An Opportunity for Smart Urban Planning in Downtown Brooklyn

There’s a smart and responsible plan for transit-oriented development in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s a project that other neighborhoods across New York City should be aware of – because it is a blueprint for future growth of the five boroughs. That is why the Real Estate Board of New York is so supportive of the proposed development at 80 Flatbush.

Led by Alloy Development, 80 Flatbush will deliver a number of important public benefits in Downtown Brooklyn. The sensible proposal will close several critical gaps in the surrounding neighborhood.

First, it will be an injection of housing into a city that desperately needs it. Of the 900 new apartments that will be created, 200 will be permanently affordable. This means that 200 families who would otherwise not be able to afford a place to live in this area, will now have access to one of the city’s most sought after neighborhoods.

Second, it will meet the need for additional Class A office space in Downtown Brooklyn, which has the lowest commercial office vacancy rate – around three percent – of any central business district in the city.

The proposal would also, in partnership with the city’s Educational Construction Fund, create two new public schools, including a new facility for the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the city’s first public high school to specialize in Arabic language and studies and one of only seven international baccalaureate programs in the city. These state of the art schools will provide tremendous value to the neighborhood and beyond.

Finally, the project would expand and enhance the thriving Brooklyn Cultural District through the addition of new cultural space.

In addition to all the construction jobs and considerable economic activity that would be generated by 80 Flatbush, the project offers something for just about everyone. The creation of new educational opportunities for Brooklyn’s youth, affordable housing for Brooklyn’s families, free cultural space for Brooklyn’s artists and additional jobs for Brooklyn’s workers.

The proposal passed the City Planning Commission unanimously, but shortsighted community opposition could thwart the project. Driven by typical NIMBY concerns, some feel the project is “out of scale” with the neighborhood.

But the reality is that the housing crisis will be exacerbated if this project is restricted. Thanks to the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy there is a unique opportunity to create a more diverse community in one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest neighborhoods.  Downtown Brooklyn is already an expensive neighborhood – its average rent is $3,000 per month and median home price is nearly $2 million – and incomes are already far above city average. Adding more affordable housing units into the community will reduce pressure on long-time residents.

Moreover, Downtown Brooklyn is an appropriate location to build more housing – not less. Home to a major transit hub with access to a dozen subway and LIRR lines, this is an opportunity for new transit-oriented development. Sound urban planning encourages density around mass transit, and this is exactly the type of project that the city should encourage.

The 80 Flatbush project will foster smart growth while creating good jobs, schools, arts resources, and more housing to meet the needs of our growing population.

The reality is that Downtown Brooklyn would benefit from the construction of 80 Flatbush and New York City should encourage more projects like it across the five boroughs.