Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Commercial Overlays and The Silent Killer


For all our psychopathic readers out there who are either unable or unwilling to control their voyeuristic impulses or to delay gratification any longer, we are offering you an immediate satisfaction of your "needs" in revealing the LoCicero/Bricolage Armory Plaza drawings for the very first time today. Go ahead and scroll down the page and enjoy the renderings below. Otherwise, stop right here and wait another two years for the actual brick and mortar to appear.

At IMBY it's always your choice.

The front facade (click on image to enlarge)
This week we will turn our attention away from the hole and towards taking a little peek at the architectural plans approved by the Brooklyn Department of Buildings for the construction of the Armory Plaza.
However, before we get into the sordid details, let's have a quick look at the overall front facade. Bricolage Designs Inc. is known for their generous use of F.A.R. encased within vast walls of monochromatic brick laid in a simple running bond pattern. Four stories at the street level then set back an additional story for five stories in total, not including various bulkheads. This particular LoCicero/Bricolage design shows much more ornamental restraint overall than their previous collaboration, that being 266 22nd Street. Gone are the decorative pink pre-cast concrete balustrades that crown 266... OK, enough said... let's move on.

We have highlighted two details. The first is of the main 15th Street front doorway. Again very restrained, understated in its modest dignity...

The second detail is that of the all important street level garage door with curb cuts. Behind this garage door you will find a large elevator that will be the sole access point for automobiles entering and exiting what's being called by the architects as a cellar level "Ambulatory Medical Facility". This lift will also service the two additional sub-cellar levels of residential parking. (There are no ramps in this garage.)

We are going to assume this is, more or less, how residents and visitors will access the underground parking facility. That is when the lift is not broken or being serviced! Will past performance be an indicator and measure of future behavior? (View the elevator safety records for 266 22nd Street Here and Here.)
There may or may not be an attendant on duty. You will pull up to the garage door, probably push a button or operate some remote control and the door will open to reveal the lift. Most likely you will first pull into the lift and exit your car to activate some additional device that will close the door behind you and deliver your car to any one of the three underground parking levels.
If you are visiting the Ambulatory Methadone, I mean Medical Facility, in the cellar or, another possibility, just coming by to drop off your rabies-infected, decapitated raccoon head (frozen, and double bagged of coarse) for testing and evaluation, you may have to wait in a long line to get the security access code first from one of the neighborhood kids before entering. (We are just gossiping here now, but Methodist Hospital has been looking for a new Park Slope drive-through n' drop-off location for it's planned Infectious Diseases Laboratory for some time. The actual use has yet to be determined.)

About that Smoking Elephant in the Room...

So, the neighbors are getting a little concerned about where the carbon monoxide vents will eventually be placed for this three level parking facility. With all those cars coming, going, and more importantly, idling, it could potentially result in increases in carbon monoxide concentrations in the immediate vicinity of the vent. How does one evaluate potential future worst-case CO concentrations and what does that means to the health and well being of the residents of the Armory Plaza and its adjacent neighbors?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. At high concentrations it can cause unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations can cause a range of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially sensitive to carbon monoxide exposure.

Let us go to The Plans... Hand me the 10' pole and the latex gloves.

So now we at IMBY find ourselves, again, in that uncomfortable position of reverse engineering that shit sandwich that is the Amory Plaza. (We at IMBY, for a small materials and supply fee of course, can also supply you, the residential home owner, with any code or zoning interpretation necessary to accommodate your every building wish. We are known for our ability to fit that square peg in the round hole. ) If we are indeed reading the plans correctly, the garage vent opening will be placed at ground level in the rear yard of the Armory Plaza. But doesn't that violate the setback required for new construction?
Riddle me this... So when is a rear yard technically not a rear yard anymore? How about when it falls within the city's 100' commercial zoning overlay. Apparently, new buildings in this part of residential Brooklyn (R6B) require a rear yard set back of 30 feet. This set back prohibits certain structures from being built in backyards.
However, although the Plaza is not specifically a corner building, it's located close enough to the corner that there is a 40' area of the Armory Plaza that also falls within 100' of 8th Avenue. Eighth Avenue is a wider street with some residential properties having commercial businesses on their ground floors. Doctors' offices, bodegas, small retail shops, for example, can be found along 8th Avenue especially in corner properties.

