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Weak words: Crown Heights civic leader doubts pol’s opposition to new development, citing past flip-flops

Two towers: Continuum Company bigwigs want city permission to build two 39-story, mixed-use towers a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
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She’s worried about history repeating.

A Crown Heights civic leader doubted that the neighborhood’s councilwoman will uphold her opposition to a controversial 39-story development that experts say could cast harmful shadows on the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden, citing the legislator’s history of approving other polarizing projects — after making showy displays against them.

“I think that eventually she’ll come back and say that, after looking at the studies that were done, and all the information, and all the evidence that points to maybe this isn’t such a bad thing, she’ll vote in favor of it,” Community Board 9 Chairwoman Patricia Baker said of Councilman Laurie Cumbo (D–Crown Heights).

A rep for Cumbo recently slammed developer Continuum Company’s proposal to rezone a lot at 960 Franklin Ave. in order to erect two 39-story towers with market-rate and so-called affordable housing, arguing the area is already overburdened by too many large buildings.

“This proposal, developed with zero community consultation, or input, may need a full reset, not just tinkering around the edges,” Crystal Hudson, Cumbo’s chief of staff, said at a March 12 meeting of the City Planning Commission.

But Baker doubts the pol will uphold the critical stance her rep showed at the meeting — and predicts the legislator will ultimately move to support the project, like she did for other developments that she gave her blessing to after publicly questioning their necessity.

In December, the councilwoman voted to approve a rezoning that builders Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners sought in order to erect two 16-story towers at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St., after the developers modified their Botanic Garden–adjacent project — which some critics warned could also cast harmful shadows — to include more below-market-rate housing.

But her blessing came after she subjected reps for the builders to a severe tongue lashing at a November Council subcommittee meeting, where she asked the proxies how gentrification makes them feel, and criticized the project’s then-smaller affordable-housing component.

And in 2017, amid Cumbo’s Council reelection bid, campaign fliers circulated claiming the legislator would vote down a hugely controversial scheme to transform the city-owned Bedford-Union Armory in her district into a mixed-use development, unless the site’s developer made all of the residential units below-market-rate.

But Cumbo — whose spokeswoman at the time said she couldn’t comment on the fliers without knowing their source — ultimately agreed to endorse builder BFC Partners’s requested rezoning for the armory redevelopment, and allow the firm to include 149 market-rate rentals in the building, weeks after voters reelected her.

CB9 members, meanwhile, voted to oppose both of those developments outright, and Baker expressed frustration at the apparent indifference with which Cumbo and her peers treat local residents’ opinions.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed in our elected officials,” she said. “I’m disappointed that it doesn’t seem to matter what we do as community members, that these things keep happening, and they keep saying it’s the best thing that could happen to the community — I don’t think it is.”

The panel members, however, are still waiting for Continuum Company reps to present their Franklin Avenue project — which has yet to begin its formal journey through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Procedure — before taking an official stance on it.

Still, Baker expressed serious misgivings about the impact the towers’ 1,578 units — half of which will be below-market-rate — and their occupants will have on local infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of development, and the community has a lot of concerns, about infrastructure, the sewers, the transit, the schools,” she said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, March 18, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Sally from crown heightd says:
Ms Baker is right. Cumbo will flop and flop and then support it.. Our politicians Adams, Levin and Lander are all in the pocket of the real estate industry. Cumbo is right in there with them
March 18, 7:49 am
DBS from Bklun Hts says:
Levin and de Blasio have repeatedly sold out to the real estate industry. Expect it again. Levin started out as a good guy but has become a hack like so many others. Kickbacks??????
March 18, 9:03 am
PM from Clinton Hill says:
I agree with Ms. Baker as well. This seems to be a trend. Yet these local politicians are voted in again and again. In my opinion they are not representing the very people who vote for them again and again. Wake up folks. Set their feet to the fire. Let them know they will not get your vote if they are ignoring your concerns and flip flopping.
March 18, 9:13 am
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
Watch out for payoffs and shady deals on Paul Manafort level. The community boards should examine the books and records and all deals and contracts and any under books dealings. Fight the real estate people by examination.
March 18, 9:15 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Follow the money that paid to play. Say goodbye to our beloved Botantic Garden. Sold out to developers under the watchful eye of our politicans.
March 18, 9:20 am
No more shadows from fort greene says:
The garden's fate effects everyone. This should be a city wide matter. There should be objections from every council person. Cumbo wilts at the mention of affordable housing. No shadows over Brooklyn.
March 18, 9:33 am
Ro from Park Slope says:
Just what I want to see when I look up above the beautiful trees: tall man-made towers. NOT.
March 18, 9:54 am
Sharif from Park Slope says:
Of course Cumbo will approve the project. She has never disapproved a real estate vote. She owes her presence on the City Council to developer money. Cumbo is brilliant at playing the torment of a "difficult decision" to fill the time leading to her ultimate, inevitable Yes. You can take Cumbo to the bank.
March 18, 11:15 am
Jay from Crownheights says:
They will build these buildings with a few lowincome units, and the rest market rate, and call it affordable,the same old AMI 40,60,130 and up
March 18, 11:19 am
Christine Parker-Spitzer from Prospect Heights says:
All comments above are warranted based on Laurie Gumbo's past history. Her Luke warm career to rise to minority Leader is based on her public out cry (the bs drama) undoubtedly with the kid in her arms to avoid constituents that she manufactures on cue. Her past history has proven that she could careless about anyone but her sham gallery-museum funded with public monies. It's so unfortunate that she was re-elected. Our communities have experienced the highest rate if gentrification in NYC under this cruel unscrupulous individual.
March 18, 12:07 pm
Christine Parker-Spitzer from Prospect Heights says:
Please forgive typos...
March 18, 12:08 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Personally, I don't see why this is so necessary. Also, if this is by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, then it shouldn't be so big just for that reason. Honestly, whenever I hear affordable housing in a private project, I feel that it's a joke and it's not affordable to the lower incomes. If it was really about affordable housing, then they should make it all or at least half of it affordable rather than a small percentage of it.
March 18, 1:18 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Since when has the NYC Council done anything other than blatantly fellate their real-estate buddies/overlords? We can't expect someone like that to do anything for the people of the city.
March 18, 3:02 pm
Helen Beichel from Crown Heights says:
And what do all of these politicians have in common? They are Democrats with a capital D but not a small d. We live in a one-party City and if that party is taken over by monied interests whether they be Wall Street, REBNY, or Silicon Valley we cannot have a true democracy. We need open primaries and runoff elections so the voice of the people can truly be heard.
March 19, 10:46 am
Janine from Crown Heights says:
Until she stops a single outsize real estate development, she is the Enemy of her Constituents!
March 19, 5:48 pm
Bayuv from Biscay says:
Overly gentrified? Yet great commercial stretches of CB 9 are run down, drab, Tale of Two Cities-ish.
March 19, 11:55 pm

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