Friday, January 10, 2014

32-Story BAM South Tower to Climb at 286 Ashland Place

Despite protests, the BAM South development in downtown Brooklyn won approval at the City Council. The 32-story tower, which will be developed by Two Trees Management, is an extension of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with cultural space in its base and 300 apartments above. While Councilwoman Letitta James managed to wrest some concessions from the Flatbush Avenue project, notably an agreement not to redevelop a library branch on Pacific Street, her demands that the 350-foot-tall tower at 286 Ashland Place be built with union labor, went unheeded.

Among the previous administration's agreements were that the 50,000 square feet of cultural space in the project would remain limited to that use into perpetuity, preventing it from becoming shops, apartments or other private developments. The community would be given a stake in programming the 10,000-square-foot public plaza outside.

Two Trees and the city would not agree to increasing affordability on the BAM South site, where 60 units, or 20% of the building, would be set aside as affordable housing.

Instead Ms. James said she had gotten the administration to agree to increase the affordability of two adjacent properties, known as BAM North 1 and BAM North 2, to 30% of the total units.

This is not far off from commitments already made by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to develop the sites, however, Ms. James said it makes a difference to have that affordability guaranteed. She also noted that 150 of the units would be set aside for low-income residents who make no more than $65,000 for a family of four. It had been higher, for middle-income rather than lower-income families.

Ms. James, who did not voice her opposition to the project until last fall, which some people have claimed, was because she is trying to win labor support for her bid to become public advocate. Requiring union construction was opposed by the developer, Two Trees, which said it could not cover both the level of affordability required by the project and to pay a prevailing wage—the firm frequently forgoes full union jobs, though it does employ union laborers for more skilled parts of projects, a commitment Two Trees reiterated in a statement.

Other projects under development include The Dermot Company's 47-story project on Flatbush Avenue, known as 66 Rockwell, the first new residential building in the area since the real estate bust, with 327 apartments coming to market later this summer.  The Hub, under development by Doug Steiner, owner of the eponymous movie studio in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, will soon rise a few blocks away. That 52-story tower is slated to boast up to 750 housing units.

"We called it The Hub because there are so many great neighborhoods radiating out from our site, it's got great transportation, it's got great shopping and restaurants, and now it's going to have the best-in-class buildings," Mr. Steiner said. "Downtown Brooklyn really is becoming the heart of the Brooklyn everybody's talking about."The biggest victory is not even for Ms. James' constituents. Among the cultural groups moving into BAM South is the Brooklyn Public Library, which is opening a new branch there. The hope had been to relocate the children's library on Pacific Street and then sell off the building to raise funds for the cash-strapped library.

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