The Armory Plaza, apparently will use the 100 foot commercial overlay along 8th Avenue to bypass the 30 foot rear yard set back regulations, allowing for the placement of the parking garage's carbon monoxide vent in the now rear commercial area of the building, just 10 feet from the backyard gardens of 16th Street residents and the new building's ground floor sliding glass patio doors.
The vent ( the double rectangle thingy) shown to the right in this drawing will be approximately 7'2"x 3'8" x 10' tall. We ask is there no way to bring this vent up to the roof?

Rear Facade (the white rectangle is the vent)

Definitions from the NYC Zoning Bible:


A yard is a required open area along the lot lines of a zoning lot which must be unobstructed from the lowest level to the sky, except for certain permitted obstructions. Yard regulations ensure light and air between structures. In our R6B zone a 30 foot set back is usually required in new construction.
Lot, Corner
A corner lot is either a zoning lot bounded entirely by streets or a zoning lot which adjoins the point of intersection of two or more streets. The only part of a zoning lot which can qualify as a corner lot is that part of the lot that is within 100 feet of the intersecting street lines.
is a zoning district in which
Overlay District
An overlay district is a district superimposed upon another district which supersedes, modifies or supplements the underlying regulations. Limited height districts and commercial overlay districts are examples of overlay districts.
Commercial Overlay
A commercial overlay is a C1 or C2 district usually mapped within residential neighborhoods to serve local retail needs and commercial uses are permitted.. Commercial overlay districts, designated by the letters C1-1 through C1-5 and C2-1 through C2-5, are shown on the zoning maps as a pattern superimposed on a residential district. Unless otherwise specified on the zoning maps, the depth of C1 overlay districts, measured from the nearest street, is 200 feet for C1-1 districts, 150 feet for C1-2 and C1-3 districts, and 100 feet for C1-4 and C1-5 districts. For C2 overlay districts, the depth of C2-1, C2-2 and C2-3 districts is 150 feet and 100 feet for C2-4 and C2-5 districts. When mapped on the long dimension of a block, commercial overlays extend to the midpoint of that block.

Additional Traffic

When the 8th Avenue Armory/Sports Facility finally gets up and running, we anticipate that 15th street will become a virtual parking lot as school buses pick-up and drop-off students. I believe there are plans to make the 15th Street side of the block-long Armory the main entrance to the sports facility. If this is the case, the new entrance will be a short shot puts throw from the garage door servicing the parking lot. Between people coming home from work, visiting the medical facility, or attending a sports event, that little piece of 15th St. is going to be worked mightily hard. Certainly Community Board 6, or what's left of it, will be interested in what's happening, literally across the street/border in Community Board 7, and the impact it will have on quality of life, but that's a whole 'nother story yet to unfold.
The Armory reconstruction is behind schedule and it seems they are now having trouble finding a way to manage this expensive facility and still allow neighborhood school children full access. Interested in running a sports facility? The Request for Proposals link.

Future generations of Brooklyn architects will look back and admire their predecessors not for their their brick and mortar design skills, but for their creative interpretation and manipulation of city planning, zoning, and building regulations. Sixteenth Street's children, like canaries in a coal mine, will have to play just a few feet from this vent unless plans are changed. Their parents have been assured by DOB inspectors that there is no way the vent could be placed in the backyard... safely. Judging by the approved plans, it looks like someone will have to go back to their drawing boards to correct this zoning oversight.

For much more information on the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, see the link below.
New York Carbon Monoxide Law

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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