Friday, May 30, 2008

Atlantic & Court: scorecard

On May 13, we reported that Thomas Fariello, the Deputy Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for the Department of Buildings, had told us that the permission to build the duplex penthouses, a.k.a. the cabanas, at Atlantic & Court had come from City Planning. Both Brooklyn DOB and Brooklyn City Planning have been helpful, informative, and frank when we have reached out to them this month. The proof of their help is that the site is still under a partial stop work order that prevents Two Trees from working on the dubious rooftop structures.

We are going to follow up with DOB next week. In the meanwhile, I ran into Purnima Kapur, the Director of City Planning's Brooklyn Office, at last night's CB6 committee meeting and asked her about City Planning's responsibility for the permit. She said in no uncertain terms that the responsibility was wholly DOB's and that she would accompany me to DOB's Brooklyn office if necessary to tell them in person. We may just take her up on that.

In case you're keeping track at home, the ball has now been passed from LPC to DOB to City Planning and back to DOB. We'll let you know where the ball gets passed next. I think the only place left to go is to order the demolition of the penthouses.

110 Amity: drama-free vote

Last night the CB6 Landmarks Committee voted unanimously to approve with conditions the developer's latest plans. It must be said that the developer, Jonathan Wachtel, truly listened to community input and adapted his plans accordingly. The zinc siding is totally gone, replaced by brick. The committee only objected to three features:

-The material for the penthouses was not specified in the plans. The committee asked that it be wood or a non-shiny metal already in use in the neighborhood.
-The rear was deemed too modern.
-The rear should have a setback of at least one story.

The full board of CB6 will vote on it at its June 11 meeting. We will let you know when the item is calendared for a hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

110 Amity: more sequels than a horror movie

They're back. The developer and architects of 110 Amity Street will appear before the CB6 Landmarks Committee again this week.

Event details:
Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 6 p.m.
P.S 32 Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
at Union and Hoyt Streets
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Since the developer is the rare sort who appears to be actually listening, it's important for people to come out and make their opinions and advice known. Penthouses, four-story rears, zinc siding? Now is your chance to be heard.

Monday, May 26, 2008

double the inmates, double the fun?

Not many people realize it, but the City is planning to re-open the House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue and to double the capacity to over 1,500 inmates. Perhaps the Corrections Department has caught the overdevelopment bug that has been sweeping Brooklyn.

The community group most concerned with the issue is the Brooklyn HOD Community Stakeholders Group. They will hold a community forum on the future of the jail this coming Thursday. Here are the details:
WHAT: More Vision, Less Prison: A Community Forum on the future of the Brooklyn House of Detention
WHERE: St. Cyril’s Belarusian Cathedral, at Atlantic and Bond
WHEN: Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 7 p.m.
WHO: Elected officials, architects, community members.

Friday, May 23, 2008

110 Amity: new CB6 committee vote

Because I ate some bad food (a wrap from Pacific Green) and wound up in the emergency room at LICH this week, I was unable to attend last night's meeting of the CB6 Land Use/Landmarks Committee. Roy Sloane was there and files this report:

The meeting was well attended by CH community residents (8-10). After the presentation by the architects and after considerable discussion by committee members and community residents, Jerry Armer made a motion to reject the four proposed infill buildings for the following reasons:

1) The extensive use of zinc on the sides, rear facades and penthouses is inconsistent with the character of the CH Historic District.

2) The committee was not convinced that the penthouses would not be visible from the street.

3) The full height (four story) extensions were too high and needed to be reduced to no more than three stories.

He did thank the architects and the developer for moving the project so far in the right direction and for listening to the community's concerns.

No action was taken on the proposed changes to the loggia on the roof of the LAMM building as the architect did not bring drawings and plans sufficient to facilitate a consideration by the committee. They will return to the next Land Use/Landmarks committee meeting to re-present.

