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Brooklyn Botanic Garden could get too much shade from potential high-rises, community says

Three building proposals have some community members concerned about the impact on the beloved BBG.

Shadows from potential high-rise buildings in Crown Heights

Shadows from potential high-rise buildings in Crown Heights could impact the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Community advocates are fighting to prevent the approval of high-rise buildings in Crown Heights that they say will cast shadows onto the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden, depriving plants of sunlight.

Two buildings expected to be at least 16 stories, with the possibility of applying for more height, were proposed for 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St., both about a block from the Garden, according to an application submitted to the Department of City Planning. A current zoning rule prevents buildings over six or seven stories, in part to protect the 52-acre BBG, which is visited by more than 900,000 people a year.

The buildings were first proposed by Cornell Realty Management last year, but the application was withdrawn after backlash from the public. It was resubmitted this spring.

In addition, a preliminary application for a development at the nearby site of the old Crown Heights spice factory was submitted by another real estate firm, the Continuum Company, and included plans for buildings as tall as 37 stories. Details of the development, at 960 Franklin Ave., are subject to change before an official application is filed, but it’s not immediately clear when that will happen.

The proposals have sparked outrage from the community group The Movement to Protect the People, which commissioned shadow studies by the Pratt University School of Architecture and the City College School of Architecture to show the impact the three buildings could have on the BBG.

“These shadows actually go past the Garden and touch Prospect Park,” said The Movement leader Alicia Boyd, who has protested zoning changes in the neighborhood several times.

The group presented the studies at a public forum Wednesday evening. Cornell Realty, which did not respond to a request for comment, also had a shadow analysis done for its two buildings. It concluded that “the duration and coverage of incremental shadows on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden would be limited” and “would not result in significant adverse impacts.”

But Boyd said the studies done by the universities contradict the analysis Cornell Realty commissioned.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has concerns about the potential impact of any of the buildings, but is particularly worried about the possibility of the nearly 40-story building at 960 Franklin Ave., a spokeswoman said.

“BBG is strongly advocating to maintain the site’s current zoning — which now caps building height at six to seven stories — which was put in place, in part, to protect the Garden’s conservatories from building shadows,” director of communications Elizabeth Reina-Longoria said in a statement. “Redevelopment of the site is still in an early pre-application stage, but we have been keeping the City of New York — owner of the land upon which BBG is located — apprised of our concerns about shadow impacts.”

All three buildings are being proposed as part of the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which requires a certain percentage of the units to be affordable. According to the application from Cornell Realty, 105 of 390 units at 40 Crown St. and 35 of 158 units at 931 Carroll St. would be affordable.

The preliminary application for the 960 Franklin Ave. site says 725 units would be affordable and another 725 would be market rate.

Continuum did not immediately respond to an inquiry about its proposal.

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