A group of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens residents gathered yesterday at Chester Court to explain their lawsuit against a developer who wants to construct a 23-story luxury and affordable development on the lot next door. The neighborhood activists and their lawyers are requesting a court order to require the state housing agency to conduct a more thorough environmental impact study for 626 Flatbush Avenue, because developer Hudson Companies is receiving $72 million in public funds for the project. They’re also requesting an injunction to prevent the developer from demolishing the two-story commercial building on the property or moving forward with construction.
The 80/20 development is an as-of-right project that doesn’t require a variance for the height. However, community members insist that the building will fundamentally change the character of the neighborhood, which is mostly low-rise four- and six-story buildings. The basis of their challenge is that the property is right next to two nationally recognized historic landmarks, Prospect Park and Lefferts Manor, and the state Housing Financing Agency didn’t take that into consideration in their environmental review.
Prospect Park East Network hopes they can negotiate the tower’s height down to nine stories, distributing the same units over a wider footprint, according to a petition on its website.
“Our clients are concerned that this tower will lead to tenant displacement, as landlords see new opportunities in a high rent market,” said Rachel Hannaford, senior staff attorney at Legal Services NYC. “In recent years, developments like this one have changed the character of Brooklyn neighborhoods and forced the most vulnerable out of their homes and communities.”
Those who live on Chester Court are concerned that the building will not only cast a shadow over their little block but ultimately force them to move.
“When we look at a studio apartment building in this building, it’s $1,900 or $2,000 a month,” said 2 Chester Court resident Derek Edwards. “We’re solidly in the middle class — my wife works as a nurse in a hospital. And we just couldn’t afford it.”
“We are disappointed that opponents of development in the neighborhood have resorted to a lawsuit against an as-of-right project that will bring over 50 affordable units to the neighborhood, as well as new retail and community facility space,” said Hudson Companies principal David Kramer. He also told Crain’s, “Nothing says happy holidays and welcome to the neighborhood like a NIMBY lawsuit in the guise of an environmental challenge.”