2008-04-10 / Top Stories

City Offers Plan for First Canarsie Rezoning In 47 Years

By Dara Mormile

By Dara Mormile

City Planning Dept. representative shows maps of first proposed rezoning plan for Canarsie since 1961 at last week's meeting.         Dara MormileCity Planning Dept. representative shows maps of first proposed rezoning plan for Canarsie since 1961 at last week's meeting. Dara Mormile A proposal to maintain the character of Canarsie through rezoning, an issue that has resulted from community protesting overdevelopment, has finally materialized.

City Councilman Lew Fidler, along with the New York City Department of Planning and Zoning, hosted a meeting on April 2 at the Hebrew Educational Society to discuss downzoning plans for Canarsie.

Fidler said, "This is the largest residential downzoning proposal in Brooklyn and the amount of work that went into this was enormous, so we wanted to make sure we got it right with City Planning before we brought it to the public."

Of the 300 blocks in Canarsie, 150 have been studied by City Planning for downzoning. The agency's representatives reviewed the evolution of zoning in Brooklyn, which currently enables developers to build three and four family homes on lots where one and two family houses once stood.

Councilman Fidler, who has championed local downzoning, talks about proposed changes at meeting he co-hosted last week.         Councilman Fidler, who has championed local downzoning, talks about proposed changes at meeting he co-hosted last week. Each community is divided into three basic zones; residential, commercial and manufacturing. Existing zoning districts are regulated by the size of the building in relation to the size of the lot. In the 1960s, the Zoning Resolution was enacted due to growing need for housing and commercial developments. Zoning incorporates bulk regulations, parking requirements and extra floor space.

Under the two existing zoning codes, developers can build up to 40 feet high on most residential property. Developments not in compliance with the new codes proposals will not be permitted on lots with one and two family houses.

"If the owner of a one- or two-family home sells his or her house, whoever buys the property can only build what was there," said City Planning representative Richard Jacobs. "Right now the zoning permits many types of structures as long as there is enough lot space."

Multifloor buildings, like this one under construction on East 76th Street off Ralph Avenue, could be restricted in Canarsie if rezoning plan is adopted.           Neil S. FriedmanMultifloor buildings, like this one under construction on East 76th Street off Ralph Avenue, could be restricted in Canarsie if rezoning plan is adopted. Neil S. Friedman Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano asked what would happen if an overdeveloped structure is somehow destroyed. "Can they rebuild these monstrosities under the new zoning regulations?"

Deputy Director Winston Von Engel said if the structure and entire foundation were destroyed in a fire, for example, developers would have to comply with the new zoning codes and cannot rebuild what existed.

"Our study looked at the attached and semi-attached houses, row houses, commercial corridors and the character of the community as a whole," said City Planning representative Sarah Golwyn. "In order to address the concerns of the community we had to balance various goals given to us."

While rezoning discussions began as early as 2006 at local civic meetings, some community members, such as Marry Anne Sallustro, president of the South Canarsie Civic Association, have spent several years protesting what they consider out-of-character developments.

During various meetings, Sallustro displayed photos of overdeveloped properties and asked Fidler to push for overdo zoning changes.

Canarsie Historical Society president Ira Kluger has also pushed for various houses to achieve landmark status so they could not be torn down.

"Last year a working group was formed - a zoning committee - made up of elected officials and representatives from each civic association in Canarsie," said Fidler. "We met with City Planning on a regular basis and presented

The new zoning amendments will be adopted after public review by Community Board 18, the Borough President's office, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Finally, it will be processed for Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) certification. City Planning officials said they hope to have a solid plan by the fall but Fidler wants to get the proposal passed as soon as possible.

Turano, Sallustro and community activist Frank Seddio advised City Planning officials to take a closer look at some of the houses in the Paerdegat area.

Fidler urged residents to contact his office (see box below) with input on blocks that may not have been included in the proposal.

"We're finally going to remove the incentive developers have to tear down houses and stop them from ravishing this community more than they already have," he said.

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