In the decade since it was rezoned, Downtown Brooklyn has grown up in a big way. Just look at its skyline and the new apartment towers and hotels that call it home. The open air between those buildings will soon be filled because development isn’t slowing down—it’s just getting started. But the next decade of change in Downtown Brooklyn could offer much more than the first. That’s because as new buildings rose, the area’s street-level never kept pace: public space is still scarce and underused, streets are hard to navigate and dangerous, and educational and cultural institutions have been disconnected. Today, however, Mayor de Blasio announced strategies to change all that by injecting the booming district with new (or refurbished) parks, redesigned streetscapes, new retail, and better connections between its many cultural and educational institutions.
Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects, a firm well-known for its sustainable modular buildings, and American Manufactured Structures and Services, have collaborated on the design of a prefabricated disaster relief housing prototype, which will be displayed in Downtown Brooklyn this summer, as part of an effort to help rebuild post-Hurricane Sandy with a focus on sustainability. The three-story, three-unit modular test structure will be situated next to the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) on Cadman Plaza.
The ground floor will be a handicap-accessible 480-square-foot one-bedroom unit, and the upper two floors will consist of two separate 822-square-foot three-bedroom apartments. The preassembled and pre-furnished units will be 12-feet wide by 40-feet long. Once shipped to the site, they simply need to be clipped together and connected to utilities. They also feature balconies that help lower solar-heat gain, provide larger windows, and supply more habitable space.
Downtown Brooklyn is growing at a fast pace, but it looks like transit is having trouble keeping up with the spike in population and increased congestion that has resulted from the Barclays Center and the onset of new commercial and residential developments.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, along with the help of Councilwoman Letitia James and local civic groups, have put together a report called “Brooklyn Gateway Transportation Vision,” which outlines a variety of transit problems and potential solutions, including: enhanced bus service, residential parking permits, congestion pricing, improved safety and access for pedestrians, and more cycling amenities such as a bike share program and parking.
The area around the Barclays Center, stretching from the commercial blocks of Flatbush to Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues, might soon be Brooklyn’s next Business Improvement District (BID). The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership announced in a press release yesterday that it has taken steps to organize a steering committee made up of local stakeholders to evaluate which BID services are needed. Property owners would pay an additional property tax to subsidize services such as streetscape improvements, maintenance, security, and programming. According to the Atlantic Yards Report, a BID would support Ratner’s “campaign to call the entire Atlantic Yards site part of Downtown Brooklyn.” First the BID needs to go through several hearings and approvals by local community boards, the City Planning Commission and New York City Council before moving forward.
Downtown Brooklyn has an unusual situation on its hands: it has a surplus of parking spaces. But soon developers may get the green light to put that space to other use. As AN reported this summer, the city’s zoning rules require new residential developments to build large garages, most of which have remained half empty. With a plethora of transit options in the area—including 13 subway lines, seven subway stops, more than a dozen bus routes, and a commuter rail to boot—there is little demand for parking, which is why the Department of City Planning (DCP) and developers are advocating for new zoning. Yesterday the New York City Council considered a proposal from the DCP that suggests reducing the minimum parking requirements from 40 percent to 20 percent of new residential housing units, which would free up those spaces for other uses whether it be mixed-income and affordable housing or public parking. City Council will likely hold a vote on the proposal on December 4th.
Plans for the Hub, a 53-story tower planned for the ever-growing Downtown Brooklyn were released in February, but the Dattner-designed project comes into clearer focus when new views were revealed this month. Developed by the Steiner family, who is also building a 50-acre media hub/film studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the tower will house 720 apartments and 42,000 square feet of retail space and feature a large rooftop terrace and bike parking for each unit. Located at 333 Schermerhorn Street just blocks from the new Barclays Center, The Hub could measure up as Brooklyn’s tallest when it’s completed in 2014.