CROWN HEIGHTS — A vocal activist arrested for protesting a Crown Heights community board's attempt to rezone the neighborhood has been cleared of all charges by a jury this week.
Alicia Boyd, founder of Movement to Protect the People, has been a constant outspoken critic of Brooklyn Community Board 9 since 2014 when the group tried to start a process to study zoning changes in the neighborhood.
In dozens of CB9 meetings throughout the following year, MTOPP and Boyd protested the move, which she said was done without proper community input. The proposed rezoning, as it was discussed originally, would have brought taller and more densely placed buildings to Empire Boulevard, which is located directly behind Boyd’s Sterling Street home.
At CB9 meetings in February, March and May of 2015 police escorted Boyd out of the proceedings, arresting her or issuing a summons. Charges had previously been dropped in two of those cases, according to her attorney, Martin R. Stolar, but those stemming from the May incident — obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and two counts of disorderly conduct — stuck.
Boyd and her legal team took the case to trial, and this week a six-person jury acquitted her of all four charges.
In an email to supporters Wednesday, Boyd called the verdict a “great victory.”
“This was a tremendous moment for the struggle of our community in regards to the issue of gentrification, high rise development, displacement, affordable housing and our political system,” she wrote.
Stolar, who specializes in defending the rights of demonstrators, said Boyd’s case was “extremely difficult,” but took it on because he felt the MTOPP leader is a “hero in the community,” not a criminal.
“The jury clearly agreed,” he said.
“Because the community board or the community board committee or some of the leaders of the community board don’t like the opposition — they think she’s too loud or they don’t like the sign that she’s carrying — that’s not criminal conduct. That’s the First Amendment,” Stolar added.
In her letter to supporters, Boyd said she plans to continue her work with MTOPP going forward. For now, it’s unclear where the rezoning effort in Crown Heights stands. After months of protests, CB9 officially voted in May 2015 to request the Department of City Planning start a study of rezoning in the area, but the agency has yet to begin that effort and the board has not taken up the topic in any meeting since.
Meanwhile, the board is dealing with a host of leadership challenges. This week, CB9’s chairman Demetrius Lawrence — the board's third chair in just over two years — resigned effective immediately citing demands from a new job.
At the same time, Carmen Martinez, the board's controversial pick for district manager has yet to begin work in the board's office because of a court challenge over her selection brought by MTOPP and Boyd.
Martinez is set to replace former district manager Pearl Miles who was forced out following a “longstanding pattern of misconduct,” including a miscount of votes that changed the outcome on a key rezoning resolution in the fall of 2014.