Saturday, February 04, 2006

How Big Is It?

We’re not sure why it took us so long to realize we could just post the numbers. Then maybe we can give this FAR thing a rest. So get out your calculators and the Draft Scope, and check my figures:

The Draft Scope proposes a project of 9,132,000 sf (P.2, Table 1), and indicates that the site is 22 acres (958,320 sf.) (P.1). Therefore, the proposed FAR (roughly: building area divided by site area) would appear to be 9,132,000 / 958,320, for an FAR of 9.5. That's extremely dense, but wait, there’s more. In a
previous post, we calculated the total area of the streets taken by the project to be 133,000 sf. So the proposed FAR on the existing blocks (streets or no streets, the total building density on the land can in fact be compared to other areas) is 9,132,000 / (958,320 – 133,000), for an FAR of 11. Sit down, there’s still more. Because the arena (which appears to occupy about 85,000 sf of site area) will be built at a much lower FAR (lets say, conservatively, 2) the air rights over the arena will be used on the rest of the site. What would the resulting density be on the rest of the site? Subtracting 2 times the arena building area from the total building area, and dividing by the remaining site area (total site area less the arena facility footprint), (9,132,000 – (2 x 85,000) / 825,320 – 85,000 = 8,962,000 / 740,000 ), the FAR for the non-arena area of the existing site is, conservatively, over 12. So that’s the genius of the scheme: you can argue for an FAR of 9.5 (knowing it will get knocked down), but it really amounts to an FAR of over 12 on the 740,000 sf (17 acres) of non-arena site.

Let’s put this in perspective. On the World Trade Center site,
current plans call for about 8 million square feet of office space, and perhaps 500,000 sf of other program above grade, on 16 acres. It also happens to include the world's tallest building. That’s an FAR of 8,500,000 / 16 x 43,560 = 12.2. To our knowledge, there are no blocks in Brooklyn that would allow for an FAR of over 12. Currently only about a dozen blocks in our borough, 10% of the new Downtown Brooklyn plan at the very center, would allow for an FAR of over 10.

Does it matter? Let’s remember, the FAR is the best overall indication of demand on services, from utilities to transportation to emergency services to schools for residents. When do we get to see a revised project proposal that is not off-the-charts too big for its location in Brownstone Brooklyn, so that we can move on?

(Some assumptions are required here, especially concerning the footprint of the arena. Table 1 of the Draft Scope indicates that the arena size is 850,000 sf (?!). That is equivalent to 42 floors of a 20,000 sf floor plate. Is that a typo, or does it refer to the entire arena block, including the commercial development? We assume it’s the block, and that the footprint of the arena is 85,000 sf).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the site is zoned 6.22 (I think this is what you said in a previous blog), but the actual math (not including the arena #s) equals a 9.2, then don't they need to go through a rezoning certification?

A rezoning certification would require going through the arduous ULURP process and all of the other city and community approvals that this project is currently exempt from.

Although this information is enlightening (albeit disturbing), I would think that the City and State already know that this project exceeds the zoned FAR. And apparently they just don't care.

Lately I have been asking myself WHO does care who can actually DO something about reducing the scale of this project. Can "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn" sue the City, State, or whoever for exceeding the zoned FAR? I would think they could, right?

It seems we are only going to get what we want through legal action. Which I guess is fine. I am just not sure "our voice" is going to persuade any of the project drivers to change their tune...Am I being too pessimistic?

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you are correct, what is going on is literally called a "zoning override" or in the vernacular, a state takeover, that overrides all local zoing. Whatever zoning Ratner wants the City and State, so far, are willing to give him.

Amanda Burden and her dept should be forced to explain the zoning, as should the ESDC.

can DDDB sue about the zoning itself, it doesn't look like it so far.

also, Jonathan, it seems to me that the arena floor plate is bigger than 20,000 sf. No?

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoops. sorry Jonathan. I see, you say the arena floor plate is 85k. ignore above comment.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for responding to my questions.

However, I am wondering how we get Amanda to explain the zoning issue. I really want to know how and why this project is exempt from a rezoning certification (is it simply because the railyards are State owned)?

I was reminded at a Williamsburg / Greenpoint meeting last night how beneficial your (and other's) blog posts are in informing people. Many of the residents did not understand FAR and a lot of the waterfront rezoning language. Without knowing and understanding this information, they have little ammunition to fight for their waterfront. I know it's cliché, but “knowledge is power."

I recommended that one of them start a blog to help educate each other.

So, thanks and perhaps I am less pessimistic now and think that "our voices" are helpful and may even be heard...

2:26 PM  

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