Jen Posner preresented a recommendation for the rezoning of Fourth Avenue on behalf of the Department of City Planning.
After her presentation, board and community members debated the recommendations for two hours in the auditorium of John Jay High School on Seventh Avenue.
According to the city’s plan, the first floor of every building will be used for commercial, retail and community space. It allows for 10 feet of blank wall space per block, and requires all parking to be in lots with entrances on side streets. Half of each block will be for commercial use and the rest will be for the community, Posner said.
Rezoning Fourth Avenue is already underway, she said, it has a library, public schools, auto repair shops and houses of worship.
“Unfortunately some of the earlier buildings that were built following the rezoning have instead provided blank walls and parking entrances that don’t allow for the kind of interaction with the pedestrian and have a deadening effect on the streetscape environment,” Posner said.
The city’s recommendations are a “first step, not a comprehensive plan” on how to move forward, she said.
Fifth and Seventh Avenues have already been developed into pedestrian-friendly, transparent streetscapes, said Irene LeRo of Park Slope. The area does not need more places to eat and shop, she said.
“Zoning changes are a very poor substitute for real needs-based urban planning,” LeRo said. “While there is research to show that increased density of commercial space can improve financial outcomes for everyone, there are tipping points, and there is such thing as oversaturation.”
S.J. Avery, who also spoke at the hearing, said she lives between Fourth and Fifth Avenues and welcomes the change. It will make Fourth Avenue a safer street to walk down, she said.
However, she said the city should limit the size of the retail space available so corporations don’t move in and hog the space from local businesses.
“There is a concern...that the spaces are so large that the only people who will be able to afford the rent would be some of the very big chain stores,” Avery said.
But some attendees did support the city’s plan.
Fourth Avenue “is a mess now,” Joseph Ciccone, who owns an apartment building there, said.
“Owning an apartment house...I think [the rezoning] will be in my benefit, because as the neighborhood improves, more people might want to move there,” Ciccone said.
Despite the members’ reservations, the motion to support the recommendation was passed by the board.
Community Boards 2 and 7 will hold meetings within the next two months to make recommendations to Borough President Marty Markowitz, who will then hold his own hearing. Richard Bearak, director of land use for Markowitz, who was at the Board 6 hearing, said it is unusual for more than one board to hold hearings on an issue. However, the rezoned space along Fourth Avenue stretches through three districts.