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Stop Irresponsible Development by ICL at one of Brooklyn's Last Historic Landmarks

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Petition to Stop Irresponsible Development by ICL at 839 St. Marks Avenue Brooklyn

 (ICL proposed buildings: wrapping around mansion on Brooklyn and St. Marks Avenues)

 The St. Marks Avenue Independent Block Association (SMIBA), the Crown Heights North Association, Brooklyn Community Board 8, and friends of SMIBA are against the construction of apartment buildings on the grounds of the Dean Sage Mansion at 839 St. Marks Avenue. Both the 1868 Mansion and its lot, which includes a garden, are designated Landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Further, the NYS Historic Preservation Office and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have included the area in the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places.

  The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) report states, it is “one of the oldest and most important nineteenth-century mansions remaining in the Crown Heights North district…” The Crown Heights North Association (CHNA), in a March 1, 2016 letter to ICL’s Associate V.P. for Community & Government Relations, addressed the mansion’s historical value in relation to its surrounding grounds: “the land, which ICL perceives as ‘unused,’ is actually a character-defining feature of the mansion. Mansions are inherently different from other buildings in the district and all of NYC, as they are detached and the open spaces of the grounds are a significant feature of their context.”  Outdoor space is as critical to the well-being of a community as is a diversity of housing.

 We object to attaching architecturally inconsistent buildings to one of the oldest and most important 19th Century Mansions remaining in the Crown Heights North Historic District. “ICL’s plans are completely out of character with the beautifully articulated limestone streetscape of St. Marks Avenue. Under no circumstances can CHNA support this plan.” (CHNA March 1, 2016 letter.)

 We recognize that affordable housing is necessary.  ICL owns or controls 13 other properties in Brooklyn and 1 in Manhattan that are not landmarked and may provide for a greater number of supportive and subsidized apartment units than can be provided at the Dean Sage Mansion location.

They are as follows:

 1.    580 Empire Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11225 - Owned by: 5580 Realty LLC

2.    518 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn NY 11225 - Owned by: ICL Real Property Holding

3.    948 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11213 - Owned by: ICL Real Property Holding

4.    487 St. Marks Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238 - Leme Corporation

5.    1225 Halsey St, Brooklyn, NY 11237 - ICL

6.    2581 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11207 - ICL

7.    161 Emerson Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11205 - ICL

8.    4715 Avenue D, Brooklyn, NY 11203 -Kenneth R Phynn

9.    828 Washington Ave #A, Brooklyn, NY 11238 - ICL

10.  50 Nevins St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 - ICL Real Property Holdings

11.  2384 Atlantic Ave #2, Brooklyn, NY 11233 - Eastern Industrial Div.

12.  25 Lawton St, Brooklyn, NY 11221 - ICL Real Property Holdings

13.  2128 Rockaway Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11236 - Belt Rock Realty LLC

14.  40 Rector St #8, New York, NY 10006 - 40 Rector Condominium

 Additionally, CHNA has offered to work with ICL to acquire a nearby moribund non-landmarked property (1391 Bedford Avenue at St Marks Ave) that would be an excellent alternative site. ICL has indicated that funding for the affordable housing aspect of this project is being provided by HPD and could be used to purchase this new property. Acquiring this property would convert a moribund site to housing; and provide more units of both supportive and affordable housing than the Dean Sage property would accommodate.

 On May 19, 2016, Brooklyn Community Board 8 (CB 8), wrote to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chairperson of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, disagreeing with the Commission’s decision to allow ICL to build on the Dean Sage Mansion property.  CB 8 complained that LPC’s “decision appears to have been misguided by emotional pleas completely unrelated to historic preservation. [CB 8’s prior] letter to LPC clearly advised that there are other non-historic sites available in Community District 8 for affordable housing;” and that ICL was offering a “questionable plan to provide affordable housing.” CB 8’s review of public records showed that ICL’s contract with the State Office of Mental Health (OMH) requires that ICL use the Dean Sage Mansion site to provide community mental health services for a period of 25 years beginning [on] October 27, 2005.

 The CB 8 letter complained that “for ICL to change the nature of the population they are required to serve is disingenuous and may be a default or breach of contract. Given that the OMH has not issued a statement of ‘no adverse impact,’ it also seems apparent that there is no communication or vetting between LPC and OMH regarding adverse impacts and the site’s status on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.” 

 “For LPC to approve ICL’s plan is a clear abrogation of the Commission’s historic preservation duties and mission. The entire lot is designated as historic, yet LPC would allow part of the site to be demolished. Such a departure from the Commission’s prior grant of historic designation seems arbitrary and capricious notwithstanding the tortured rationalizations offered.” LPC also ignored CB 8’s review and advisements: “Given its mandated responsibilities under NYC Charter s. 2800(d)(17), CB 8 exercised the initial review of applications and proposals of public agencies and private entities for the use of development or improvement of land located in the community district.” Essentially, CB 8’s initial review was apparently ignored.

 On March 10, 2016, the CB 8 Housing Committee (according to their minutes) discussed ICL’s plan to develop the property. ICL’s plan would reduce supportive housing from the current 48 to 45, “60% of the total 75 units  would be supportive housing, including 30 affordable units under Section 8 offered at 30% and 50% of AMI (Area Median Income),” approximately $40,000. Studio, one and two bedroom apartments will be available increasing the density for the already busy streetscape that includes the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, PS 289 George V. Brower Elementary School, a Church, and a playground. It is clear from the minutes that when ICL first introduced their plan on January 7, 2016 to the CB 8 Housing Committee, none of these community stakeholders had been informed of the project.

 It is worth noting that according to an April 2016 report entitled, Historic Preservation: at the Core of a Dynamic New York City, created by Place Economics for the NY Landmarks Conservancy: historic districts make up only 4.4% of  NYC’s lot area available for development; the racial makeup of Brooklyn’s historic districts is mainly Black and Hispanic; and most importantly, historic districts in the outer boroughs are the more densely populated areas of the City. 

 The ICL project, which is estimated at $38 million, will be funded through a new not-for-profit entity related to ICL. ICL Realty Holding Corporation’s mission and the deed state that their only purpose is “to own, purchase, acquire, lease and/or mortgage real property and premises thereon to further the exempt purpose of the Institute for Community Living, Inc.” Affordable housing is not covered under their existing deed, mortgage, or contract. Therefore, a new realty holding corporation must be created with a new deed that is so far undisclosed.  There are parallels here to the Rivington House scandal. The Allure Group who owned the Rivington House Nursing home convinced NYC to lift deed restrictions that ensured the building would be used as a nursing home. Once the deed restrictions were lifted the Allure Group sold the building to a condo developer for a $72 million profit. City rules have been changed to make deed change requests public. ICL may be planning such a change for 839 St Marks Ave.

 We have very little time to respond to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Help the St. Marks Independent Block Association fight back. We need your signature to preserve a rare and special jewel, the Dean Sage Mansion and garden. At the same time, let’s support affordable housing development at 1391 Bedford Avenue and St. Marks Avenue, or at other more appropriate sites in CD 8.  LPC must rescind its approval of this irresponsible plan.                                              

Please send this petition to City Councilmember Robert Cornegy at as well as the following members of the 21-member City Council Land Use Committee:

Darlene Mealy 

Jumaane Williams

Daniel Garodnick  Also send this petition to the State and Federal government elected representatives for the area, as the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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