Permits Filed: 37 Duffield Street & 180 Concord Street, Downtown Brooklyn

180 Concord Street and 37 Duffield Street, image from Bing Maps180 Concord Street and 37 Duffield Street, image from Bing Maps

Hemmed in on all sides by urban renewal projects, the few blocks known as Bridge Plaza — between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Flatbush Avenue Extension — are an island of traditional urbanism in the middle of highways and postwar towers-in-a-park projects. The land was zoned exclusively for industrial use, despite existing as a mix of prewar housing and industrial buildings, but was finally rezoned in 2003.

The 2003 rezoning opened the blocks – somewhat of a no-man’s land between downtown Brooklyn, Vinegar Hill and Fort Greene – to residential construction, with a number of projects built on large parcels during the last cycle. But there are still development sites left for today, especially ones with smaller footprints that are a bit harder to build on, and one of those is located on the corner of Duffield and Concord Streets.

There, at 37 Duffield Street and 180 Concord Street, Issac & Stern Architects has filed an application to build a pair of four-story, seven-unit buildings, on behalf of developer Chris Gonsalves.

37 Duffield would offer roomier apartments than 180 Concord, with a total residential square footage of 6,600 square for the former and a bit under 4,800 square feet for the latter, owing to different lot sizes. (We aren’t sure why the developer is building two separate structures on the adjacent parcels, but if we had to guess, we’d say it’s to avoid the city’s outmoded minimum parking requirements, which kick in at unit counts above ten in R6B zones like this one.)

While the rezoning was no doubt a net positive for the area, it was overly “contextual” in that it froze the blocks dominated by homes into rather low densities. These properties are allowed to have floor area ratios of just two, yielding four-story buildings – a paltry amount of density for one of the borough’s most in-demand locations.

Freezing neighborhoods as they were a century ago is often questionable, but especially so for heterogenous neighborhoods like Bridge Plaza, which aren’t characterized by long, uniform rows of brownstones. Restraining 37 Duffield and 180 Concord to brownstone-scale density seems overly deferential to the existing built environment, especially as buildings nearly twice as dense are allowed to rise across the street.

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