Thursday, November 29, 2007

614 7th Avenue goes to hell.


















I took this picture last Tuesday. This is (was) the site of the infamous view blocking Minerva Building.

While the developer, Mr. Aron Lebovits has been rethinking his next move, the construction site has really gone to hell. Looking through a large hole in the plywood fence, you can see a stagnant pond with two old tires floating at one end. There is evidence of illegal dumping as well. Dozens of plastic bags filled with contractor debris, most likely from nearby residential renovation work, have been thrown over, well actually, through the fence forming two large piles. Most of the existing (grandfathered) foundation walls have been tagged by graffiti vandals.

Our friends at Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights have informed us that there are now two Stop Work Orders on the fence out front. Looks like they need to hire a new house keeper.

















Why not check out the new CCGH you-tube video. While viewing, notice the "NO DUMPING UNDER 24 HOUR SURVEILLANCE" sign posted out front on the fence. Who's been watching? If Mr. Lebovits was smart he could figure out a way to blame this one on Ms. Minerva.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Doubleday Circle?



Does anyone know if the street "Doubleday Circle" ever actually existed? It it shown on the map intersecting the middle of Webster Place. Was it demapped? Replies to Imby@nyc.rr.com please.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

187 23rd Street, R8A in Practice





















Plans submitted:
Henry Radusky
Bricolage Designs
6321 New Utrecht Avenue, Brooklyn

Building Dimension:
No. Stories: 9 Height:90' Dwelling Units: 7
Total Gross Area of Building: 11,795 Sq.Ft.

Site Area Characteristics
Metes and Bounds:
Beginning at a point on the NORTHEAST side of 23rd Street
Distant 87 Ft. SOUTHEAST of the corner formed by the intersection of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street
RUNNING THENCE NE 100 . 17 FT. THENCE SE 20 FT.
RUNNING THENCE SW 100 . 17 FT. THENCE NW 20 FT.


ULT. NO. OF STORIES 9

Owner: INDIVIDUAL Non-Profit Flag: N
Finkelshteyn, Robert owner
N/A 187 23rd Street 917 549 - 4043
Brooklyn NY 11232



















Eighty seven feet from Fourth Avenue-187 23rd Street in context. (The three story with green awning in the above photo.)









Eclectic 23rd Street looking East towards 4th Avenue.

As part of the recently implemented South Slope/Greenwood Heights down zoning, this building will be built within the Inclusionary Housing Program in the new R8A Zoning District along the western side of Fourth Avenue. There is also a 100' commercial zoning overlay that extends up 23rd St. Apparently the entire building does not have to fit within this zone. You just need to get your foot in the door. In this case, only 13 feet of the building's 20 foot wide lot actually fall within the commercial overlay. The remaining 7 feet extend into the more restrictive R6B territory.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

C. M. U. COLOR PALETTE








They delivered the concrete masonry units on Friday. It looks like the Armory Plaza will follow the LoCiccero signature color palette used for most of their buildings. It's a dark brown antique looking brick that has a kind of hand-made quality produced by Carolina Ceramics called "Madrid". It has a lot of rich color and surface variation that changes from brick to brick.



The roughed up edges leave spaces that produce an uneven mortar joint requiring a special kind of tooling so that it doesn't look "sloppy". It's called a Grapevine joint.
I think they used this same brick at 266 22nd Street.

They like to use a red pigmented mortar that is really not my cup of tea. It starts to look a little too salmon-pink in contrast.
















"Carolina Ceramics Brick Company stakes its reputation on each brick that leaves the kilns. Since 1939, our commitment to advanced engineering has established us as one of the nation's leading suppliers of quality brick. Our innovative approach continues to broaden our product line, from an initial offering of residential firebrick to today's extensive array of colors, sizes and shapes that inspire architectural excellence."

If you have a few minutes check out this link to Carolina Ceramics web site and view the short movie showing how bricks are made in their state of the art automated factory. You don't even see a pair of human hands until almost the very end. Turn your volume up to 11 so as to hear the over the top soundtrack in all it's unabashed, testosterone infused, glory.

