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Landmarks Commission Sends 920 Park Place Development Back to the Drawing Board

The board asked developers of the controversial development to come up with a revised design plan for the Hebron School site in Crown Heights
A view of the existing building from Park Pl. Photo by Jackson Ibelle

A controversial apartment development slated for the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School site in Crown Heights has been rejected by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, after facing large opposition from community members.

On Tuesday, commission members decided not vote on the development until the developers  Hope Street Capital had come up with a new design. The commissions approval is needed for the development, given the site's landmarked status.

The commission said the current plan, for a 959 Sterling Ave (also listed as 920 Park Place), was out of context with the original site and historic building on the grounds.

Originally housing the Methodist Home for the Aged, the towering brick structure is now the home of the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist School.

The proposal would have demolished 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, spanning the entire street front of Sterling Ave from New York to Brooklyn Avenues.

Commissioners said they were not against development taking place at the site, but not the development that was put forward in its current form.

A rendering of the proposed building by Hope Street Capital

Commissioner John Gustafsson said the site could certainly "sustain a substantial amount of development, but this is not it," referring to the height and concentration of the buildings.

School leaders are in support of the plan to develop the site, as the developers would be charged with a $21.5 million restoration of the school as part of the deal.

But local residents have fiercely opposed the plan.

Friends of 920 Park Place, an intergenerational coalition of neighbors who 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."

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.

A petition opposing the controversial plans  generated over 6,800 signatures and about 950 letters of opposition were sent to the LPC.

Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr also came out against the plan in its current form saying, "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.

LPC members said separating the development into a number of buildings that allowed for open space would be one improvement the developers could make.

Chair Sarah Carroll said the application would come before the commission once the design has been revised.