project leader
Robyn B
location
839 St. Marks Avenue
(Crown Heights North, Brooklyn)
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the project

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PROTECTING OUR ARCHITECTURAL & CULTURAL HERITAGE

We are a group of Crown Heights North neighbors who are standing up to the City of New York, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the New York City Housing Preservation, & Development, Institute for Community Living, the Institute for Community Living Real Property Holding Corp., and ICL St. Marks Avenue Apartments, L.P. (a new for-profit entity that has been granted a deed allowing ICL to own and manage residential housing). The original land deed restricted ICL to supportive housing. The Dean Sage Mansion must be preserved with its parterre garden in tact. ICL plans to construct an architecturally inconsistent residential building that will destroy the Dean Sage Mansion’s formal garden and will architecturally overwhelm the High Gothic Mansion and the historic streetscape of St. Marks Avenue between Kingston and Brooklyn Avenues and Brooklyn Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street. We have taken our objections to ICL's project to the State Supreme Court, Kings County.

OUR PETITION TO THE STATE SUPREME COURT 

The NYC Landmarks Commission has granted  ICL a “Certificate of Appropriateness” (COFA) in spite of the objections from Brooklyn Community Board 8, the Crown Heights North Association, Inc—one of the winners of the 2017 New York State Preservation Award, the St. Marks Independent Block Association, and local residents. Our petition to the State Supreme Court states the following objections to the COFA:

1. The NYC LPC’s decision to permit the addition of a new building to the site without establishing a regulatory policy or even a Master Plan for    the District  is “arbitrary and capricious” and should be annulled;

2. The COFA ignores the Adverse Impacts, recognized by both NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYS            Historic Preservation Office, that will result from the planned alterations to the Dean Sage Mansion;

3. The COFA permits the alteration of the Mansion’s facades, the demolition of a historically and architecturally unique addition to one of the oldest and most important nineteenth-century Mansion’s remaining and the destruction of the Mansion’s parterre garden;

4. That the L-shaped building is out of scale and overwhelms the architectural and historical context of the streetscape as established by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designation in 2007;

5. The Mansion is located in the Crown Heights North Historic District which is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places;

6. Based on the manner in which the LPC heard, deliberated upon, and ultimately granted the COFA for this unprecedented expansion the LPC abused its discretion and acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of lawful procedure of both the text and spirit of applicable State and City laws and rules;

7. That the granting of the COFA was affected by other consideration i.e. affordable housing shortage, rather than on the architectural and historic character of the Crown Heights North Historic District.

Additional Information

the steps

Last Court Hearing

On November 28, 2017 Judge Levine of the State Supreme Court issued a stop order for any work on the formal garden but has allowed demolition of the 1930’s extension to the mansion facing Brooklyn Avenue. Court documents can be accessed online under Kings County Index 520815/2017. We believe our legal efforts to preserve the Dean Sage Residence from arbitrary development will preserve the reality of Historic Preservation of our neighborhoods in Crown Heights North and in New York City.

We have incurred $15,413.11 in legal fees. We have raised $5,000.00 through donations from the Crown Heights community and the Crown Heights North Association, Inc. Our cause has been well fought by the lawfirm of Jacqueline McMickens & Associates,  PLLC. 

We need to raise an additional $10,413.11 to cover our legal fees.

The Timeline of Events Leading to the Article 78 being filed in State Supreme Court

  • December 2015 Shirley Mondesir is notified by Deborah Young of BCB8 of ICL project.

  • January 7, 2016 Housing/SLURP Committee Meeting Discussion of Institute for Community Living’s (ICL) plans for a project development at 839 St. Marks Avenue. ICL is a human services organization that provides housing and social services to individuals with mental and developmental disabilities. The current residence at 839 St. Marks Avenue is a community residence that provides housing for 48 mentally ill individuals. ICL is in the process of re-developing the unused lot on the side of the building and plans to create a mixed use housing building. The plan is to relocate the residents currently residing at 839 St. Marks Avenue and create 75 total units of supportive and affordable housing. Committee tables voting on the project because ICL hasn't informed neighboring residents of their plans. ICL is asked to contact Shirley Mondesir, President of the St. Marks Avenue Independent Block Association (SMIBA).

  • January 16, 2016: SMIBA Meeting held at ICL, 839 St Marks Avenue: ICL Architects present project to the community.

  • February 25, 2016: ICL applies to NYCLPC for a certificate of appropriateness

  • March 3, 2016 CB8 Housing/ULURP ICL presents proposal to the committee. The Housing/ULURP votes to recommend to the full CB8 Board to vote to withhold support.

