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Development Plans on Site of Historic Crown Heights Building Cause Backlash

Developers are planning to build apartments in the parking lot of the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School at 920 Park Place, angering local residents
Photo: 920 Park Place in Crown Heights where a development is being planned by Jackson Ibelle for BK Reader

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
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'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."