The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) chose not to vote on the proposed development at 959 Sterling Pl (also listed as 920 Park Pl) in the Crown Heights North Historic District at Tuesday’s public hearing, citing the complexity of the proposal and the volume of testimony from the community.
The proposal from developers Hope Street Capital is for the current site of the Hebron Seventh-Day Adventist School, and it would demolish the south wing of the historic 19th century structure in order to build a seven-story, 182-unit apartment complex, largely consisting of one bedroom units. The development would also cover much of the existing site’s open space.
As part of the development plan, the existing building would receive restoration funded by Hope Street Capital.
A petition opposing the controversial plans has generated over 6,800 signatures and about 950 letters of opposition were sent to the LPC, whose approval is needed by developers due to the site’s landmark status.
During the three hour hearing, over forty community members testified, raising concerns about the proposed building’s size, scale and appearance. Only one — the chairman of the school board at Hebron — spoke in favor of the proposal.
Councilmember Cornegy opposes development
Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr., whose district presides over the Hebron School, opposed the project at the hearing, after only recently taking a stance against it.
He said that “as neighbors, community based organizations, and learned preservationists have attested, this project is altogether inappropriate.” He also published a letter detailing his reasons for opposition on Oct. 16.
Deborah Young, co-founder of the Crown Heights North Association (CHNA), said the plan competed with the existing Hebron building, rather than being deferential to it.
Testimonies were also provided by prospective candidates in next year’s City Council elections. Michael Hollingsworth, a City Council candidate for the 35th District and member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, called on commissioners to “do what you have done in majority white neighborhoods.” “You respect the history and the people of Crown Heights and you reject Hope Street Capital’s application,” he said.
Crown Heights native Chi Ossé, who is running to replace the term-limited Cornegy in the 36th District, called for “creative ways to reimagine the existence of Hebron and the green space surrounding it.”
Congregation leaders behind project, but congregants split
Top leaders at Hebron Seventh-Day Adventist School are in support of the development, which includes the restoration of the existing building’s crumbling facade.
Dr. Daniel Honore, president of the Northeastern Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said that “over the years because of the deteriorating state of the building, many parents have pulled their children.”
School Principal Gladly Grant also expressed her support for the project.
But not all members of the congregation agree. At the Community Board 8 Land Use Committee hearing earlier this month, congregant Ritha Pierre accused church leadership of using bullying tactics to gather the support of its members, rather than “really presenting the pros and cons in a way that would be understandable to the congregation.” The committee voted against the project.
While it was noted a petition supporting the project had gained over 1,800 signatures, the language of the petition made no mention of the developer’s plans.
Honore has maintained the funding to save the school does not exist without developers, but Young said Crown Heights North Association had been reaching out to Hebron leadership since 2004 “to help identify resources to restore this beautiful gem in Crown Heights.”
LPC Chair Sarah Carroll said the commissioners would “consider all of the material before us and return to a meeting in the near future.”