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

Council approves polarizing Garden–adjacent towers in C’Heights
Department of City Planning

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 cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.