Green death: Proposed Franklin Ave. towers would kill half of Bklyn Botanic’s plants within a decade, expert claims

Towers of doom: Two 39-story towers proposed to rise on Franklin Avenue would destroy half of all plants growing in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden within 10 years, according to a horticulturalist at the preserve.
Brooklyn Paper
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Shadows cast by a proposed 39-story development in Crown Heights would destroy half of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s collection of rare and exotic plants within 10 years, according to one of the horticultural museum’s chief green thumbs, who urged members of the City Planning Commission to seriously consider the project’s shadow impact.

“The rezoning proposal would cause serious, tangible damage to the gardens,” Rowan Blaik, director of living collections at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said during a Tuesday public-scoping meeting about the development.

Developer Continuum Company is seeking permission to rezone the property at 960 Franklin Ave., the site of an old spice factory, to pave the way for two 39-story mixed-use towers, which together would host a whopping 1,578 residential units split evenly between luxury and below-market-rate housing.

Garden honchos have for months claimed that the development will bathe the green space in as many as three hours of additional darkness per day. And Blaik stressed the effect those shadows would have on critical growing facilities located within the green space, which house a stunning 18,500 plants — including 150 endangered species — and are necessary to breed replacements for the approximately five percent of plants that die off naturally around the garden every year.

“These propagation and growing facilities are the heart of the garden,” said Blaik.

And because the garden’s grow houses heavily depend on sunlight to function, compromising their ability to soak up rays could result in a rapid, catastrophic loss of plant life, according to Blaik, who said that importing new plants — which could carry pests and diseases — to replace dead ones is not an option.

“Should we lose propagation growing facilities, more than half of our collection will be gone in a decade,” he said. “There are simply no commercial alternatives to on-site propagation facilities for botanic gardens.”

A spokeswoman for the builder, however, insisted that although it has yet to complete a full environmental-impact study of the project, early analysis shows that the development’s impact on the garden would be negligible, citing research conducted by Continuum’s own environmental experts.

“Based on preliminary findings, no significant adverse shadow impacts are anticipated on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,” said Lupe Todd-Medina.

Todd-Medina further alleged that her bosses at Continuum Company attempted to speak to garden brass about the development, but that the horticulturists routinely brushed their proffered olive branch aside.

“To date, all outreach and requests to meet have been rejected,” she said.

City Planning bigwigs are accepting written public comments on the rezoning proposal through March 25, after which

Continuum honchos must compile their environmental-impact statement for the upzoning, which will then begin its journey through the lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, where it will again go before the City Planning Commission, as well as the local community board, Council, and ultimately Mayor DeBlasio.

The public can submit written comments about the Franklin Avenue rezoning request to the Department of City Planning via e-mail at

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 2:10 pm, March 13, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Anonymous from Brooklyn says:
DeBlasio is a loser second to Cuomo, who sold out LICH-hospital for a mega real estate deal. In fact, DeBlasio affirmed saving the hospital as part of his campaign platform. No different with this development. We have corrupt politicians who are destroying Brooklyn with real estate overdevelopment. DeBlasio is the worst mayor in New York's history. Unfortunately, Brooklyn used to be a respite from dense tall buildings, now it's becoming an overpriced borough. Don't expect it to get better until we throw the political crooks in jail.
March 13, 2019, 8:27 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
This is the -only- time you'll hear this from me, but if very tall buildings are going to hurt the Botanic Garden, they should be shorter–maybe only the 20 or so floors that neighboring buildings are. This isn't a community garden that should be bulldozed, after all. Shorter buildings will probably mean "luxury" condos instead of affordable housing, but Brooklyn doesn't have spare Botanic Gardens.
March 14, 2019, 1:47 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Obviously, the west side of Prospect Park should be allowed 40 story buildings. That won't cast shadows on the Botanic Garden.
March 14, 2019, 1:55 am
Ladeba from Bed-Stuy says:
Brooklyn's character is being damaged by these towering building being built. The rezoning should be reversed back to the original plans. It's a shame that the only thing that matters to certain people is money. These big companies buying these properties probably live in the suburbs somewhere surrounded by treea and plants, then they come here and want to damage ours. LEAVE BROOKLYN ALONE
March 14, 2019, 8:34 am
Donald Loggins from Midwood says:
The botanic garden is a Brooklyn treasure, it’s wrong that De Blasio would sell out this wonderful place to please his real estate friends. Let’s save this garden for our children and grandchildren.
March 14, 2019, 10:56 am
Joe Fodor from Flatbush says:
"Towers of Doom" that would "destroy half of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s collection of rare and exotic plants within 10 years"? Glad to see the Brooklyn Paper hasn't taken a side. Build the buildings so young people can live in Brooklyn -- this place builds half as much new housing per capita than San Francisco, and is fast becoming a borough of the elderly and the rich. People before plants--and the plants can live on indirect light for three hours a day.
March 14, 2019, 11:41 am
Andrew from Bushwick says:
Although the article uses excessively dramatic language, i agree that the Botantical Garden should be protected and treasured. The phrase "no significant adverse shadow impacts" is not good enough. This isnt a little pocket park, its a city-wide resource.
March 14, 2019, 11:54 am
AC from Upper West Side says:
Science supersedes all bias. If the project is going to do THAT much damage, then it must be downsized. However, if there's such conflicting data from both parties, I am more inclined to trust the garden, since, you know, they are the ones dealing with the plants, and should have at least some knowledge in their field. I would say an outside source should conduct another study, just to affirm the results, because, again, the garden itself may still have a tinge of bias, and the developers will of course. Downsizing has to take place in an intelligent manner. Mike suggested 20 stories, that seems like a good number. 25 stories will probably push it, but 20 stories seems reasonable. But maybe hold the same FAR? This is an area where spreading out horizontally is a somewhat viable option. Use it. This kind of affordable housing opportunity shouldn't be passed up. Something should go here. I would say, accommodating for a downsize, but widening the project, maybe go for 900 units, 475 affordable or so. By the way, I would kill to have this project, as it stands, in my neighborhood. Maybe Silverstein can do something like this when they demolish ABC's campus (On the West End Avenue campus, they could acquire Tishman-Speyer's space, and make it even larger.) Or Extell could do something similar in their site on 96th Street and Broadway
March 14, 2019, 7 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
The zoning around the garden is there to orotect the garden. Why are we even having a discussion about changing the zoning? No!
March 15, 2019, 11:32 am
Park Slope from Brooklyn says: Deblasio staffers at city hall refuse to even host a meeting/forum to discuss this. Deblasio needs to get his act together when he continues to ignore communities with his high risers that are proof he's been bought and sold by REBNY. Good luck calling his offices to discuss this or have him come after his workout at the Park Slope YMCA
March 16, 2019, 12:07 pm
Respect Brooklyn from There says:
Send an email to Council Member Cumbo opposing this project by gong here: And learn about the $500,000 in lobbying, and growing.
March 17, 2019, 9:16 am
Ruben Colon from Brooklyn says:
Shame that we’re worried about parking spaces and shadows yet we don’t hear peep about the local Unionized construction workers who need to house & feed their families. Meanwhile nonunion workers from everywhere but the community work all over our neighborhoods slaving away for meanial wages. How do you sleep at night?
March 18, 2019, 3:11 pm

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