City lawyers unable to provide evidence of “miracle deal” to provide Crown Heights affordable housing

Going up: Council approved a developer duo’s request to upzone land near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden so the pair can construct two 16-story towers, after Crown Heights Councilwoman struck a deal with the builders to create more below-market-rate units as part of the scheme.

City lawyers were unable to provide documents proving the existence of the “miracle deal” Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo claims she brokered with developers that would bring 118 units of affordable housing to Crown Heights.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Reginald Boddie ordered the city to turn over proof of the supposed agreement amid a lawsuit brought by a local anti-gentrification activist, who claims there’s no guarantee the community will see the promised benefits from the massive construction project.

“We had a discovery request for documentation on [the deal], but she didn’t have it,” said Alicia Boyd, who is representing herself in a suit against the city and developers. “It looks very bad if you have an elected official who made that promise on the record to the public… and then you find out that the affordable housing didn’t exist.”

The development — comprised of two 16-story towers at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St. — has been jammed up in the courts amid Boyd’s last-ditch legal effort to halt the development, claiming Cornell failed to properly vet the residential complex’s environmental impact ahead of a City Council vote to upzone the area.

Cumbo made a big show of grilling developers at a Council hearing in November, asking representatives for the builder pointed questions about how gentrification made them feel, but the councilwoman appeared at a subsequent hearing the following month to announce her wonder deal, which added 118 below-market-rate units on top of the 140 already promised by the developer in exchange for the city’s permission to exceed existing height regulations.

“This is nothing short of a miracle to announce I have secured commitments to increase affordable housing,” Cumbo boasted at the Dec. 13 Council hearing.

However, despite multiple requests made between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24, Cumbo’s office was similarly unable to turn over any formal paper trail related to her pact with developers.

A spokeswoman for Cumbo, after initially declining to comment, provided a memo on Sept. 24 outlining the deal in bullet points, but that document was neither signed by any party, nor dated. The spokeswoman then did not respond to any of several follow-up questions.

Both developers involved in the project — Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners — did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A third-party, non-profit contractor tasked with construction of some of the added affordable units — Asian Americans for Equality — declined to comment.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which oversees the city’s stockpile of affordable housing units, claimed they were not yet involved in the agreement between the developers and City Council — and therefore had no knowledge of deal.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.

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