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Carroll Gardens Meeting Report: 'Moratorium Now'

This week's guest editor, Lost City, begins his last day with us by filing from the town-hall meeting in Carroll Gardens last night.

It's possible, but doubtful, that the funerals of a few select among Carroll Gardens' most popular citizens have drawn a crowd as big as that that was seen last night at Scotto Funeral Home. The event inside was not a wake but rather a town hall-style meeting presided over by Councilman Bill de Blasio to hash over the neighborhood issues of the day: the much-reviled 360 Smith Street development and the push for neighborhood downsizing and landmarking.

Earlier in the day, there had been much grousing over the fact that the event conflicted directly (some said purposefully) with local community board gathering, which was to address some equally controversial development projects. That problem disappeared around 6pm when the community board meeting was suddenly canceled. (De Blasio said he has asked the Board to postpone the meeting, so people wouldn't be forced to choose between one of the other.)

About 150 people squeezed into a narrow hall at Scotto's, many carrying yellow signs that screamed "Moratorium Now," expressing the holders' attitude toward the building boom that is blanketing the neighborhood. De Blasio said, almost convincingly, "We really didn't think it would be this big. But we're delighted!"

All the local political bigwigs were there: Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman; Congresswoman Yvette Clarke; Robert Furman, the chair of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance; a rep from the Mayor's office; and, of course, the inevitable Buddy Scotto. Most of the talk was of the need to push forward the symbiotic agendas of downsizing the neighborhood zoning (ideally to no more than 50-feet high) and landmarking a larger chunk of Carroll Gardens, beginning with the blocks west of Bond Street. De Blasio said that only in the past few weeks has the city given way on the downzoning issue, and that he believes that change is eminently possibly now. Furman said the Landmarks Commission claimed it loved the idea of protecting Caroll Gardens, but doesn't have the staff for such a big task (ahem). It would, however, accept a historical survey conducted by a former commission member—i.e., him. Furman plans to pursue just that path and has submitted a budget of $40,000.

There was strangely little talk concerning the lightning-rod, 360 Smith. The uggo tower set to be built on top of the Carroll Street subway station has been the target of months of angry opposition. De Blasio rolled out some vague statements about how the developer had "stepped back," and was "not building the building he planned," or "the building he could" under the zoning rules, all of which sounded like the developer hadn't exactly lost the battle.

There was also some confusing back and forth about the wished-for moratorium on development. Furman stood up early on and declared the matter a dead issue, saying the city considered building moratoriums illegal. A very well prepared attendee name Rita Miller, however, later said she had been told the opposite by New York Department of Planning Chair Amanda Burden that a moratorium is not illegal—that's is a process like any other that could be pursued alongside the downzoning and landmarking movements. Millman seemed surprised, and DeBlasio thereafter backpedaled, saying Miller had "won the point." Wha?

There were some other tantalizing local development tidbits to be culled from the confab. Millman said she had spoken to The Clarett Group, the company that bought the big Long Island College Hospital building at 340 Court Street and the huge plot of land that lies under it. She said that, under the current zoning laws, they could built as high as 21 stories, but that Clarett didn't want to do that. "They know what Carroll Gardens is," she said. Their preliminary plan is to build much lower on the Court side, with brownstone-like buildings facing Union Street. Millman aims to "hold them to that." We'll see.

An attendee, meanwhile, alerted the crowd that while everyone is keeping an eye on 360 Smith, some guys called the Lee Brothers, who own the old gas station across the street, are carefully monitoring the situation and plan to erect something as big as 360 is allowed to go. (Jesus, these real estate barons are hiding in every Carroll Gardens garden!)

Finally, De Blasio said he didn't accept the MTA's appraisal that it wouldn't be until 2112 before they could increase F train service. And, as if there wasn't enough tsouris to go around inside, there was a guy outside pushing a stroller and handing out leaflets advertising a website called NightmareLandlord.com, all about his housing problems. Tension. Carroll Gardens has it.
· Carroll Gardens Meeting Addresses Development Moratorium [Gowanus Lounge]
· Calls for Reining in Development at Carroll Gardens Meeting [Brownstoner]
· Trading Christmas for Giant Towers in Cobble Hill [Curbed]
· Scarano Not Making Fans on Smith Street and Beyond [Curbed]