Brooklyn Botanical Garden battling high-rise proposal

Critics are throwing shade on a proposed high-rise apartment building that would cast shadows across the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, depriving treasured exotic plants of much-needed sunshine if the plan goes ahead.

“It’s not about saying we don’t want to lose a little sunlight,” Brooklyn Botanical Garden president Adrian Benepe told The Post.

“For plants from the equator, plants that need a full day of sunlight, that’s a big loss,” he said, adding that the project would have an “existential impact on the garden.”

The project, headed by the development company Continuum, calls for a 14-story residential high rise at 970 Franklin Ave. in Crown Heights — just across the street from the Botanical Garden’s greenhouses for tropical, desert and Mediterranean plants that thrive on sunlight.

The proposed 14-story high-rise would be built in an empty lot across the street from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Google Maps

That lot is currently zoned for buildings between six and eight stories, with the proposal asking for an exception to allow the much taller tower.

But the 475-unit building — 119 of which would be affordable units — would leave those sensitive greenhouses in shadow or partial shadow for up to three hours of the morning depending on the time of the year, according to a Department of City Planning (DCP) analysis, leading to the agency to conclude the project would “result in significant adverse impacts to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.”

“Incremental shadows would significantly reduce or completely eliminate direct sunlight exposure on one or more sunlight-sensitive features found within the garden,” the DCP report found.

“And would potentially significantly alter the public’s use or enjoyment of the gardens, or threaten the viability of vegetation.”

The proposal is just the latest attempt by developers to build a high-rise at that Franklin Avenue location.

Plans for a pair of 39-story apartment buildings at the address were shot down in 2021 by Mayor Bill de Blasio over similar concerns about the shadows they would cast across the Botanical Garden.

Critics who have joined the call to strike down this project, too, are hopeful that the DCP analysis is a sign things will fall their way again.

“The head developer of what we call ‘The Monster’ decided to come back with a new rezoning proposal,” said Alicia Boyd, the head of Movement to Protect the People. “This developer said, ‘OK, we came in with 480 feet. You guys didn’t like it. We’re coming back with 150 feet, much lower. So please approve this.

“This time the Parks Department came out and said, ‘Yes, it’s still going to cause damage,’ and this time the Department of City Planning said, ‘OK, it’s going to cause damage and we’re aware of it, and we don’t think that this is the proper site. This building does not belong here.’”

DCP analysis showed shadows would be cast by morning.
Shadows would cover some of park for up to three hours.

The DCP’s analysis noted that for the tower to have no effect on the greenhouses, the facilities would need to be relocated within the park — something both the DCP and the Botanical Garden said was out of the question.

“Moving the greenhouses would be a hugely expensive and time-consuming process that would take many years and somewhere between $150-200 million,” Benepe said.

“We don’t have that kind of money, and nobody’s offered it to us. It would also necessitate cutting down probably hundreds of mature trees.”

The Botanical Garden’s greenhouses holding desert, Mediterranean and tropical plants would be affected by shadows from the proposed development. Aristide Economopoulos

The proposal is still in its early stages. Following the DCP review there will need to be a community board and borough president review and then a vote from the City Planning Commission. If it passes that, the City Council will vote on it.

Representatives from Mayor Adams’ office said Hizzoner “has not yet taken a position” on the matter, noting that the community will have ample opportunity to voice their opinions before anything moves forward.

“While we have been crystal clear about the need for every neighborhood to play a role in solving the city’s housing crisis, individual site applications like this one deserve their own consideration — we are in favor of letting that process play out,” the mayor’s office said.

Continuum did not respond to requests for comment.

Alicia Boyd, head of Movement to Protect the People, is one of the leaders in the fight against the building proposal. Aristide Economopoulos

For the Botanical Garden’s leadership, the decision to prioritize one of the city’s most prized treasures is not just a no-brainer, but already a precedent.

“The thing to remember is the Garden has been at this location since 1910. So long before there were any buildings casting shadows, we were here,” Benepe said.

“The City has grown up around us. We understand that. But that’s why the City chose to limit the zoning in that section.”

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