  • March 10, 2016: BCB8 General Meeting votes not to recommend the ICL project for approval?

  • March 22, 2016: NYCLPC Hearing/Meeting. We attend along with Historic Preservation Council]. We provide arguments for LPC not to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness (COFA). LPC requests some minor changes to the appearance and doesn't vote.

  • April 12, 2016 Meeting/hearing time changed. Unfortunately, we arrived after 839 St. Marks Avenue was discussed and the “Article of Appropriateness”  approved.

  • Group organizes: Write to all elected official from Governor to City council; create a paper and change.org petitions

  • Meet with Councilman Robert Cornegy and State Senator Walter Mosely: both wrote to NYCLPC supporting a rethinking of the project.

  • April 21, 2017 Phone Conference to Discuss draft Memorandum of Appropriateness (MOA) Aaron Werner (HPD): We thought we were going to have a discussion about the community’s objections to the project but it was really to discuss how HPD had negotiated with ICL what procedures ICL would have to put in place to mitigate possible damage to the mansion and neighboring properties.

  • October 26, 2017 File Article 78 in Supreme Court State of New York Kings County

  • November 17, 2017: State Supreme Court Judge Katherine Levine hears opening arguments. Judge Levine schedules a hearing for November 28 time to review arguments.

  • November 28, 2017 Judge Levine puts a stop order on all construction over the formal garden but allows ICL to move forward with the removal of the extension.

  • December 21, 2017: Judge Levine encourages a compromise-replacing the extension with a larger building.This is not acceptable to ICL. The stop work order is kept in place over the garden. ICL has not begun work to dismantle the extension.

 

why we're doing it

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT to PRESERVE THE DEAN SAGE RESIDENCE 

The Dean Sage Residence, designed by the renowned architect and scholar Russell Sturgis, c. 1870, is the second oldest mansion in Crown Heights North and the last Mansion to retain its original parterre garden. It is a rare example of Gilded Age landscaped homes built along Central Brooklyn's Millionaire's Row during America’s Industrial Revolution. Mark Twain (Samuel Longehorn Clemens) was a close friend of the Sage family and often visited Dean Sage's Brooklyn home (Mark Twain Project Letters, UC Berkeley). The Sage family, and their friends were Lincoln Republicans and supported America’s first Civil Rights Movement, “Reconstruction,” as described by Ron Chernow, in his “Grant” biography, The Sage family used their wealth, from their lumber business, to create a more equitable America through their financial support of Cornell University’s open to all principle (including women and immigrants) and through their active membership in Henry Ward Beecher's anti-slavery Plymouth Church.If this project is allowed to go forward the very concept of Historic Preservation Districting will be undermined in Crown Heights and throughout New York City. We cannot afford to lose another link to our cultural past, core values and history’s lessons to a developer’s greed and our City government’s negligence in the management of housing development that ensures Crown Heights North and New York City’s economic and cultural diversity.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

1. The story of the Dean Sage Residence, is a part of our history and we want it preserved for our community and for our children. The Mansion is located in the Crown Heights North Historic District which is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places and as such is a significant historical and cultural presence that adds financial and educational value to our Crown Heights North community. It gives us a sense of pride in ourselves and our community.

2. We object to the NYC Landmarks Commission granting  ICL a “Certificate of Appropriateness” (COFA) in spite of the objections Brooklyn Community Board 8, the Crown Heights North Association, Inc—one of the winners of the 2017 New York State Preservation Award, the St. Marks Independent Block Association, and local residents.

3. We are petitioning the State Supreme court to annul the "Certificate of Appropriateness" on the grounds that to permit a new building to be constructed on this historic site without a Master Plan for the Historic District is "Arbitrary and Capricious".

4. The L-shaped building is out of scale and overwhelms the architectural and historical context of the streescape as established by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designation in 2007.

 

From the ICL Proposal: The new building viewed from Brooklyn Avenue.

 

The Dean Sage Residence 839 St. Marks Avenue

 

19th Century Streetscape east of the Dean Sage Mansion, The formal garden separates the Mansion from these articulated late 19th C. homes.

budget

Accrued Legal Fees period ending 12/5/17-$15,413.11

Projected Legal Fees period ending 2/28/18-$5,000.00

Subtotal = $20,413
ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $612
Total to raise = $21,060

updates

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photos

This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration

donors

  • Robyn Berland