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A historic 19th-century building in northern Crown Heights has been eyed by developers as a site for high-end apartments, sparking an impassioned community response. 

Originally housing the Methodist Home for the Aged, the towering brick structure at 914-920 Park Place is now the home of the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School

The development is planned by contractors 959 Sterling Partners and Hope Street Capital for the building’s parking lot. The south wing of the building would be demolished as part of the project.

While some local residents say the new apartments would lead to displacement, developers and the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School say the project is a rare chance to build rent-stabilized apartments while saving a school.

The school building was awarded national and state landmark designation in 2011 and before the project can proceed it must get approval from the Landmark Preservation Commission.

Photo: 920 Park Place in Crown Heights where a development is being planned by Jackson Ibelle for BK Reader

Saving a school or planned displacement?

A spokesperson for the developers said the project would build housing on a parking lot behind the school’s 131-year-old landmarked building, and proceeds would go towards making needed repairs to the school’s structure (currently closed due to structural hazards.)

School Leader Pastor Moise Manigat, who supports the development, said the project would restore and preserve a piece of Crown Heights history. He said the school was a proud part of the community, having educated young Haitian immigrants for 40-years.

Dr. Daniel Honore, the president of the Northeastern Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said in a statement the project would, “protect our past and ensure our future by raising needed funds to restore our school building, while providing rent-stabilized housing for the Crown Heights community.”

He added: “It is rare that affordable housing for a community can be built in order to preserve its history and save a school — but our proposal does just that.”

The spokesperson for the development company said the building would be rent-stabilized and 30 percent of the apartments would be affordable units. But opponents of the development are skeptical, saying the developers have not put forward any plans to the local community board.

“Out of character”

Friends of 920 Park Place, an intergenerational coalition of neighbors who have joined forces to oppose the development, said in a July press release the plans clashed with the rich architecture and historic quality of the neighborhood, calling the development a “callous monument to gentrification and speculative greed.”

And although the group agrees the landmarked building needs renovations, the release said it could be done without the new development.

Friends of 920 Park Place member Sarah Leonard said the proposal was “wildly out of character” with its surroundings and would cater to short-term tenants not looking to integrate into the community.

Crown Heights North Association Co-founder Deborah Young said the development would be unhealthy for the people who lived in Crown Heights North, saying there wasn’t enough space for it. “This proposed development will create a heat island, and these days what we’re going through now with the virus…it’s not healthy.” 

Daniel Salk, who has lived with his family on Sterling Place since 2005 and is opposed to the project, said the development had caused him to question city councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Robert Cornegy.

Ean Fullerton, spokesperson for Councilmember Cornegy, said in a statement the councilmember’s office was working with the community board and developer to set up a meeting regarding the development. He said the developer had not yet supplied details requested by Councilmember Cornegy that would build understanding on the current plans. Councilmember Cumbo did not respond to BK Reader at time of publish.

Friends of 920 Park started a petition calling for building plans to be immediately stopped that has gathered more than 5,600 signatures, and the group has received support from local groups including Crown Heights Tenants Union.

Crown Heights Tenant Union said in a statement: “Turning over any part of this property to become luxury studios and one-bedrooms – unsuitable for and beyond the reach of the families that built this neighborhood – would undoubtedly further gentrify our community through secondary displacement.”

Kevin Limiti

Kevin Limiti is a journalist covering higher education, human rights, and information warfare among other things. His work has appeared in the Daily Dot, Chief Leader, Dateline: CUNY, and others. He enjoys...

Jackson Ibelle

Jackson Ibelle is originally from Providence, RI and moved to Crown Heights in 2019. Having worked previously as a beer salesman and a mover, BK Reader is his introduction to the journalism industry. Jackson...

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22 Comments

  1. If the school and church had another way to save their school they would have done it. Obviously they needed help and 8bdobtbsee anyone else stepping up to help them.

    1. There are plenty of grants available and other options available. The North Eastern Conference is orchestrating the sale against the wishes of the local congregation.

      My sense is that the North Easter Conference has enough money in the bank to renovate this property if they wanted. They are one of the largest property owners in NY.

  2. If the school and church had another way to save their school they would have done it. Obviously they needed help and I don’t see anyone else stepping up to help them.

