As Sunset Park awaited the results of a City zoning study in 2007, Pratt Center worked with Councilmember Sara Gonzalez and Community Board 7 to convene a community education workshop and two community conversations in order to help residents of Sunset Park weigh in on current development and a potential rezoning. Pratt Center prepared a report, Sunset Park Voices in the Rezoning Process, which provides a summary of the issues and perspectives raised, along with some analysis of related issues by Pratt Center.
The project had its roots in a grassroots campaign waged by area residents, who successfully lobbied against one developer's plans to construct a twelve-story building on a side street in the neighborhood. After convincing the developer to significantly scale down plans, residents recognized the larger need to rezone the neighborhood, where new development currently faces no height restrictions. The community momentum around rezoning also presented an opportunity to address pressing related issues, notably the need to preserve and create affordable housing.
Residents expressed a wide variety of goals and concerns about development, in small group conversations, two “dot-voting” exercises,” and public speak-outs at the two community workshops.
- There was unified concern expressed about out-of-scale development. It is worth noting, though, that this did not emerge as the top “vote-getter” in the dot-voting exercise. Out-of-context development received 31 dot-votes, while displacement of current residents received 151, parking 100, traffic 58, and overcrowded schools 57.
- Protection of the view from Sunset Park, which literally gives the neighborhood its name, was voiced passionately and consistently.
- While it was not included in the dot-voting, numerous residents urged that commercial overlays be limited only to the building that fronts on the commercial avenue, and not—as it is in many cases now—to any buildings on the side-streets (in general, this means reducing the commercial overlay from 150 feet to 100 feet).
- Issues of affordable housing and displacement evoked the most concern, with displacement of current residents receiving by far the most dot-votes (151) when residents were asked their concerns about development.
Pratt Center's report, Sunset Park Voices in the Rezoning Process, summarizes feedback from these community conversations, and provides analysis of related issues.