Arrested development: Judge halts controversial Crown Heights project amid legal battle

Going up: Developers Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners' proposed 16-story towers near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
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A Kings County Supreme Court judge slapped a controversial mixed-use development with a temporary restraining order on April 17, after local anti-gentrification advocates claimed the developer used every trick in the book to avoid having to preform a state-mandated environmental-review process, while the city let them get away with it to pave the way for more affordable housing.

We fought the Department of City Planning, and watched our elected officials allow the developer to lie on their applications, so they did not have to be held accountable for creating the largest residential complexes in Brooklyn,” said Alicia Boyd, founder of anti-gentrification group Movement to Protect the People.

The city awarded developers Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners the rights to build two 16-story towers near Franklin Avenue and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St. following a rezoning process that capped off with a December Council vote, where Crown Heights Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo wielded her key vote as the area’s representative to green-light the project, in exchange for the developer’s promise to expand the project’s affordable-housing component from 140 to 258 units.

But Boyd’s suit — which names the Department of City Planning and Cumbo as co-defendants, in addition to Cornell — alleges that the developers lied on re-zoning and building documents to underplay the scope of their proposed mixed-use project, misstating the amount of new residential units included in the development and ignoring vast swaths of affected land in a preliminary assessment of the project.

And fudging the numbers allowed the developers to illegally circumvent a much more thorough environmental review of the project, which the advocates claim would have demonstrated a serious strain on local sewers, roads, and schools as a result of the towers and the influx of new Crown Heights residents they would attract.

Lawyers for the city, meanwhile, claim that their rezoning process was conducted by the books, and that the new temporary restraining order will not prevent the project from moving forward.

“This suit seeks to block over a hundred units of permanently affordable housing for the community. We stand by the city’s review and will thoroughly defend it in court,” said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department. “This very limited TRO enjoins the pouring of concrete, which is many months away. Soil tests are proceeding at the site.”

Lawsuits alleging illegal or inappropriate action amid the city’s public review process for rezoning applications are not uncommon, and a similar suit was filed by the Legal Aid Society in an effort to block the extremely controversial Bedford-Union Armory development.

Boyd and the city are expected to appear before Kings County Supreme Court justice Johnny Lee Baynes for a hearing on May 5.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 1:46 pm, April 23, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Charles from Bklyn says:
Not surprised, at all.
April 23, 2019, 11:20 am
Robert from Park Slope says:
"effected" should be "affected" The first sentence of the second paragraph should start with a quotation mark.
April 23, 2019, 12:40 pm
AC from Upper West Side says:
I will preface what I'm about to say by saying this: I am very pro-development, and I love tall buildings. However, in this particular case, I support and agree with the halting of construction. Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a city treasure and a crucial aspect of everything in the city, and we need to do our damndest to protect it. A strict height cap here actually works, and it should be left, maybe altered slightly At this moment, I would also like to rescind support for 960 Franklin, but I believe that the community and the developers need to work together to figure a good alternative, one that can offer a robust amount of affordable housing while still protecting the garden
April 23, 2019, 1:12 pm
Jim from Baltimore says:
Perhaps they could add plant lighting to the inside of the conservatory and maybe outside as well to be used overnight, and the new building could pay the electric bill as part of its maintenance fee. The building could even add solar panels to offset their increased electricity cost from the garden.
April 23, 2019, 5:06 pm
sally jones from crown heights says:
these large tall buildings should not go up! or developers should alter their height so that it does not impact the bbg and their plants. the BBG has been here many many years and its trees, plants, flowers, and bushes add beauty, oxygen and life to the area, i have enjoyed the bbg for many years and do not want to see its plants, etc decimated by a lack of sun and light. our neighborhood cares about the environment and these towers would tax the area, and its infrastructure. going back to the table to hash out their differences could help.
April 29, 2019, 7:35 am

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