Restraining Order Lifted, Allowing Rezoning at Crown Heights Spice Factory to Move Ahead

Rendering via NY YIMBY

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A Brooklyn judge tossed a temporary restraining order that was halting progress on the controversial 960 Franklin Avenue development in Crown Heights — paving the way for the hotly contested building to move forward through the city’s seven-month public review process.

The rezoning change would call for the proposed mixed-use development to rise high above the adjacent Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which both garden stewards and Parks Department employees say would devastate plant life in the flower emporium.

A lawsuit, filed by activists Alicia Boyd and Michael Hollingsworth, had halted progress on the building by arguing that City Planning violated a law that required the city to provide details about rezonings 30 days before certifying them — which is an initial step in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP process.

brooklyn development crown heights consumers brewery 960 franklin avenue

Photo by Susan De Vries

City lawyers successfully argued, however, that the charter revision only requires them to give notice 30 days before certifying a zoning change, not provide details.

“When they presented it to us, the voters, they said ‘provide a detailed summary’ and that’s what we voted on!” said Boyd, of the Movement to Protect the People, at a rally outside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on December 10. “We weren’t supposed to be notified, we were supposed to be given the details so we can fight back — and the Department of City Planning said ‘no, we’re not going to give you anything.’”

A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning said that no date has been set for the certification to start, and that the process will begin once developer Continuum Company’s application and environmental review process is complete.

Anti-gentrification activists, supporters of the garden, and elected officials are gearing up for a years-in-the-making fight that could determine the character of the neighborhood and the garden for generations to come, they say.

“This proposed project threatens the existence of the 110-year-old Brooklyn Botanic Garden because plants don’t grow without sunlight,” said newly minted Botanic Garden president Adrian Benepe at the December 10 rally, who formerly served as the city’s parks commissioner.

brooklyn botanic

Image via Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A memo written by the Parks Department in December 2019 backs up the garden’s assertions that the proposed towers could potentially have devastating effects on plant life in the green space.

As the Botanic Garden is on state-owned land, one incoming state elected official said she will push the state legislature to get involved.

“If we have a development that will directly impact state land, then we need to pull state legislators into the fight,” said incoming Crown Heights Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest. “If we are going to have this proposal, all actors need to be on the floor.”

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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