Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Is America’s densest city ready to make room?

A rendering of 80 Flatbush, which will stand just under 1,000 feet tall. Courtesy Alloy Development

At its current rate of growth, Brooklyn is about to be more populous than the entire city of Chicago.

Saying “we need more housing” is a given, but no one agrees on where, how high, and for whom. And New York has been later to that discussion than San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles: While the city is building housing, technically, it is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of 144,000 new Kings County residents since 2010.

All of this zooms into sharp focus on a 60,000-square-foot trapezoidal block straddling scenic Boerum Hill and high-traffic Flatbush Avenue. The proposed mixed-use project known as 80 Flatbush will include two high-rise towers, with offices below and 900 residences above. Twenty percent of its apartments will be affordable, and two existing historic brick buildings will be repurposed as a cultural facility and retail space. Two schools will be built, underwritten by the Educational Construction Fund (ECF), which creates schools on underutilized city sites without public funding.

The developers are seeking a change to the city’s zoning laws in order to build bigger and more dense, but have run into opposition from some Boerum Hill residents, who view the project as out of scale with their low-slung neighborhood. The City Council will decide its fate soon, perhaps by the end of this month.