Community Board 2 voted down a controversial plan to build a 100-foot-tall high school in Clinton Hill on Wednesday.
The board’s land use committee had voted to approve the application in February, but it didn’t know some residents hated the plan then, and members were relieved they got the chance to recast their ballot now that they had more information about the impact of the proposal on the low-rise neighborhood.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to right this wrong,” said Hilda Cohen, who sits on the land use committee.
The board voted 32–2 with two abstentions and one recusal against Unity Preparatory Charter School’s application for zoning exemptions that would allow it to construct a 101-foot high institution on Lexington Avenue between Grand and Classon avenues on land owned by housing advocacy group Impacct Brooklyn.
The vote came after two public hearings, one approval, one deadlock, and one cancelled poll.
School honchos had received the land use committee’s tick of approval this winter, but the application didn’t advance to a full board vote after locals told the community board they knew nothing of the plan.
The board then held a public hearing in April where residents living in 15 Quincy — a below-market-rate building that would share a lot with the new school — railed against the plan because the institution would block light and air to pads with windows that only face the parking lot where it is to be built.
Unity Prep argued the site is the perfect location for the school because most of its students come from the area and currently have to trek to a temporary location in Brownsville. Officials also said they got a good deal on the land they couldn’t find anywhere else in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The board’s executive committee deadlocked in its vote on the application following the hearing last month and didn’t have a recommendation to pass onto the Board of Standards and Appeals, which will ultimately decide its fate. But chairwoman Shirely McCrae decided to hold a special vote on on Wednesday to ensure the board weighed in.
Before the referendum, she showed members never-before-seen renderings of the school sticking out against the three to four-story block she said hadn’t previously been shown because the committee hadn’t asked for them.
“I’ve been told the committee didn’t ask the right questions, that’s why you didn’t see these slides,” said McCray.
Following that, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Clinton Hill) made an plea for the board to vote against the proposal while also telling Unity Prep parents that she will work with them to find a new site in the area.
“I cannot express how much I am opposed to a 10-story structure at that location,” she said. “These variances at this degree would block all natural sunlight on the back of the properties.”
One school official saw it differently, and argued the institution would have added much more to the neighborhood than it would have taken away, and hopes that everyone promising to help the school find a new cheap site will follow through
“I think a new school in our community is a value added tremendously to the community, so some of the concerns brought up, I don’t think outweigh the benefits of having a new school,” said Joshua Beauregard, who one of the Unity Prep founders. “I hope that some of the folks who came out against the proposal tonight are actively willing to advocate for this school to make sure we do have a home in the community we serve.”
The application will next go before the Board of Standards and Appeals at a date to be determined.
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