Rezoning Projects by the Books in Crown Heights, Hardly… Judge Halts Project

Arrested development: Judge halts controversial Crown Heights project amid legal battle

A Kings County Supreme Court judge slapped a controversial mixed-use development with a temporary restraining order on April 17, after local anti-gentrification advocates claimed the developer used every trick in the book to avoid having to preform a state-mandated environmental-review process, while the city let them get away with it to pave the way for more affordable housing.

We fought the Department of City Planning, and watched our elected officials allow the developer to lie on their applications, so they did not have to be held accountable for creating the largest residential complexes in Brooklyn,” said Alicia Boyd, founder of anti-gentrification group Movement to Protect the People.

The city awarded developers Cornell Realty and Carmel Partners the rights to build two 16-story towers near Franklin Avenue and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at 40 Crown St. and 931 Carroll St. following a rezoning process that capped off with a December Council vote, where Crown Heights Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo wielded her key vote as the area’s representative to green-light the project, in exchange for the developer’s promise to expand the project’s affordable-housing component from 140 to 258 units.

But Boyd’s suit — which names the Department of City Planning and Cumbo as co-defendants, in addition to Cornell — alleges that the developers lied on re-zoning and building documents to underplay the scope of their proposed mixed-use project, misstating the amount of new residential units included in the development and ignoring vast swaths of affected land in a preliminary assessment of the project.

And fudging the numbers allowed the developers to illegally circumvent a much more thorough environmental review of the project, which the advocates claim would have demonstrated a serious strain on local sewers, roads, and schools as a result of the towers and the influx of new Crown Heights residents they would attract.

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RAMAPO, NY- Understanding the “Envision Ramapo Initiative” and Charrettes – Meeting Announcement

urgent ramapo update action needed tonight january 23

Dear Neighbors and Concerned Citizens:

Please read the [above] attached update about a critically important Town initiative that could severely impact Ramapo for years to come.  

It is important that you understand the threat behind the “Envision Ramapo” initiative, the Northeast Ramapo Strategic Plan, the neighborhood “charrettes,” and other related parts of the Town’s new strategy.  You may have already been asked to engage in a letter-writing campaign or to otherwise support the Big Development agenda without realizing what you are being asked to be part of.  

Whatever you feel about how much or what type of development should take place in Ramapo and its villages, I am sure you agree that an irresponsible or incompetent approach to development will make all residents of Ramapo unsafe and is just plain inexcusable.  

For those who want more infomation, I have attached a somewhat longer explanation of the background.  Feel free to be in contact with me directly with any questions you may have.

**Please try to attend tonight’s meeting.  It is a public meeting and you will be able to speak if you wish.  You should find plenty of talking points in the attachments.  It is very important that those running the Town understand that there is widespread and vigorous opposition to this gambit, including from the Orthodox community.  

I personally believe it will be most effective to focus our comments on a very specific and essential set of demands (see below) rather than criticizing everything or simply expressing anger or frustration.  I believe almost every resident in Ramapo wants the Town to stop shirking its responsibilities when it comes to traffic, drainage, and water supply – which are all safety issues as well as affecting the quality of life of every resident.  These are issues that unite us rather than dividing us, so let’s advocate for them together!

**Please forward this email to all of your neighbors and local acquaintances and encourage them to speak up.

**Whether or not you can make it to the meeting, please send the form letter I will be emailing to you separately.

Sincerely,
Shani Bechhofer  

Airmont, New York Congregation’s Lawsuit Dismissed by State Judge

Congregation’s legal action against Airmont is dismissed by state judge

AIRMONT – An acting state judge rejected an Orthodox Jewish congregation’s  lawsuit claiming Airmont violated its own zoning laws involving a synagogue hit with violations during a village wide building moratorium.

Mayor Philip Gigante applauded the village’s vindication in state Supreme Court, as he also has dismissed allegations made in two federal lawsuits claiming the village discriminates against Orthodox and Hasidic Jews.

“Contrary to the petitioner’s allegations, Airmont is committed to enforcing its codes equitably and fairly,” Gigante said. “We believed this complaint to be without merit, and we are glad that the judge agreed and dismissed this action.”

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Acting state Supreme Court Judge Rolf Thorsen, an elected County Court judge, wrote the congregation claimed being exempt from the moratorium when that status didn’t exist.

Thorsen agreed with the village that Rabbi Eliezer Halberstam and his congregation needed to seek an exception from the moratorium from the Airmont Board of Trustees. The judge ruled Halberstam’s congregation created its own issues and damages by not seeking available administrative remedies with the village.

The Congregation of Echo Ridge’s issue centered on the moratorium had blocked instituting parking on two adjoining properties at 1 and 3 Echo Ridge Road.

Halberstam, who has claimed the village’s zoning and enforcement is discriminatory, obtained a building permit in 2014 for a Hasidic Jewish synagogue at 3 Echo Ridge Road.

Halberstam declined comment on the decision.

The congregation later bought the property next door at 1 Echo Ridge Road with revamped plans for parking to meet village regulations. The congregation faces millions of dollars in fines for daily violations of the village parking law.

The congregation argued the village approval moratorium – which he and other Orthodox Jews opposed – prevented the congregation from completing its parking plan.

Thorsen wrote the congregation argued the building inspector must approve or disapprove a building permit application. The inspector returned the congregation’s application without a decision, according to the decision.

The judge’s decision stated the congregation also argued the village zoning code required the Zoning Board of Appeals make a determination of the building inspector’s decisions.

 

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Inspectors Accepting Bribes to Speed up Developments, Shocking? Nope.

The Daily News

Fourteen people charged with bribing inspectors to speed up Brooklyn development projects

With new buildings popping up across Brooklyn, some corrupt property owners put a pair of city inspectors on retainer to avoid code violations, the Department of Investigation charged Wednesday.

The two Department of Buildings inspectors were among 14 individuals hit with charges in the latest crackdown on the resilient corruption that’s plagued the building sector in this city for decades.

The two inspectors were paid off by property owners and contractors to overlook code violations such as inoperable exit signs on residential and commercial buildings going up across Brooklyn, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said.

“Fabricating documents, lying about conducting inspections or about who is doing the work has serious consequences,” said Peters. “For the defendants it’s about expediting the construction timeline. It’s about making an extra buck.”

Financier gets probation for bribing state pension official

In all, 10 property owners, developers and contractors were charged in the scheme, along with a private sector asbestos inspector who took fees to fudge inspections and a master plumber who sold the use of his license.

Thirteen of the 14 were arrested in a pre-dawn sweep. All will be prosecuted by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and were to be presented in court later Wednesday.

The two city inspectors were paid off with cash but also got free kitchen renovations and driveway upgrades to their private homes, the complaints allege.