The Lefferts Manor Scam!
The Lefferts Manor Scam, presented by Paul Graziano, urban planner, Suki Cheong, along with the support of Ben Edwards, President of The Lefferts Manor and Michael Liburd, chairman of the ULULP (Land use) committee.
On October 13, 2016 the above parties including others, presented a scam to get the southern block of Fenimore St between Bedford and Rogers to be rezoned based upon the premise that they were entitled to be a part of a restrictive covenant of The Lefferts Manor, which contains deed restrictions of "One Family Dwellings Only". This area is known as “The Manor”. Click here to view Paul Graziano's Presentation on Youtube
The purpose of the Scam was to get Community Board 9 in Brooklyn "CB9" to agree to do a rezoning and once the above people were sitting at the table, they would actually change the parameters and create a district wide rezoning. With again the same push to protect the in between streets (private home owners) and give up the major corridors for development. The same deal that Northern Crown Heights (Community Board 8) got when Paul Graziano did their rezoning. Below are the details of the scam.
Instructions On How to Read:
Please Click on the subject line to go right to that section. To return to the table of contents just click on the words "Go Back up to top". The writing is presented in two parts. First, the evidence and information. Second, is the overall plan and strategy of the scam.
- The Players
- Folk Law and Fenimore St.
- The Scam in Action
- NO Evidence
- What we Found.
- The Manor Boundaries
- Lands Adjacent To the Manor
- The scam to sue the City.
- The Strategy Behind the Scam
- The Right Planner
- The Element of Surprise
- The Key Element
- Other Community Groups Involvement
- Local Politicians
- Prejudice, Bias, Racism and Lawsuits!
- MTOPP's Position
- Other Ways to Support Without Harming Others
Paul Graziano, who was brought in by Suki Cheong, for the past two years has been sniffing around this community like a dog in heat, to get a rezoning that will allow developers to build towers on our major corridors especially Empire Blvd. He helped to rezone Community Board 8 in Crown Heights, where the main blocks were given up to huge development to protect the private homes. This community has seen the highest amount of displacement of people of color than any other neighborhood in New York City!
Paul ran for Councilman in his District in Queens but lost. Maybe he’s looking for funding and support for another run. Now what developer wouldn’t support him, if he were to deliver Empire Blvd, Washington Ave, Rogers Ave all the blocks bordering the Park and the Garden?
Suki Cheong, is a newly arrived Chinese decent person, who was one of the leaders of the 626 Flatbush resistance, which produced no results. She has been claiming in public her aversion to increase density in the community, but for the past three years, she has been trying to get a rezoning that will allow it. She signed a document agreeing to increase density, if two blocks on Flatbush would be down zoned and protected.
She worked with Concern Citizen “CC”, after being thrown out of Prospect Park East Network “PPEN”, trying again to get a rezoning for Prospect Lefferts Garden, with Empire Blvd as the carrot stick and trade off. However, CC wanted full disclosure with Paul Graziano, her planner. When Paul and Suki couldn’t get CC to agree to place Empire Blvd within their parameters as a trade off, Paul backed off of the deal.
Michael Liburd, is one of the six people that was illegally placed on CB9 by Borough President Eric Adams. He sits on the Board of the Brooklyn Public Library and voted to sell the Brooklyn Public Library down in Cadman Plaza to build a luxury sky riser. This deal is currently being investigated under the “Pay to Play” scams that are rocking the Mayor Deblasio’s administration.
Michael Liburd, owns two homes, one in Crown Street, and one upstate. He is a wealthy business man, who surrounds himself with developers and real estate people via his seat on the Library board. As the Chairman of Community Board 9’s ULURP committee for the past year 2015-2016, he has already instrumented several failed attempts to get City Planning to engage in a rezoning, via secret meetings.
Ben Edwards, is the President of The Lefferts Manor Assn. He chaired the ULURP (Land Use) committee of CB9 in 2014-2015. This committee did everything in its power to present a rezoning request without any community input. He gave testimony, under oath, at Alicia Boyd’s trial (that she was found not-guilty after 21 minutes of deliberations). He stated he was a Real Estate Broker, who did not know what gentrification was, nor what the community has been fighting and protesting about for the past two years!