Monday, May 19, 2008

110 Amity Street: first impressions

Earlier this evening, the Cobble Hill Association hosted a presentation of the new plans for 110 Amity Street by the developer, Jonathan Wachtel, and his two teams of architects—RKT+B for the Lamm Building, and BKSK for the townhouses. The plans for the Lamm Building remain the same: seven apartments with a glass-enclosed loggia on the roof. The townhouses have been redesigned from scratch since the last set of plans was shot down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The tale of the tape:
-Four townhouses, one on Amity Street and three on Henry. The Amity townhouse will be 8 feet from the Lamm Building; the Henry townhouses will be 15 feet.
-Each townhouse will be occupied by a single family.
-The townhouses are 16 to 18 feet wide with heights of 50 feet and chimneys at 53 feet.
-The rears of the townhouses are flush with the one-floor rear-yard additions of the adjacent neighboring homes.
-The top floor of each townhouse is a penthouse set roughly in the east-west middle of the building. The penthouses are thus the fifth floor.

And the ├Žsthetic features:
-The windows and facade of the Henry Street townhouses will be in line with those of the neighboring buildings and the streetwall.
-The front surface will be a combination of brownstone on the ground and parlor floors and brick on the upper floors.
-Each townhouse will have a traditional townhouse stoop but with an asymmetic feature: one side will have a rail and the other a solid face.
-The front lintels will be flush with the building. The lintel above the door will be a bronze plate with a light fixture behind it.
-Most of the side walls and all of the rear will be covered in zinc siding.
-The rear will have large bay windows.

The feature that provoked the most questions from the audience was the zinc siding, something not found in abundance, if at all, in Cobble Hill.

This Thursday, May 22, the CB6 Land Use/Landmarks committee will hold a public meeting and vote on the plans. Details:

PAL Miccio Center
110 West 9th Street
(between Clinton and Henry Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
6:00 p.m.

All members of the public are entitled to attend and comment on the plans.

Meanwhile, feel free to post your comments here so that we can share thoughts about the plans and continue the conversation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

stop the presses: new stop work order at Atlantic & Court

It looks like our meeting with the Department of Buildings on Tuesday has had some effect. DOB and City Planning have put their heads together, and a stop work order has been issued for the illegal duplexes at Atlantic and Court.

As I understand it, the subject of the order is whether the obviously habitable structures on the roof, as shown on the drawings, satisfy the defintion and the square footage requirements for 'bulkheads'. The only possible answer in a society governed by law is, Aw hell no!

But don't take my word for it. Below are the definitions of 'bulkhead' and 'habitable room' from the Building Code (i.e. the code currently in effect, as opposed to the new code which will go into effect later this year).

The Building Code says:
§[C26-201.0] 27-232 Definitions.-Words that are capitalized are defined in this section.

BULKHEAD.-An enclosed structure on or above the roof of any part of a building, enclosing a shaft, stairway, tank, or service equipment, or other space not designed or used for human occupancy. (See PENTHOUSE and ROOF STRUCTURE.)

**HABITABLE ROOM.-A residential room or space, having the minimum dimensions required by section 27-751 of article six of subchapter twelve of this chapter in which the ordinary functions of domestic life are carried on, and which includes bedrooms, living rooms, studies, recreation rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and other similar spaces, but does not include closets, halls, stairs, laundry rooms, or bathrooms.

PENTHOUSE.-An enclosed structure on or above the
roof of any part of a building, which is designed or used
for human occupancy

§[C26-1205.2] 27-746 Habitable rooms.- All habitable
rooms shall be provided with natural ventilation
complying with the provisions of this subchapter except
as provided in section 27-750 of this article.

**§[C26-1205.7] 27-751 Minimum dimensions of
habitable rooms.- Habitable rooms shall have a minimum
clear width of eight feet in any part; a minimum clear
area of eighty square feet and a minimum clear ceiling
height of eight feet for the minimum area [...]