    1. FYI…. Local groups met with the leadership at the church to assist back in 2006-07 to no avail. The church has been culturally insular throughout the years. I know because grew up on Sterling Place and have been there since the 1960’s way before the 7th Day Adventists. The group that reached out in the earlier years calls were not returned and/or scheduled meetings were abruptly cancelled at the last minute. There are adaptive uses for the existing building which can incorporate the school and restore the property as well. How about a scaled down version with a much smaller footprint that would also leave more green space on the Sterling Place side as well as incorporating gardens, a technology center (funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), etc. There are so many other venues, but this seems to be the easy way out for the church after years of sitting on their hands, even when neighboring groups offered assistance.

      BTW…just read about the developers other “dormitory styled church projects”. Affordablility???? And you really believe that??? I don’t think so. Not for this community anyway. And what families would want to live in studio and 1 bedroom units?

      Concerned Homeowner and Longtime Resident

  3. The parking lot is a barbed wire encased mess, and the school itself looks like something out of a horror movie (albeit yes, a certain 19th century character does shine through in a decadent way). The folks opposing this project should pool their resources to assist the church and parish in their repairs so they do not need the help of developers. Talk is cheap – just like these naysayers, who want all the benefit of an adjacent open space without any contribution. I’m sure they don’t even attend services at Hebron or any of the other beautiful parishes nearby.

    1. That is precisely what Friends of 920 have been proposing.
      There are many state and federal grants available as well.

      Developers are not the answer, community is, and we have been reaching out to Hebron for years!

  4. i was born and raised in crown heights, i been out of crown heights for 4 years now, due to the landlord selling the building i was living in, we all had to move, every time i do go back to crown hts to visit more and more families have been pushed out, non stop rising rents, and when it comes to affordable housing or below market rents, you only get low amount of units, 30% thats it! bad enough you have to deal with this 50% preference, gentrification running rampant, dam shame, black lives dont matter, again.

  5. Don’t be fooled, this would mean YEARS of pollution, noise, construction to create a rental cash-box for a luxury housing developer.

    They want to dig out a giant parking garage and kill open space that could be used for anything else. Forget about feeling like you’re in CH, this thing is twice as high as the brownstones next door.

    Good luck working from home now through construction and commuting later with 130 more people on your subway stop, or finding street parking.

  6. The Community stands ready to assist the Hebron SDA Congregation in saving the 920 Park Pl site as a contributing asset in the Crown Heights North Historic District, which is also listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Meetings were held with the Elders years ago to scope out restoration plans. There are public and private funds as well as historic preservation tax credits available to restore the building to its prior use of 150 senior apartments and meeting rooms for 300 people, or possibly for a school that is open to all. Using the existing building for apartments would provide close to the number of units planned for the new development. Either way, the plan would preserve the open space as the setting for this architectural jewel in an area with very little green space.

    One should note that the leader is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. See https://nypost.com/2013/08/19/rev-tried-to-sin-with-me/

    As for this report, Mr. Limiti should improve his accuracy on who said what. I distinctly recall comments from others using the language Limiti erroneously attributes to me. I’ve asked him to make the corrections.

  7. First of all, the area slated for the building is NOT a parking lot. It is the back side of the grounds that surround the Methodist Home/Hebron School. Part of that property was being used for parking, but that is not the intended use. When the Landmarks Preservation Commission(LPC) landmarked this property in 2011, they not only landmarked the building, but also the grounds, as everything within the fence was a part of the historic Methodist Home. Cutting the lot off and advertising it as a separate property – a forlorn parking lot, is misleading at best, and goes against what landmarking is supposed to do – protect our historic sites and neighborhoods – the entirety of that site.

    Furthermore, the planned building is way too big – it takes up the entire side of Sterling from NY Ave to the rowhouses in the center of the block, too tall, and does not meet the architectural standards needed to build in a landmarked community, especially at this site. In referencing the plans presented, the developers were not planning to offer significant affordable housing, rather, their plans consisted primarily of small one bedroom rental apartments, to be marketed to the many young singles who will not put down roots, but move on to the next “affordable” neighborhood, as they need to.

    While it is correct that the Hebron School needs a lot of repair, it is NOT true that people and organizations within the community have not offered to help. The Crown Heights North Association has been trying to reach out to them with information regarding grants, and other programs available to them since before the neighborhood was landmarked. But the church has cancelled more meetings than it has attended, and sincere, no strings attached community efforts to help them have been rebuffed or not followed through. These are efforts from people who have lived in the community for years, through rough times and good, and want only the best for the school and parish. It shouldn’t matter if one is a congregant or not.

