Disputed Crown Heights Development Likely to Get Green Light from Landmarks Commission

The new plans for 959 Sterling Pl were presented at Tuesday’s LPC public meeting, where the concerns of the community were notably absent from the discussion.

Despite no concrete actions at Tuesday’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) public meeting, plans for a controversial development at 959 Sterling Pl (also referred to as 920 Park Pl) in Crown Heights are moving closer to fruition. 

The LPC, whose approval is needed to move forward with any development due to the site’s landmark status, responded favorably to the revised plan from Morris Adjmi Architects. While commissioners offered minor critiques, they hinted that approval would be granted in the future.

“I think all of the commissioners agreed that it would be appropriate to develop this site,” LPC chair Sarah Carroll said.

959 Sterling Pl is the current home to the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School. The proposed development would knock down the south wing of the historic 19th century building in order to build a seven story apartment complex.

At the last public hearing in October, members of the LPC expressed issues with the height and mass of the proposed building as well as the design’s contrast with its surroundings.

In the revised plan, the building was split in two, with each side connected by a glass lobby. Additional space was taken off of the east side of the building, in order to increase the distance from existing row houses. Morris Adjmi said the changes reduced the mass of the structure by 10,000 square feet. Commissioners still stated concerns over the buildings height as well as other minor issues, but mostly complimented the revisions.

“I think we have addressed all of the comments that were made from the commissioners and some of the testimony that we heard,” Adjmi said of the new design.

This meeting was starkly different from an earlier hearing, which lasted three hours and included opposing statements from over 40 community members. LPC members cited the volume of testimony as a reason for choosing not to vote that day. Tuesday’s follow up, which clocked in at about an hour, was closed to public testimony.

In response, Friends of 920 Park, a group of community members opposing the project, called on the public to send written letters of opposition to the LPC. The commission received over 350 letters, including from Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr., Community Board 8, Crown Heights North Association and Historic Districts Council. They also received three letters in support.

One of the concerns brought up by community members in October was the loss of open space on the current building’s grounds.

In its letter addressed to the LPC, Friends of 920 Park called the Hebron building “one of just a handful of historic institutional buildings with their grounds largely intact remaining in all of New York City. Obliterating the grounds on one whole side of the Home robs the entire city of an important part of its architectural heritage.”

The LPC spent little time discussing the community’s response. 

“I’m sorry to hear that there is so much opposition still locally,” LPC Vice-Chair Frederick Bland said. “You want there to be a little more support, but sometimes that’s hard in neighborhoods.” None of the other commissioners mentioned the community opposition, and the contents of the letters were never addressed.

Following the hearing, Friends of 920 Park expressed its dissatisfaction with the omission of community voices on Twitter.

The next LPC meeting on 959 Sterling Pl will be scheduled once revisions have been made by Adjmi.

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