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].