    We get the appeal of big money. But Hope Capital’s offer is not in the best interest of either the school itself, or the surrounding community. It is just another developer seeking to profit from the renaissance of a neighborhood that has endured and is now a prime target for exploitation.

    1. Agreed! If the entire building was land marked in 2011, I would think the grandfathered addition, which the developer plans to demolish, is protected?

  8. Yes, this building is in desperate need of repair, but Hope Street Capital does not have the best interests of the school in mind. The proposed plan would demolish part of the building and remove vital green space from the community. Construction at this scale will lead to further gentrification of the neighborhood and will push out long-term residents. Shame.

  9. Hope Street Capital is not in the business of building affordable housing (just check their portfolio online). According to the language on their website, they are a “real estate investment group dedicated to opportunistic investment.” It’s right there in writing: opportunistic. They have a history of exploiting religious institutions that are facing hard times; at 809 Atlantic Avenue they obtained a permit to build a completely egregious high-rise tower, winning over the Landmarks Preservation Commission by promising renovation to a nearby church. And they fought that community board hard on the issue of affordable housing, clearly showing their hand as callous investors with dollar signs in their eyes.

    In a meeting regarding this project in Crown Heights, several community members asked Hope Street for more details as to the actual affordability of the “affordable” units, namely, what percentage of the AMI (Area Median Income) would be used to price the units. They were evasive and responded that they’d “figure all that out later.” You can bet that their contract with the Northeast Conference of Seventh Day Adventists doesn’t make a single promise of affordable housing in writing (and if it does, hand it over, we’d love to see it!).

  10. This proposed building site is just another excuse to gentrify an already changing neighborhood and make money without residents in mind. We do not need giant, poorly constructed dormitories and expensive coffee shops popping up all over this area. This would only be the beginning of a long fight that will continue to disenfranchise the people who have made this community beautiful for decades.

    We need leaders who are interested in investing in our community and uplifting the people who who already live here. We do not need leaders who are in it for money and power. COUNCIL MEMBER CORNEGY, are you listening to your constituents? Your seat is up this fall, and there is a candidate (Chi Osse) who actually cares about their community running to unseat Cornegy, and we are ready to vote in new perspectives who will uplift our community instead of run it into the ground.

  11. I agree that this building is in desperate need of repair. Hope Street Capital does not have the best interests of the school at heart. The proposed plan would take away a portion of the building not just the parking lot. This plan is wreaking gentrification of the area and will push out long-term residents. What a sham!

  12. Mr. Robert “not in my backyard” Cornegy is a hot mess! Bed Stuy is murderers and sex offenders central – he wants to be mayor. Don’t see it happening

  13. What I don’t get nor think is fair is that SDA purchased this historic structure when they knew they wouldn’t be able to afford the upkeep. “We aren’t going to be able to afford these fixes with a bake sale” Honoré said – well, what was their original plan for paying for the upkeep?!

    And let’s not kid ourselves, that massive building will never be used, even to 50% of its capacity, by the SDA school, especially in the days of universal Pre-K (why would someone pay good money to send their kid to school when they can it for free down the block?).

    I think that if they cannot afford the upkeep they should sell the building (which they bought for very little) to a developer who will honor the building’s grandeur and importance and convert it into condos, thereby making a MASSIVE profit (more than just selling the back portion of their lot), and buy a building nearby that will be more appropriate for their school and church.

    Don’t make the community suffer and put a stain on this beautiful area just because the Church did not thinking through their decisions first!!

  14. I have lived in Crown Heights for the past 21 years and personally witnessed gentrification of this pristine neighborhood like there’s no tomorrow. The developers have one major goal and that’s to make as much money, ROI, as they can and move on to the next conquest. New buildings were going up so fast, there were cranes everywhere. Thank you Crown Heights North Association for standing your ground and getting this area Landmarked so we avoid another catastrophic build like the one on St. Johns Place and New York Avenue. This is an eyesore to look at, and definitely does not belong in this neighborhood. If the SDA could not afford the upkeep of the building when they bought it, then it should have been left alone. We need all of the green space available, as you can see Brower Park is getting very crowded these days….. Lets keep up the fight to prevent another building from going up and ruining this historic area we call home.

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