Saturday, April 01, 2006


If you are one of those people who believe you only get one chance to make a good first impression, then you will enjoy this story.
Question. How does one good neighbor go about telling his other good neighbors, that he plans on building a 9 story, 85' tall, 57,630 sq. ft. Condominium in their back yards? A tricky proposition for sure. Certainly avoiding any unnecessary hostility would be right there on the top of the list. Thinking...Thinking..Thinking...I know, how about showing up out of the blue, before 9am on a Saturday morning with a large crew of workers, start tearing down old fences, and begin installing a new plywood construction fence before anyone notices. That just may work. Good fences make good neighbors.

Now, how should one go about breaking the news to your neighbors that it will be necessary to 'borrow' their land for awhile, (for their safety of course), until this new building gets finished? Thinking...Thinking..Thinking... Hey, I would get those same workers to stand in their tulip beds holding post hole diggers, and then shout in Mandarin and Spanish or "Spandrin", "Good Morning, we are just building a fence, pay us no mind, nothing to see here". "Ten feet of back yard should be just about right. You don't want me to drop a cinderblock on your head, do you."
That is how Jack Locicero, former proprietor of the 15th Street parking lot, now real property developer, introduced himself and his intentions to our neighborhood.

Without any prior warning, we found out that the parking lot at 408 15th Street in Brooklyn, would soon be no more and in its place a massive building more than 4 stories taller than the surrounding 100+ year old residential 3-5 story homes.
In the short time it took my neighbors and me to 'wake up', the crew of workers had already dug the holes, placed the poles, and were mixing the cement, all on OUR property.

Without prior permission the fence installation artists had already set a half dozen poles at Memorial Baptist Church on our corner of 16th St. and Eighth Avenue. Calls to the local 72nd police precinct brought two uniformed officers who settled this 'domestic dispute' by telling the contractors to pack it in for the day. The contractors convinced the police that they held valid permits for the construction fence, yet they didn't bother to post any before starting the work. Can I mention that Saturday work in Brooklyn requires a special permit? One that they didn't have. No charges were filed. Score: Contractors 1 Tulips 0

"Hey, do you have permission to be setting up that fence on church property." we asked. Well, here's the Pastor why don't you ask him directly. The sight of the Pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church yanking fence poles out of the ground and tossing them back into the parking lot, was an epiphany of sorts. No need for an Aramaic translation. Just remove the offending poles, rest the pole against ones shoulder while cupping the bottom with clasped fingers, and then fling the sucker over the top of the chain link fence, and that's that. No need for heated banter. Did you know that "Tossing the Caber" is judged by style and not distance thrown? Did you know that Bob Jones University holds the majority of records for the 'heavy events' at the Scottish Highland Games?

O.K. the first shot was fired. The cat is now out of the bag. One way Mr. Locicero tried to divide and conquer his enemies was to offer each neighbor a separate deal, for cash, in order to rent the land, build the fence, and shut us up. The following day offers were made by the developer's contractors for $1000 to $3000. How about $1000 and free parking in our 3 story underground garage beneath the new building? THREE STORY UNDERGROUND GARAGE! W.T.F.!

Oh, I almost forgot. FINAL QUESTION; HOW DO YOU TELL YOUR NEIGHBORS THAT YOU INTEND TO EXCAVATE THE ENTIRE 100' BY 100' LOT RIGHT UP TO THE PROPERTY LINES MORE THAN 40' DEEP? "Oops, you were not supposed to hear that question until after you agreed to let us build the fence." Needless to say no one was lured over to the dark side.

The next day a small group of 16th Street folk met and came up with this plan, which we implemented the following day. We rented very large Have-a-Heart steel cage traps and baited them with beer and chips. After the workers were captured we loaded the cages into a U Haul truck, drove to the Staten Island Home Depot Store, and then released them into the parking lot, slightly disoriented. Unfortunately, other home owners on Staten Island had the exact same idea and were releasing their troublesome contractors into the parking lot of the Loews a few blocks away from our homes. The workers returned.

Plan B was basically to get the plans from the DoB and see if there was anyway to stop this monster from being built. No problem, right?

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