Reflections on 400 15th Street's Foundation.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Plans Approved for 18-20 Jackson Place.


W
hen I see that great big blackboard-like tar papered wall on Jackson Place I expect to see Bart Simpson (or Mark Zeldin) standing on a tall ladder, chalk in hand, writing over and over again,
"Mother Nature is not a licensed NYC demolition contractor."
11/16/2007 18-20 JACKSON PLACE SOWING SEEDS
Examiners from the Department of Buildings have approved new plans submitted by local Architect Leonard Colchamiro PC, AIA on behalf of the owner of the property, Mr. Zelden, to build a 33 foot tall, 5,972 square foot, 3 story with cellar, brick veneered building on his recently vacated lot.
The plans call for 5 units of housing, including 522 square feet (3 spaces) for off -street covered parking. Jackson Place is zoned R5B and is a very narrow street running parallel to 7th Avenue.
Permits have not been issued yet. Right now there are still two Environmental Control Board Violations in default with $7,500 in unpaid fines. One additional ECB Violation is still pending.

ECB Violation ECB Violation

Brownstoner history recalls how great the fall could be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

UNLUCKY 289 13th St.







































































































Looks like the luck has run out for the foundation contractors working at 287-289 13th Street. However, the Stop Work Order dated November 19th, 2007 maybe a little too late for the neighboring homes at 285 and 291. A dreaded DoB-issued crack monitor is now bridging the crack that runs the full height of the front facade of 291 13th St. Just another underpinning casualty in the South Slope.

"Re: BOROUGH COMMISSIONER HAS ISSUED A 10-DAY LETTER OF INTENT.TO REVOKE APPLICATION 302359301 ON 11/09/07 ISSUE DOB STOP ORDER AND NOTE THE PERCENTAGE OF WORK COMPLETED SO FAR ON VIOLATION AND COMPLAINT."

Here is what it feels like to live next door to the construction... Two examples of the many 311 calls registered.

"CALLER STATES EXCAVATION IS OCCURRING BETWEEN ABOVE ADDRESS & ADDRESS 291..EXCAVATION IS SHAKING CALLERS BUILDING. CALLER FEELS IT'S UNSAFE"

"CALLER STATES THAT THE WORK THAT'S BEING DONE AT THIS LOCATION IS CREATING A VIBRATION THAT'S BEING FELT ACROSS THE STREET AT THE CALLER'S HOME"

So then, let's see how the Environmental Control Board and the Department of Buildings describe what's been going wrong at the site.

Description of Violation:
SEC:27-1026:FAILURE TO WEATHER PROOF/( )ADJ PROPERTY.UPON INSP WEATHER PROOFING OF ADJ PROPERTY IS INADEQUATE AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS ON SIDE
OF 285 A 13 ST.HEAVY RAINS HAVE PRODUCED WATER MARKS IN BASEMENT OF

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO SAFEGUARD PUBLIC & PROPERTY AFFECTED BY CONSTRUCTION
OPERATIONS.NOTED:AT ABOVE PREMISES A DEMO IN PROGRESS HAS DAMAGED THE PARTY WALL OF 285 13 ST.EXPOSING THE INTERIOR TO THE ELEMENTS. REMEDY:STOP ALL

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO POST PERMIT FOR WORK AT PREMISES NOTED:UNDER APP#302213361N
B WAS NOT POSTED AT SITE AS PER CODE.REMEDY:POST PERMIT FOR WORK AT SITE.

