Save Our Brooklyn Botanic Garden!

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Before and After Images

girl beforegirl after

Above are the views from inside Brooklyn Botanic Garden "BBG".

Below are the aerial views looking from Prospect Park towards the Botanic Garden. The blue image buildings are inside BBG.


Professional renditions done by Graphic Designer Fernando Canteli de Castro.



In 1989, three green houses were developed at Brooklyn Botanic Garden  “BBG”. There was concern regarding the protection of these green houses and the other parts of the garden, because of an existing building called Tiviloi Towers that had 30 story heights. It was noted that Tivoloi Towers was out of content with 99% of all the other buildings heights which were 2-7 story buildings.

dcp softsitesThus in 1990 BBG placed a request with the Department of City Planning “DCP” to place height limits along its perimeter, from Eastern Parkway to Empire Blvd and on Washington and Franklin Aves, which are the blocks right across from BBG. During the rezoning study that was conducted by DCP, DCP identified 3 Soft Spots, labelled "A", "B", and "C".

Soft Spots are an urban planning word created to identify potential harmful development sites, that may need protection.  In DCP final rezoning they gave these three soft spots, labeled as “A”, “B” and “C”, height limits of 6 stories for in between properties and 7 stories for corner lots.

Additionally BBG conducted their own shadow study and gave it to DCP, which clearly showed the negative impact that would be created by shadows if these soft spots were developed.  DCP stated, “An extensive shadow study was preformed to ascertain the effect any development on the identified potential development sites would have on the Botanic Garden….It was found that a building built to a maximum height of 21 stories would cast year-around shadows upon the conservatories in the Botanic Garden varying from 3 to 4 additional hours a day.

However, the most important aspect of the rezoning and the major justification was to preserve the visual integrity of the Garden. In the final rezoning application DCP stated “The three development sites “A” “B” and “C” will become part of the R6A district, thus insuring that future residential development on these sites would be contextual.” Contextual in this sentence means stay within the same heights of most of the buildings around it.

New Development

cornell lotsIn 2014, Cornell Realty brought three major lots in the Soft Spot Area, known in DCP's study as "A" and "B" soft spots, anticipating a rezoning.  Alicia Boyd, from MTOPP, had requested several times during the 2014-2015 year for this area to be removed from the proposed rezoning.   She had predicted that it was included in the proposed rezoning area, because the height limits were going to changed to allow taller buildings. However the members of Community Board 9 simply refused to remove this area off of its perimeters and eventually MTOPP filed several lawsuits in the Brooklyn Supreme, which most are still pending in the courts, preventing this are from being changed.

Note: the entire area, within the dotted line is being proposed to be rezoned (12 lots), the red areas are Cornell Realty properties (4 lots).

By early 2016 it was clear that a rezoning wasn’t going to happen and thus Cornell Reality decided to build within the height limits and placed building plans to do so.  However, in November 2016, Cornell submitted a rezoning request to change the “Soft Spot” area rezoning from R6a To R8x.

After Images from Two Point of Views.

sky view 2sky view On the left side image is how these developments will look while in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park. The right side image is a look from Nostrand Ave. (Professional renditions done by Graphic Designer Fernando Cateli de Castro)

Despite Cornell only owning 4 lots, DCP is planning on rezoning 12 lots all in one package.  All of these lots are located within the area, identified in 1991 by DCP as soft spots.  But instead of DCP protecting the community and the garden, they have certified Cornell’s application to change these height limits from 6/7 to 20 plus stories.  And the justification is the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program “MIH”.

The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program - "MIH"

The MIH program was passed into law last year 2016.  52 out of 59 Community Boards voted against this law, knowing that it contained a major loophole in the law regarding height limited zones.


Loophole: Any developer can go into an height limited zone and request that the height limit be broken, if they are willing to provide “20%” affordable units.  However there is no limit to how high they can go!  Thus in a 6/7 story height limit zone, the developer can ask for 30 stories or 50 stories, the sky is the limit!  The only saving grace was that the developer must go through the Uniform Land Use Review Process, “ULURP”, which is a political process to get approval.  This it is not an As of Right Deal!

