Hudson Cos. triumphs in court battle with Prospect Lefferts residents

Much-maligned 626 Flatbush Avenue is here to stay

Rendering of 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Hudson principal David Kramer
Rendering of 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Hudson principal David Kramer

Though the Hudson Cos.’ massive 254-unit residential tower at 626 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens topped out in January, a battle brought by several neighborhood coalitions accusing Hudson of cheating to pass an environmental review process still raged on in court.

On Tuesday, however, an appeals court ruled in favor of Hudson, finding that the environmental assessment was handled responsibly.

The decision by the New York Appellate Division First Department upholds a June ruling by the New York Supreme Court, which refused to stop the project or block the New York State Housing Finance Agency, also a defendant, from issuing $72 million in tax-exempt bonds to Hudson. (The bonds were issued in exchange for the developer’s guarantee that 20 percent of the units would be affordable.)

The four neighborhood groups and a slew of residents who sued said that the project should be halted until a proper environmental review was conducted, in order to evaluate factors ranging from increased strain on infrastructure, to an obscured view from Prospect Park, to the impact on the adjacent Prospect Lefferts Gardens historic district.

Additionally, the plaintiffs cited concerns over shifting population demographics. “According to petitioners, the project is the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification,” a New York Supreme Court judge wrote in June.

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Hudson was accused of lying to the finance agency by incorrectly responding on a form that the project was not located contiguous to a historic district, though it is 100 feet from the edge of the Prospect Lefferts historic district, and by indicating that there was no public controversy relating to the project.

This week’s decision states that the finance agency may have made a technical error in classifying the project for purposes of review, but still “specifically analyzed the issues of secondary displacement and the project’s impact on the view from Prospect Park.”

David Paget of Sive Paget & Riesel, counsel for Hudson, said “The project was an as-of-right project. It didn’t require any zoning or discretionary approvals from the city of New York… There was no dissembling. There was no lying.”

“Hudson is glad that we seem to have come to the end of this proceeding and we feel that the court did a very reasoned and carful review of the merits of the case,” a representative for the developer said.

Counsel for the finance agency and the neighborhood groups did not respond to requests for comment.