Tuesday, November 18, 2008

194 Atlantic: anatomy of a scam defeated

Fellow residents, we are on the verge of a major victory regarding 194 Atlantic, the so-called 'cabana building' next to Trader Joe's. After a solid year of fighting the City and Two Trees Development, the rule of law has finally prevailed. (The building is alternatively known as 182, 194, and 200 Atlantic.)

First, a reminder of the issues at stake. Last year, Two Trees requested seven variances for their planned apartment building in what had been the Independence Bank's parking lot. We fought hard against many aspects of the project, but we drew the line in the sand at the seventh variance: the request for permission to exceed the fifty-foot height limit of the Cobble Hill Historic District's LH-1 zoning. This may sound esoteric or hair-splitting. I assure you, it is anything but. Our neighbourhood's LH-1 zoning and Historic District designation are the foundation of our quality of life here in Cobble Hill. Those legal facts are what keep the high-rises and the overcrowding away. And Two Trees was trying to undo all of that for the sake of building a few more luxury rentals. Not only was the future of Cobble Hill at stake, but so was every Historic District in the city because of the precedent that would have been set.

We thought we had won last November when the City Council voted to deny the height variance, but Two Trees pulled a fast one and very nearly got away with it: they submitted plans to the Department of Buildings and to City Planning that showed six rooftop structures labelled as 'stair bulkheads'. These structures were in fact sixth-floor penthouses fraudulently posing as bulkheads on official plans.

We never gave up, even after Two Trees went ahead and built the structures. Last month, we went to the building's open house and were given the marketing material below.

As you can see, the marketing material clearly says 'PENTHOUSE'. And yes, the very same structure was called 'STAIR BULKEAD' on the plans. That means that Two Trees flat-out lied to the city by submitting a set of dummy official plans. Naturally, we sent the document to DOB.

I am pleased to report that on November 10, 2008 DOB sent Two Trees a notice of intent to revoke their permit for the building. Two Trees has ten days to reply. The letter from DOB says:

'Pursuant to AC 28-104.2.10, the Department may revoke the approval of construction documents for failure to comply with the provisions of the AC [Administrative Code], other applicable laws or rules, or a false statement or misrepresentation of material fact in the submittal documents upon the basis of which the permit was issued, or whenever any approval has been issued in error.
(Emphasis added in bold.)
In layman's terms, Two Trees has been caught red-handed, the penthouses will probably have to be demolished, the Cobble Hill Historic District has been preserved against a major attempt to undermine it, and the rule of law has been reaffirmed.

And we did it without spending a penny on lawyers. Developers take note: don't mess with Cobble Hill.


stratton said...

You go CHA. This is great news.

Marianne said...

Dear Jeff,

I am reporting from Quogue, LI, and we applaud your excellent efforts here. Walentas builds topnotch structures (he's a UVA Darden graduate!), but clearly this was an intent to get away with "murder." Cobble Hill and the city would lose, and they would certainly make more money!

Keep up the good work.

Marianne and Frank Decker