The Lefferts Manor Assn.
Paul Graziano submitted a rezoning proposal in which he states that the Lefferts Manor Association is supporting this scam. (see the below document) He however, has failed to produce any document which states as such from this Association. But one could conclude that they do, just by inference, because their President of the Lefferts Manor Association, Ben Edwards was present for Paul's presentation and voted yes for the proposal.
The question then must be posed, why is The Lefferts Manor Assn., now supporting the idea that their borders be extended to include the south side of Fenimore, when clearly within their own records this block is not a part of the original land set aside for one family dwellings only and was never considered as such?
Based upon folk law it was believed that the southern part of Fenimore St. between Bedford Ave and Rogers Ave, should have been included in The Lefferts Manor aka “The Manor”, because they had the same deed restrictions of “one family” that The Manor has! However this is not true!
On October 13, 2016, at the first meeting of the ULURP (land Use) committee of CB9 for the year, Paul Graziano, presented the Fenimore Block Association request to be down zone based upon the fact that they should have had the R2 status that “The Manor” has, because they have the same deed restrictions (one family). They currently have an R6 zoning like a majority of the rest of CB9.
Additionally they proposed not only should CB9 support their desire to rezone their block from an R6 to R2 zone but CB9 should be a co-applicant on the application, thus setting for the first time ever, a Community Board to actual do a rezoning with a block association for half a block.
It has been the customary behavior of Community Boards to either support or oppose rezoning applications but never to actually do one. First, because it is expensive, and normally they don’t have the money and second because if they do it for one block they have to do it for everyone!
Despite all of the claims presented at the meetings, both the Fenimore residents and Paul Graziano failed to provide any evidence.
- Fenimore residents failed to provide the signed petition, where 90% of the owners on the block agree to the plan.
- Paul refused to provide any proof of the deed restrictions, instead he showed, on a projector, a very small picture of a document which had wording on it, that no one could read or even see, (during his presentation).
- Paul also admitted that the application for the rezoning wasn’t all that complicated or difficult to fill out but he couldn’t produce it because he needed CB 9 first to approve to be a co-applicant and then somewhere along the line the application would be filled out describing the boundaries, the goals, the requests etc… (like signing a blank check)
- He provided no evidence of the support he claimed he had gotten from the “The Lefferts Manor Association”.
A group of us for four days descended upon the Buildings Department and the The Brooklyn Historical Society to gather proof. And this is what we found.
- That the southern part of Fenimore (the block in question) never was a part of the original deed purchase that was done in 1893/94 of “The Manor”, which has a “one family” deed restriction.
- That there are non-residential buildings on the southern side of Fenimore St, which show that this one family deed restriction, does not apply to this block.
- The properties on the southern side of Fenimore do have deed restrictions, but it is for the prevention of commercial businesses being built.
- Not all of the lots on the Southern Side of Fenimore have deed restrictions, just some.
Deed Restrictions and the Manor
In the late 1800s, John Lefferts owned a large parcel of land in CB9. Part of the land he sold off to anyone in the open market, but one large parcel, his heirs sold a month and a year after he died, (in “blocks”) with a deed restriction of “one family only”. Some of the blocks were 5032, 5034, and 5037. This parcel did not include the southern side of Fenimore which is block 5043, which is the block in question!
Unlike what most people think, blocks are comprised of the entire area that is continuous. For example, Sterling’s Street north is on the same block as Empire Blvd south, whereas Sterling St South is on the same block as Lefferts St North. Thus his heirs sold several continuous blocks and placed this one family deed restriction on the land, from Lincoln Rd south, to Fenimore North and from Flatbush on the west to Rogers on the East.
Lefferts heirs did however, own part of the block of the southern part of Fennimore South (the block in question), but he/they didn’t own the entire block, thus it was not a part of the restrictive one family rule, that was sold in that parcel, in 1893/94.
