Protect Brooklyn’s Garden: Join the Fight for Sunlight
New towers threaten sunlight to the Garden’s Greenhouses
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s plant collections are under serious threat from a proposed massive building complex including two 39‑story towers at 960 Franklin Avenue (the spice factory site) just 150 feet from the Garden.
Towers of this size would block hours of sunlight to the Garden’s 23 conservatories, greenhouses, and nurseries. These facilities grow plants for the entire 52-acre garden site and serve as a hub for community and educational programs.
Current zoning protects the Garden’s access to sunlight by capping building height at this location. These laws must remain in place to prevent irreparable damage to the Garden. Join us in signing a petition to city officials to protect the integrity and the beauty of Brooklyn’s Garden!
Updates: As of October 15, 2020, we’ve learned that the 960 Franklin Avenue Rezoning project application is complete and the Department of City Planning (DCP) has given notice of its intention to certify the application (“certify” does not mean approve—it means the beginning of a formal public review process the developers must follow to seek zoning changes with city officials). This milestone could happen as early as November 16 at the City Planning Commission’s review session.
Once certified, the project enters the formal Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP)—a lengthy process that includes several opportunities for the public to weigh in on the applicant's plans. First up will be a hearing at Community Board 9, which must be held within 60 days of certification. We'll keep you updated here on how you can support BBG in this important battle.
What is the proposed project?
Real estate developers have filed plans to build a complex that includes two 39-story towers on the three-acre spice factory site at 960 Franklin Avenue, just 150 feet from Brooklyn Botanic Garden. These towers, located between Montgomery Street and Sullivan Place, would rise over 460 feet each, posing an unprecedented threat to the Garden. For context, the proposed towers would be over 100 feet taller than the existing Tivoli Towers on Crown Street.
How would shade from this project affect BBG’s plant collections?
Plants need sunlight! The loss of up to four hours of sunlight a day to the Garden’s nurseries, conservatories, and greenhouses threatens to harm many of BBG’s plants, including endangered orchids and hundreds-year-old bonsais. And these buildings are where plants for the entire Garden are propagated and grown, so blocking sunlight to the conservatory complex threatens the entirety of the collection, both indoors and out.
Isn’t this area zoned for low-rise buildings?
Yes, zoning in the area where this project is proposed, bordering BBG near Washington Avenue, is now capped at 75 feet (approximately seven stories). These parameters were established in 1991 in order to prevent shadows on BBG’s conservatory complex.
Why is the conservatory complex location important?
The Garden’s greenhouse facilities were intentionally situated on its easternmost border because the area gets more sunlight than anywhere else on the campus. This conservatory complex and the rest of the Garden comprise a world-renowned institution that has become an anchor of the surrounding Crown Heights neighborhood. Shade on Garden facilities would compromise our ability to offer free workshops to community gardeners and to serve Brooklyn’s youth (more than 200,000 of whom visit each year) with free, year-round STEM educational programs.
What is the Garden’s position on the project? How are they taking action?
Brooklyn Botanic Garden will strongly oppose any changes to zoning that will negatively impact the Garden’s living collections and the many community programs that depend on them. Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a 100-year history of providing respite to New Yorkers and free education to schoolchildren. Its compromise would be a loss to all New Yorkers.
Does BBG oppose other developments in the area?
The Garden pays close attention to all proposed developments in the neighborhood and has not opposed proposals for shorter buildings farther from the Garden that we have determined will not significantly impact our collections. The spice factory development is dramatically different because of its size and location. This is simply the wrong place to build towers of the size proposed.
Is the Garden opposed to affordable housing?
Categorically not. The Garden is keenly aware of the affordability crisis faced by New Yorkers, including many in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like ours, Crown Heights, where median incomes would not qualify most residents for even the lowest tier of the affordability index used for the proposed development. We would be thrilled to see development of affordable housing within the guidelines that were set to protect the Garden’s conservatories and collections.
Recent stories about the Garden’s “Fight for Sunlight” say that the Garden has refused to engage in talks with the developers. Is that true and if so, why?
The Garden’s position has been consistent: The existing zoning must remain in place in order to preserve Brooklyn Botanic Garden as the beloved community resource it is, and has been for more than a century. Together with New York City, the Garden’s landlord and partner, we have invested millions of dollars in maintaining this green space for the benefit of all New Yorkers. The Garden respects the City’s land-use process and will continue to participate factually and respectfully in it while asking our elected officials to protect these 52 acres from development that would do it lasting and irreparable damage.
If you have further questions on how to partner with BBG in our Fight For Sunlight or wish to be added to our email list, please contact [email protected].
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Renovates, and Faces an Existential Threat ›
New York magazine, November 20, 2019
960 Franklin: A Bad Deal for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and for Crown Heights ›
BKLYNER, October 11, 2019
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s ‘Fight for Sunlight’ protests Crown Heights building proposal ›
AMNY, September, 2019
Why the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Fears it Will Soon Be Sunlight Starved ›
NY1, July 31, 2019
Brooklyn Botanic Light Fight ›
WNBC, July 30, 2019
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Fighting for Sunlight ›
WCBS, July 31, 2019
Gearing Up for Development Battle, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Unveils 'Fight for Sunlight' Exhibit ›
Gothamist, July 31, 2019
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Launches Exhibition That Warns of Shadows from Proposed Towers ›
Brownstoner, July 30, 2019
Reader Comments: When It’s Green Space vs. Living Space (PDF)
The New York Times, March 24, 2019
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Resists Buildings That Would Cast Shade ›
The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2019
Nearby Rezoning Proposal Casts Shadow on Brooklyn Botanic Garden ›
NY1, March 13, 2019
Crown Heights Spice Factory Development Pits Labor vs. Locals ›
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 13, 2019