Brooklyn Botanic Garden Launches Exhibit in Response to Towers Project It Argues the Development Would Block Sunlight for Its Plants

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Launches Exhibit in Response to Towers Project
Vibrant tulips in full bloom at the Botanic Gardens in Brooklyn (iStock)

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's fight against a new proposed tower development that the Garden claimed would block sunlight for its plants has taken on a new wrinkle.

Yesterday, the Garden launched a new exhibit, “Fight for Sunlight,” inside its Steinhardt Conservatory, Brownstoner reported. It is intended to inform the public about the issue and how the development would impact plant life.

“Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s greenhouse complex was built in the 1980s to cultivate and display plants from environments around the world,” reads a description of the exhibit. “Specifically selected for its access to sunlight, this is one of the only places in New York City where you can see such a diverse collection of rare plants in bloom year-round. Now it’s under threat.”

According to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's website, two developers, Continuum Company and Lincoln Equities, proposed to build two 39-story towers in Crown Heights situated about 150 feet away from the garden. The development project would create 1,578 apartments, with about 50 percent of them set aside for affordable housing, Curbed reported earlier in the year.

The Garden contended that the towers would block sunlight for up to 3.5 hours for its greenhouses, nurseries and conservatories. “The development site is less than 300 feet from these structures and just 150 feet from the Garden, putting plants at a serious risk,”it said.

The developers at the time were seeking zoning amendments that would expand the site's density. Currently the zoning for the area is limited up to 75 feet for buildings, and the Garden is opposed to rezoning. Brooklyn Botanic Garden President and CEO Scott Medbury was quoted in Brownstoner saying: “We’re hoping sense will prevail. This is really out of scale.”

In a Gothamist story from May, William Wallace, an official with Continuum, mentioned the affordable housing aspect of the project and argued that without rezoning, the number of affordable apartments would grow smaller. As for the garden's concerns, Wallace said: “We spent a year and a half redesigning the building to be sure that the shadows were as mitigated as humanly possible.”

The official review process of the rezoning proposal has reportedly not occurred at the moment. The first phase of the construction for the development would begin in January 2021 if all goes according to plan for the developer; the second phase is scheduled to commence in October of that same year.

David Chiu is an associate editor at The Cooperator.

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