Lefferts sold a parcel of land on the southern side of Fenimore in 1889, (the block in question) to the Fenimore Methodist Episcopal Church. His heirs, after he died, sold off other lots on this block over the course of 20 years; 216 Fenimore St in 1894, 214 Fenimore St in 1905, 196 Fenimore St in 1906, Some of these lots also have deed restrictions but they do not have the one family restriction. Their restrictions are to prohibit commercial businesses from being built, such as “pig pens, slaughter houses, smith shops, carpenter shops…etc.”
This lack of one family deed restriction is proven, not only by the deeds that we were able to uncover regarding several of the lots located on the southern side of Fenimore (the block in question), but the fact that there is the Bethany Chapel Church 204 Fenimore St, in the middle of the block that was built after the “The Manor” was established.
Paul Graziano claimed, during his presentation, that the entire 17 lots on this block has this one family deed restriction. However again this isn’t true. There are 23 lots on this block, to which 7 lots are non-residential, and another 7 have no known restrictions that could be verified. Thus it is obvious why in 1961, when the rezoning was being done, this block was not included in the R2 zoning (which was protecting "The Manor").
Also Paul Granziano stated that because these blocks have “one family deed” restrictions they could sue City Planning to give them the R2 zone. But again that is a lie, because they can’t. The current R6 zone, which prevents commercial enterprises from being built, supports the deed restrictions that some of these homes have.
It is clear that there are indeed deed restrictions on the southern side of Fenimore, which is probably why the folk law existed for them to be a part of The Manor, but what is clear after the research is that this block first wasn’t a part of the original parcel of land which comprises of “the Manor” and is not a part of that restrictive covenant for the following reasons:
- The southern side of Fenimore St does not have deed restriction of “one family only”, which is the only distinction that makes The Manor the restrictive Covenant.
- The southern side has non-residential buildings built both before and after “The Manor” was created in 1893/94 proving it didn’t have the one family restrictive deed.
- The southern side of Fenimore does have deed restrictions but it is for commercial enterprises not to be built.
- The current zoning on the southern side of Fenimore does support their deed restriction, which doesn’t allow for commercial enterprises to be built on this block.
- The southern side of the Fenimore, was never a part of the blocks that were sold in a large parcel which created The Manor.
- The block 5043, which is a part of the southern side of Fenimore was not completely owned by Lefferts or his heirs, when “The Manor” was created.
It is clear that there was a plan to enter us again into a rezoning with the Department of City Planning DCP and below is the assumption of how it was planned to work.
First, get several Fenimore St homeowners scared that someone can build on their block based upon their current zone. State that the deed restriction (which does exist for some) will allow for City Planning to give them a down zoning of R2, like their neighbors across the street! Thus they will be protected.
Once this group of residents is on board, get someone to pay Paul Graziano to do the rezoning. He has already a proven track record of getting communities of color up zoned through the classic model of trade offs. He also had no problem with giving up the major corridors for serious high rise developments and even refused to do a rezoning that didn't have a trade off to give to City Planning.
He has no loyalties to the Flatbush/Crown Heights/PLG community because he lives in Queens and may want to run again for Councilman there. Thus his actions or their results here will not affect him politically with his constituency base.
Once some of the Fenimore people were on board, with a planner willing to sell out the larger community, set up a meeting with select members of the ULURP committee to get them to see how a rezoning can be had, with a community group. But the key to success was the element of surprise!
In order for the plan to work there had be several things in place.
- The plan had to be kept secret.
- A complete presentation had to be done at the very first meeting and a vote taken right there, without any further discussion, exploration etc...
- Members of the ULURP committee had to be handpicked by Michael Liburd to ensure they would vote for the proposal.
- If more information would be demanded just say it would be coming or it was forgotten.
- Make sure the Fenimore residents showed up to push for the proposal.
- Make the proposal seem like a sure win.
- Down play what it really means for CB9 to be a co-applicant.
