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Brooklyn Botanic Garden Fights Sunlight-Blocking Towers

Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Shaded Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is fighting a zoning change that would allow two sunlight-blocking towers nearby.

March 20, 2019

For years, sun worshippers have complained, to no avail, that supertall buildings cast chilling shadows on Central Park. Let’s hope the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has better luck resisting the rise of the shadow-makers. 

The venerable 52-acre paradise near Prospect Park has come out in opposition to proposed zoning changes that would lift the current 75-foot height cap on neighboring buildings – and pave the way for the rise of two 39-story, 420-foot-tall towers a block from the garden. The organization says the towers would cast shade on specific parts of the garden for three hours a day, disrupting the workings of 21 greenhouses, nurseries and other growing spaces, including the garden’s bonsai collection and desert pavilion. 

“We’re worried that less light can lead to poorer plant health, greater problems with fungal diseases,” Scot Medbury, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, tells the Wall Street Journal. Medbury says the garden could not relocate all the plants to new locations.

The century-old Botanic Garden is circulating an online petition that reads in part: “These changes to zoning will have a lasting negative impact on Brooklyn Botanic Garden's conservatories, greenhouses, and nurseries – where plants for the entire Garden are propagated and grown – by causing the loss of as much as three hours of sunlight daily in spring, summer, and fall. The current zoning must remain in place to protect the Botanic Garden.”  

The proposed zoning changes would allow Bruce Eichner’s Continuum Company and Joel Bergstein’s Lincoln Equities to build two residential towers at 960 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. If approved, the two residential towers would be one of Crown Heights’ biggest developments, with a proposed 1,500 residential units, roughly 790 of which would be set aside as affordable. The zoning change the developers want will require approval by the New York City Council.

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