City Attempts to Sneak Around Fed Oversight In Selling NYCHA Air Rights

202 Tillary Street. Google Maps.

The city is trying to circumvent court-mandated federal oversight and the city’s land-use process to allow developers to build two skyscrapers – part of which is on the New York Housing Authority’s (NYCHA)  Ingersoll Houses in the Fort Greene/Downtown Brooklyn area, KCP has learned.

This project sited at 202-208 Tillary Street is set to transfer over 91,000-sq-feet in Ingersoll air rights and part of a parcel to private developer YYY Brooklyn NY LLC.

As per a legal notice printed over the weekend in the daily print newspaper, AMNewYork, the city looks to undermine both the federal government, which is court-mandated to oversee the city’s running of NYCHA and the city’s land use process, in an effort to skip the required step of performing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed development. 

NYCHA did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls regarding the project. A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said they did not have enough information on the project to comment.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo
Alicka Ampry-Samuel
City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights), in whose district the proposed project sits, also did not respond to several inquiries.

But City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brownsville), who chairs the council’s Public Housing Committee), denounced the move citing residential health concerns already prevalent at the public housing complex.

“It should never be appropriate to waive an Environmental Impact Study, especially at the detriment of residents’ health. There are significant health disparities in the City, particularly around public housing communities where there are high incidences of asthma, respiratory diseases and other health conditions,” said Ampry-Samuel.

In the legal notice, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) claims no EIS is needed for the planned project which includes a 40-story tower and a 31-story tower, as well as a 95-space car garage and a nearly 40,000-sq-foot commercial space, will not have an adverse environmental impact on the sited area.

The proposed development would provide a total of 400 rental units, with about 100 affordable housing units for individuals with incomes at an average of 60% Area Median Income (AMI), which starts at $44,820 for a household of one, and $51,240 for a household of two, according to the legal notice.

“It has been determined that the above-referenced project would not constitute an action significantly affecting the quality of the environment and accordingly, the City of New York has decided not to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS),” read a portion of the legal notice.

Currently, a warehouse sits on the proposed project’s lot and if it were to get the air rights transferred, would be completed by 2020. Additionally, the project would be part of a Special Downtown Brooklyn District that comes with different height and setback restrictions, as well as specific bonuses to local improvements.

The original project aimed to have two smaller towers at 23 and 21 floors each and was planned at nearly 4,000-sq-ft a far cry from the now massive sky-scrappers, and the 6,000-sq-ft redesign.

The area has been a favorite for development in recent years. BFC Partners built the 240-unit Toren rental tower at 150 Myrtle Avenue in 2009, and Lalezarian Properties built a 255-unit rental tower at 309 Gold Street in 2014, according to the Real Deal.

As part of the city’s rezoning process, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), an EIS has to be completed before a rezoning is approved. Pursuant to state and local law, the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) identifies any potential adverse environmental effects of proposed actions, assesses their significance, and proposes measures to eliminate or mitigate significant impacts.

“It is highly irresponsible and inappropriate that anyone would consider not following through with an EIS, primarily when there are plans to develop a 30-40 story building that can have a negative impact on air quality,” added Ampry-Samuel.

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