The six penthouses, which is what they are, measure approximately 245 square feet each, i.e. they are bigger than the living rooms immediately beneath them. Each one has several windows and a door opening out onto that duplex apartment's private rooftop terrace.

Those sure sound like habitable rooms to me. And if they are, then they will have to be demolished.

news roundup for May 14, 2008


'The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate' [New York Observer]
'Breaking Bricks on Columbia' [Lost City]
Takashi Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum through July 13 [Brooklyn Museum]

And look, a waterfront park plan with recreation, without housing, and with the land being acquired by the Parks Department. What do they know in Williamsburg that we don't?
'Trying to Jumpstart Bushwick Inlet Park' [Gowanus Lounge]
'Fall Start for Work on First Part of Bushwick Inlet Park' [Gowanus Lounge]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Amity Street horror redux?

110 Amity Street is back. Developer Jonathan Wachtel and his team will make a new presentation to the community this coming Monday.

Here are the details.
EVENT: Meeting with the developer and architects for 110 Amity Street (Lamm Building) to review the proposed plans.
DATE: Monday, May 19
TIME: 7.00 to 9.00 p.m.
PLACE: Long Island College Hospital, Conference Room C
The main entrance is on Hicks Street.
110 Amity Street is Block 296, Lot 5.
In our last encounter with this matter, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously sided with us on January 8, 2008 and rejected the developer's plans for a mews with a row of townhouses or, as I called them, 'caves'. This will be the developer's second attempt to win us over. Let's hope he has learned from his experience.

what about those illegal duplexes at Atlantic & Court?

Laurie Maurer of the CHA, Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, and I had a meeting earlier this afternoon with Thomas Fariello, the Deputy Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for the Department of Buildings, regarding the six illegal duplexes currently being built at 182-194 Atlantic Avenue.

The six duplexes are illegal because they violate the fifty-foot height limit of the Cobble Hill Historic District's LH-1 zoning. Two Trees is calling the penthouse portions of the duplexes 'bulkheads', but these are no bulkheads. They are sixth-floor rooms of 245 square feet, and they are even bigger than the fifth-floor living rooms that they are connected to.

What's most galling about this case is that the City Council denied Two Trees' request for the height variance, yet City agencies have allowed the illegal duplexes anyway.

Here is the argument that we made to Deputy Commissioner Fariello:
Re: 182-194 Atlantic Avenue (Project 56114-A, Block 286, Lot 17)


That the six enclosed spaces on the roof of 182-194 Atlantic Avenue, other than the one enclosed space legitimately devoted to the elevator shaft and mechanicals room, are not bulkheads and therefore not permitted obstructions under Zoning Resolution 23-62;

That the aforesaid six enclosed spaces are not exits of any sort;

That the aforesaid six enclosed spaces are habitable rooms, as defined by the Building Code, by virtue of their dimensions, their windows and doors, their connections to fifth-floor living rooms via staircases, and the exclusive use of them enjoyed by the owners of the fifth-floor apartments to which they are attached;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces violate the fifty-foot height limit of the site’s LH-1 zoning and Historic District designation;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces violate the City Council’s Resolution 1169, passed on November 15, 2007, which denied the developer’s request for a variance from the fifty-foot height limit of the site’s LH-1 zoning;

That, because of the preceding claims, the aforesaid six enclosed spaces must be demolished immediately.
We were pleased to find that Fariello disputed none of our claims. In fact, he was as reasonable as one could wish a City official to be. But he then said that we had to convince City Planning that the permit that they issued—before the City Council's November 15, 2007 vote—to build these large rooftop spaces violates the City Council's Resolution 1169, which denied the variance to build them. That seems to be a fairly elementary matter of fact. Even so, I have no doubt that the runaround is not over yet.

LPC had passed the ball to DOB. DOB has now passed the ball to City Planning. The City will run out of places to pass the ball before we run out of zeal in the defense of our neighbourhood. Next stop: City Planning.