Permits Filed: 137 Jamaica Avenue

137 Jamaica Avenue (empty lot plus low-rise buildings below), overhead shot from Bing Maps137 Jamaica Avenue (empty lot plus low-rise buildings below), overhead shot from Bing Maps

East New York has emerged as the first neighborhood that’s likely to be considered for rezoning by the de Blasio administration. And while YIMBY contributor John Petro has written about what might be in store, a permit filed for a new affordable housing development at 137 Jamaica Avenue provides an object lesson in why the rezoning is so desperately needed.

Jamaica Avenue, which radiates northeast out from around Broadway Junction, and through the Cypress Hills section of East New York, is not zoned for exclusive industrial and commercial use, like Atlantic Avenue, and the area around the old railyards that give Broadway Junction its name.

But despite 60-foot width, it is zoned for unreasonably low densities. With the R4 zoning designation, housing is only allowed up to a floor-area ratio of just 1.35 using the special infill regulations – the scale of a two- or three-story building. While there are many pre-war two-story rowhomes in the immediate vicinity that approximate this bulk, the walk-up apartment buildings with three or four stories (or more) that were beginning to be built in the 1910s and ’20s are much denser.

137 Jamaica Avenue

137 Jamaica Avenue, image from Google Maps

As a result of the low-density zoning, the developers of 137 Jamaica Avenue – the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, which is building a residence for seniors – will have to consume nearly an acre of land, running all the way from the lot’s Jamaica Avenue frontage to Sunnyside Avenue in the back, just to build 47,048 square feet of residential floor space, according to the permit. This leaves less land available for other developers, be they small-scale market-rate infill builders or other groups building affordable housing.

Lacina Heitler Architects will be responsible for design, and the building will hold 54 units and eight off-street parking spaces.

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