25 meeting.

“I know when it was initially presented, there was mixed reaction so I don’t know. It’s a wait and see. I know that a lot of people keep talking about the height along Brighton Beach Avenue,” Cleaver said.

That would be City Planning’s proposal to allow for new buildings to be erected on Brighton Beach Avenue at 100 feet tall.

Brighton Beach residents have criticized this proposal, saying the buildings would block sunlight and the flow of cool air from the ocean.

“I still don’t understand why they feel it must go up on Brighton Beach Avenue. I think they are going to create a great wall,” said Pat Singer, president of the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association and a member of Community Board 13.

For commercial areas and blocks with apartment houses, there would be R7A zoning and a maximum new building height of eight stories.

Residential streets would be rezoned to R5D, which limits building height to 40 feet or about four stories. Existing buildings on these blocks are about 35 feet tall.

The bungalow district would be rezoned from R6 to R4A or R5D and create a height limit of three stories.

Brighton Beach residents have pleaded for downzoning for the past six years. During that time, modest one-family homes were replaced with multistory residential towers that residents say are out of character with the neighborhood.

“They’re about 10 years too late because the whole neighborhood has been ripped apart already,” said Judd Fischler, a resident of Brighton 3rd Street.

In 2007, Brighton Beach’s bungalow district was rocked by a series of fires in vacant homes that some residents feared were the work of eager developers. Police and Fire Department officials had labeled some fires suspicious but never officially backed residents’ claims.

Just last Thursday, a fire ravaged a vacant bungalow at 2955 Brighton 5th Street. One person suffered third degree burns and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Fischler said the fires mirrored the unrest in Brighton Beach caused by overdevelopment.

“I am upset because a lot of the buildings were started and then they ran out of money,” Fischler said.

For the ones that were completed, there’s often trouble selling the condo units.

“The buildings that have gone up already are vacant. They can’t sell them, they can’t rent them. I don’t know what’s going on,” Fischler said.

In another instance, “A friend of mine passed a building and it had a sign saying for sale. The next time it said for rent, the next time it said foreclosed,” he continued.

Although Brighton Beach residents have reservations with some aspects of City Planning’s rezoning proposal, Singer said it’s necessary to approve the plan quickly to prevent developers from erecting additional sky-high buildings.

“We can’t afford not to vote for it. We can’t afford to wait another year. There will be nothing to save,” Singer said.

After Community Board 13 votes on the rezoning plan, the plan will be reviewed by Borough President Marty Markowitz, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council, as per the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Community Board 13 will meet on February 25 at 7 p.m. in the second floor auditorium at Coney Island Hospital, 2601 Ocean Parkway. For more meeting details, contact the board at 718-266-3001.

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