- Use money as the key, saying if CB9 is a co-applicant, residents don’t pay for environmental assessments studies etc.. So the only reason for being a co-applicant is to save money.
- State the application can not be filled out until after CB9 agrees to be a co-applicant.
- State The Lefferts Manor Assn is in support of the proposal.
- Have the Lefferts Manor Assn's President, Ben Edward present and voting for the proposal.
Once it was passed at the ULURP committee, then it would simply be presented at the General Board meeting of CB9 and passed. By the time the community board and residents realized the presentation was based upon lies etc… Then the original deal would be vacated and replaced with another application or an application that would change.
The key was is to get CB 9 to be a co-applicant. This means that CB9 is actually going to be doing the rezoning plan!!! This would mean CB9 could change the parameters, the goals of the application, especially when it was found out that the original plan was not supported by facts.
Once a blank application is sitting on the table with the Department of City Planning “DCP”, with CB9 as an applicant, there would be a whole community that could be discussed. DCP would naturally say, “oh we will consider this request, but we really need to do a larger study”. To which the board members sitting at the table would reply, “Yes you are right, we need a rezoning of our entire community”.
However, in order for them to move forward with a larger land mass than proposed, they would need other community groups involved. And who would they be?
There would have been Crown Heights Tenant Union “CHTU”, the arm of UHAB, who was on Leticia James worst land lord list ! “representing the tenants”, PPEN/PLGNA, representing the PLG, Crown Heights Community Counsel, who has Carmen Martinez as one of its officers, even the Jewish Community would be invited. All willing to sit at the table to ensure their group is “represented” and gets what they should out of a rezoning: Protection for those two or three blocks in PLG; “Affordable” housing for CHTU; Protection for a few blocks in Crown Heights; and a special district for the Jewish Community. The rest, well up zoning for all those major corridors from Washington Ave, to Empire Blvd, because someone has to pay for what all of these other groups will be getting.
Of course by this time, this machine will be impossible to stop. DCP, would have a legal request from CB9 to do a rezoning. The Chairs of the board of CB9 would be sitting at the table to “legalize" the process as a "desire of the community” and the public would be kept in the dark until these decisions have been finalized and the results given to the public, because CB9 hasn't adhered to the Open Meetings Law for the last two years!
By this time you will also have your local politicians sitting in on the meeting to “ensure” that the community gets what they should have “affordable” housing of course and protection for those in between streets, "private home owners"?
Senator Jessie Hamilton. Before he was Senator he pushed for his block to get Landmark protection during the rezoning of Crown Heights North (Community Board 8). The same community that has more people of color displaced than any other community to date! Please take a walk down there and see the Cranes! The Cranes! The Cranes! That was the big trade-offs! This was not a down zoning, it was an up zoning!
However, in his defense I can say that a lot of people didn’t know what would happen then, but now they do!
Laurie Cumbo, who has agreed to give an entire City Block to developers to build 12 multi-million town houses, that is right just 12, when there are over 60,000 people homeless and that number growing!!! But to add insult to injury, there is also proposed to be a 13 story tower high rise luxury development, with an “affordable” category based upon $87,000 medium income, in a community who’s medium income is $40,000.
Now don’t forget this is City Land, not private! So if this is the best that can be done with City Land, what do you really think we will get with Private Land!!!
Diana Richardson, she sat on the CB9's Executive Board in 2014-2015 and continued to push for the idea that we should give up Empire Blvd in a trade off. She had even proposed that only one side be given up to developers (the Sullivan Place side) to protect the Sterling Street side! She continued to support the idea of rezoning our community and giving up the major corridors in the deal.
Borough President Eric Adams, he has already came to our community various times stating his intention to create luxury hotels, buildings etc.. to turn the community into a tourist community. He placed the key people now running Community Board and who are pushing for this rezoning and the scams that are being presented. He stated in emails that he plans on increasing the height limits on Washington Ave, from the current 12 story limit, with the new MIH rezoning laws. This new law could get 20 story heights along this corridor, which runs along the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
With Politicians like theses who needs the Real Estate Industry pushing for Development?
