960 Franklin Avenue rezoning moves forward after judge tosses restraining order

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
A rendering of the proposed developments at 960 Franklin Avenue.
Continuum Company

A Brooklyn judge tossed a temporary restraining order that was halting progress on the controversial 960 Franklin Ave. development in Crown Heights — paving the way for the hotly-contested building to move forward through the city’s seven-month Land Use Review Process. 

The rezoning change would call for the proposed mixed-use development to rise high above the adjacent Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which both garden stewards and Parks Department employees say would devastate plant life in the flower emporium. 

A lawsuit, filed by activists Alicia Boyd and Michael Hollingsworth, had halted progress on the building by arguing that city planning honchos violated a law that required the city to provide details about rezonings 30 days before certifying them — which is an initial step in the ULURP process.

City lawyers successfully argued, however, that the charter revision only requires them to give notice 30 days before certifying a zoning change, not provide details.

“When they presented it to us, the voters, they said ‘provide a detailed summary’ and that’s what we voted on!” said Boyd, of the Movement to Protect the People, at a rally outside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Dec. 10. “We weren’t supposed to be notified, we were supposed to be given the details so we can fight back — and the Department of City Planning said ‘no, we’re not going to give you anything.’”

A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning said that no date has been set for the certification to start, and that the process will begin once developer Continuum Company’s application and environmental review process is complete.

Anti-gentrification activists, supporters of the Garden, and leftist elected officials are gearing up for a years-in-the-making fight that could determine the character of the neighborhood and the garden for generations to come, they say.

“This proposed project threatens the existence of the 110-year-old Brooklyn Botanic Garden because plants don’t grow without sunlight,” said newly minted Botanic Garden president Adrian Benepe at the Dec. 10 rally, who formerly served as the city’s parks commissioner. 

A memo written by the Parks Department in Dec. 2019 backs up the garden’s assertions that the proposed towers could potentially have devastating effects on plant life in the greenspace.

As the Botanic Garden is on state-owned land, one incoming state elected official said she will push the state legislature to get involved.

“If we have a development that will directly impact state land, then we need to pull state legislators into the fight,” said incoming Crown Heights Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest. “If we are going to have this proposal, all actors need to be on the floor.”