Crown Heights

Judge upholds restraining order halting development near Brooklyn Botanic

July 1, 2019 Lore Croghan
Members of The Movement to Protect the People say shadows from planned developments would harm plants in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s greenhouses. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

A Brooklyn judge decided on Friday to uphold a temporary restraining order barring construction work at two Crown Heights development sites, projects activists say threaten the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Towers planned for the sites would cast shadows for more than three hours per day on the 52-acre greenspace and damage plants growing in its conservatories, activist Alicia Boyd says.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Reginald Boddie held a closed-door conference on Friday for the case brought by Boyd and two fellow Crown Heights residents, which challenges development at 931 Carroll St. and 40 Crown St.

Another Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, initially issued the temporary restraining order in April. Specifically, the ruling bars the pouring of concrete at the sites.

From left: Crown Heights residents LaShaun Ellis, Alicia Boyd and Michael Hollingsworth are carrying out a legal challenge against high-rise development near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
From left: Crown Heights residents LaShaun Ellis, Alicia Boyd and Michael Hollingsworth are carrying out a legal challenge against high-rise development near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

After the conference with Justice Boddie on Friday, Boyd thanked supporters for donating $1,000 to a fundraising campaign related to the case. She said she would use the money to post a bond that would be required if she wins a preliminary injunction.

Boyd, LaShaun Ellis and Michael Hollingsworth brought the lawsuit, which is called an Article 78 proceeding, against City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, the Department of City Planning and its Director Marisa Lago, plus Winston Von Engel, who is the department’s Brooklyn director.

The City Planning Commission and the city Buildings Department are also targeted in the suit.

In this type of lawsuit, government entities and officials are the defendants — or respondents, as they are called.

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Cornell Realty is a non-government respondent.

The development firm won zoning changes last year that allow 175-foot-tall, 16-story towers to be built at 931 Carroll St. and 40 Crown St. The process (guided by the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP) was called the Franklin Avenue Rezoning — not to be confused with the nearby Spice Factory development site.

The numbered towers in this drawing are planned Crown Heights developments that are covered by a temporary restraining order. Rendering via the Department of City Planning
The numbered towers in this drawing are planned Crown Heights developments that are covered by a temporary restraining order. Rendering via the Department of City Planning

In the Franklin Avenue Rezoning case, Boyd filed a motion requesting to undertake discovery — meaning to obtain documents that aren’t available in the public realm. She feels the materials she’s seeking would be helpful in making her case.

Discovery is very limited in Article 78 proceedings.

She and her fellow petitioners are handling their suit pro se, without a lawyer representing them.

Their suit seeks to get the City Council’s approval of the Franklin Avenue Rezoning nullified and to make the developer do an assessment called an Environmental Impact Statement.

A hearing date of Aug. 2 was set for the case.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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