Community Board 9 voted against the MIH program because of this and other loopholes in the law.  They also sent a letter to Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo demanding that she vote against this MIH program, but Laurie simply voted yes and then made the claim that she had no other choice because she wanted to have more “affordable” housing in the community.

The True Height the Developer May Go.

Because this area will be designated an MIH zone, with a R8x zoning, the developer must participate in the MIH program and are given 25 more feet they can build on top of the R8x zone. The R8x zone is 150 feet and the MIH is 25 feet, which is a total of 175 ft. or 17 to 18 stories. However, Cornell also has stated that they plan on participating in the FRESH program. 

The FRESH Program

This program allows developers to build an additional 15 ft.’ more on top of the height limit, if they provide a supermarket on their ground floor which sells fresh produce.

The FRESH program application must be made before a building permit is submitted!  So it can be done after the rezoning request is finalized!  And it is DCP who gives the permits, and thus it does not have to have community input or political approval.  DCP has never rejected a FRESH program application.


Thus with these additional feet, it will bring the total height of the building to 190 ft.. However once you add the Bulk head the building can be 230ft building boarding the Garden.

Definition of Bulk Head

A "Bulk head" is a structure projecting up, which encases stairways and elevator shafts, on top of buildings.. The Department of City Planning states "...where the maximum permitted height of a #building# is 120 feet or greater, such obstructions [bulk heads] are limited to a maximum height of 40 feet". 


size However, despite being able to build almost a 230ft building Cornell’s Shadow study did not take into consideration the FRESH program or the building bulk head, which cast shadows and thus should be considered. Additionally the environmental review requires that the worst case scenarios must be entertained when assessing a negative impact upon the environment. It is clear that Cornell Realty did not assess the worst case scenarios and thus their enviormental review is flawed and can be challenged in a court of law.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Position

Once this story first hit the public the Brooklyn Botanic Garden stated that they were going to conduct an analysis of the Cornell Realty shadow study to ensure that is accurate. They stated they are not conducting a shadow study because it might be "expensive". However this study analysis has not yet been produced by the BBG.


At the presentation of Cornell Realty to the community on March 22, 2017,  a spokes person for the Garden made the statement that as long as shadows are not cast on the garden for over an hour, they are not opposed to any development.  The problem with BBG's position is that if they do an analysis of Cornell shadow study and found it flawed, as we have, that still will not provide them with the evidence they seemed to insist that they will need, to condemn this rezoning - the actual shadows that would be cast on the garden and their duration.

However, MTOPP was not surprise BBG’s board has changed over the last 10 years, with more developers getting on the board and PH.D’s being removed.  Thus the more pro-development stance, that is now apart of their administrative body than in the past! 

However, we did reach out the BBG members, at their opening event, on March 11, 2016 and there was only one person out of 500 plus people that we spoke to that approved of these buildings being planned for three major blocks boarding the garden. Additionally we have an online petition which has gotten over 3,850 signatures in less than five days, with many of them being members of the garden. So the members of BBG are definitely opposed to the three blocks of high rise development along this Garden.

The problem now is how does the members put pressure on the administrative body to come out and say they are oppose to this development period, not only because of the shadows that will be cast, but to protect and maintain the visual integrity of the garden and to keep the buildings in context with 99% of all the other buildings in this community.

How YOU Can Help!

1. Sign Our Petition

2. Attend Community Board 9 Hearing on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 7 pm – Speak Out!

Location: MS 61 - 400 Empire Blvd, at the corner of New York Ave and Empire Blvd.

3. Attend Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams' Hearing on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, at 6:30 pm.

Location: Borough President Office - 209 Joralemon St at the corne of Court and Joralemon

4. Spread the Word about the potential development.

5. Contribute to our Legal Fund, or Provide Legal Asst.

6. Help us Create a True Shadow Study that includes the worst case scenarios

7. Contact Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo at her email at: and tell her NO!