Judge orders Crown Heights developers to restore disturbed dirt on contested site

Alicia Boyd and MTOPP members at Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Photo by Ben Verde

Talk about dirty work!

A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge ordered the developers of a contested Crown Heights project to restore all of the dirt they’ve already excavated from the Carroll Street site, after checking out the site himself.

“Go out and correct that mistake, restore the dirt,” Judge Reginald Boddie told representatives of Carroll Plaza Development at an emergency hearing on Thursday.

The site, along with other sites in Crown Heights affected by a 2018 rezoning, has been under a temporary restraining order since April 2019 that prohibits the disturbance of soil or the pouring of concrete, after neighborhood activists sued the city claiming they failed to conduct an adequate environmental review process prior to approving the rezoning.

The soil was excavated while the restraining order was in place, which lawyers for the developers claimed happened because builders did not know the restraining order applied to them.

After the petitioners in the case alerted the judge to activity at the site between Franklin and Washington Avenues that they deemed suspicious, he took a trip to the site himself on Wednesday where he said he saw “more than a little bit” of extracted dirt.

The judge also revoked the developer’s work permits, making any activity at the sites illegal, other than restoring the dirt. 

Boddie originally demanded that developers restore the contested dirt by no later than March 10 at 5 pm. However, a lawyer for the developers explained that it would be impossible to secure the necessary certification to introduce new soil to the site under environmental regulations, prompting Boddie to extend the deadline to March 12.

Activists celebrated the decision, saying the decision marked a turning point against the development. 

“We are absolutely thrilled over the fact that the court is finally taking a stand with these developers and saying enough is enough,” said anti-gentrification advocate Alicia Boyd, who is representing herself in the case against the city. Boyd also lauded Boddie’s visit to the site. “You got your 25 lawyers all showing up and saying things but the evidence is sitting right there in front of you.”

Boyd and other activists have charged that the buildings along the swath of rezoned land would harm plant life at the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but the garden has not taken a public stance on any of those developments and maintains that the proposed mega-development at 960 Franklin Avenue is the only project it opposes.