Everything was going fine, during the presentation by Paul. He gave an convincing argument, the Fenimore people where there supporting the effort. Michael Liburd was talking about how we need to do this for the community and get a win in protecting against development. Ben Edwards was there silently agreeing. However, in their rush they refused to think about the legal requirement of quorum. Alicia Boyd stated before they took the vote that they didn't have quorum. However, Michael Liburd refused to recognize this and proceeded to take the vote. Afterwards based upon the evidence (video recordings), Alicia Boyd proved there was no quorum.
However there was still one week before the general board meeting. So Michael decided to schedule a "special" ULURP meeting to retake the vote. Despite the acting Chair of CB9 disapproving of the meeting being held on a major Jewish Holiday, thus preventing the Jewish community from attending this meeting. Michael ignored her advice and forged ahead.
This was in light of the fact that during the presentation it was noted that there was no immediate danger to this block regarding development. No one was selling their properties, no one had died, no developer had brought any property. So why the rush? Actually they claimed there was no rush.
However, on this Jewish Holiday, Monday, October 24, 2016, the ULURP committee again did not have quorum, so this vote could not be taken. Thus their element of surprised failed! It also gave us the opportunity to do our own research to find out the truth of the assumptions that were made during Paul's presentation.
From the evidence that has been produced, and supplied, it clearly shows that south side of Fenimore is no more entitled to R2 zoning than Sullivan Place, which also has an R6 zoning. Thus CB9 must reconsider this application at the ULURP committee, because of the blatant lies that were presented etc… Also the south side of Fenimore represents 16 Families in a community of over 200,000 people.
CB9 has to decide if they are willing to now enter into doing rezonings for all community groups and block associations etc.. and how that is that going to be handled? What fair and equitable process, if they now choose to do a rezoning for 16 families, will they create to ensure everyone is treated fairly and just, otherwise they can open themselves up to lawsuits within the community for prejudice, bias and discrimination.
Take for example, the Jewish Community which requested in March of 2014 for CB9 to support their small spot rezoning, involving the creation of a “special district”. This would have allowed moderate increases in their current R2 restrictive rezone, including extensions, additional stories etc.. However, they don’t want large scale high rise development thus the need for a “special” district. This request was denied by CB9.
However, if CB9 does Fenimore St, then they would have to do this community. And if they chose not to, what would be the justification and could the Jewish community state it was based upon racial, or religious discrimination. Already, Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, the former Chairperson of CB9 has stated that he wants his community to be “rezoned” for this special district, in response to him finding out about the Fenimore St request, so the above scenario is very real!
MTOPP is not opposing any community group or block from wanting to protect themselves, what we oppose is the obvious lies and corruption that continues to be displayed at CB9 all to get us at the table with a rezoning application. Just the fact that an application is not even filled out, so that everyone can know exactly what is being asked, what parameters are being studed, shows that people are being dishonest and untruthful.
Also these same people on the ULURP committee have had a history of not having any accountability or disclosure to the community and yet their actions can have a profound effect upon us. The Department of City Planning "DCP" is very powerful in NYC, but the only requirement they maintain for themselves when it comes to individual rezonings is the need for community engagement in the process. They don't need the their approval, consent or input, but they do need their willingness to engage in the process "to sit down at the table".
There are other ways that the CB9 can support Fenimore St without engaging in a rezoning application as a co-applicant. They can give a letter of approval to the Department of City Planning and they can pay for the environmental assessment, which would cost about $8,000. These ways could be considered and done without posing harm to the rest of the community.
What is clear is that if CB9 becomes an co-applicant, we would now be entering into a rezoning, where we would be just advisory. CB9 board members (that select few) can present things that no one in the community had an opportunity to discuss, decide and explore. All because they claim to "representing the community". This again would be another attempt of CB9 to completely ignore the community, lie and falsity information, just to be able to start a rezoning process with DCP, despite the fact that their request for DCP to do a rezoning study is currently being decided by the Courts.