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN.DEFECTS NOTED:CONCRETE FRONT YARD DUG UP LEAVING
STORAGE OF LARGE PIECES OF CONCRETE & DIRT WITH HOLES AT FRONT YARD
CREATING A HOLE APPROX 2' X 2'.REMEDY:MAINTAIN EXTERIOR FORTHWITH

Description of Violation:
WORK W/O PERMIT. AS NOTED 8' TALL WOOD FENCE ERECTED IN FRONT OF THE ABOVE ADDRESS. AS PER D.O.B RECORDS THERE IS NO PERMIT FOR FENCE. REMEDY:OBTAIN PERMIT

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO SAFEGUARD PUBLIC & PROPERTIES. UPON INSPECTION NO JOB SITE
FENCE ADJOINING PROPERTY 13 ST EXCAVATION IN PROGRESS & SOLDIER PILES
NO 8' CONSTRUCTION FENCE PROVIDED. SECT 5' X 8' MISSING AND ADJOINING

Description of Violation:
SEC:27-1032(B):FAILURE TO PROVIDE 3FT 6INCH GUARDRAILS AROUND OPEN &
ACCESSIBLE SIDES OF EXCAVATION.NOTED:AT REAR OF SITE APPROX 10' DEEP
EXCAVATION W/SHEER CUT W/NO GUARDRAILS IN PLACE AS PER CODE.REMEDY:STO

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO SAFEGUARD PUBLIC & PROPERTY AFFECTED BY CONSTRUCTION OPERATIONS.NOTED:EXCAVATION SITE W/APPROX 8'DEEP SHEER CUTS DUE TO INADEQUATE & NOT ACCORDING TO APPROVED PLANS UNDERPINNING TO 291 13 ST HAS CAUA

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO PROVIDE APPROVED PLANS AT SITE TIME OF INSPECTION.NOTED:RAK
ER SHORES INSTALLED AT 291 13 ST W/O ANY APPROVED PLANS.STOP ALL WORK
(ENTIRE TO ABOVE ADDRESS).REMEDY:PROVIDE PLANS ON RAKER SHORES)

Description of Violation:
SHEETING SHORING BRACING DOES NOT CONFORM TO APPROVED PLAN.NOTED:UNDER
APP#302213361 THROUGHOUT SITE THERE ARE 8'DEEP EXCAVATION W/SHEER CUT
EXPOSING TWO ADJOINING PROPERTIES.FOUNDATION WALLS,NO SHORING BRACING

Description of Violation:
FAILURE TO PROTECT THE SIDES OF EXCAVATION CARRIED TO A DEPTH GREATER
THAN 5FT.NOTED:THROUGHOUT SITE THERE ARE APPROX 8'DEEP SHEER CUTS AT R
EAR & TO BOTH ADJOINING PROPERTIES AT 285 & 291 13 ST EXPOSING FOUNDATION.


If the owners of 285 and 291 13th Street have trouble resolving their "difficulties" with their new neighbor, I know the name of a pretty good lawyer who can.

Poinsettias at Shannon's Greenhouse























Rows of Christmas Poinsettias, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, ripen in the controlled greenhouse environment of Shannon's Florists, Brooklyn.



Joel Roberts Poinsett


is credited with bringing the plant to the United States from Mexico in the early 1830's.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Light and Air: AiA Proposes an Upzoning.


Are we there yet?
Hills of Tuscany? Pass the Chianti, we're still in Brooklyn.
Some public buildings were designed to reign over our horizons. The 8th Avenue Armory looking East.

For a detailed discussion of the proposed AiA zoning changes, I suggest you head over to Brownstoner or The Gowanus Lounge.


"One of these days the sun's gonna come up and burn a hole clean through the planet like a giant electrical x-ray."

You know Lula, with all that I've seen in recent years I've gotten to be an overly suspicious paranoid who can't help but suspect that there is some conspiracy afoot. Bringing something out into the light and air is an effective antibacterial germ killer. Let's see if these proposals survive.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Written in Stone











Progress is a myth.
You know the awful feeling- you are driving in your car and you have made the stop at the red light when, with out warning, your car starts to slowly move forward despite the fact that you have your foot securely on the brake. So you press down a little harder and still the car continues to move forward. Immediately your heart races in a blind panic, and fearing there is some mechanical failure in progress, you instinctively jam down on the brake peddle as hard as you possibly can , but still your car keeps rolling. You're thinking now in another split second that "All is lost. The car will not stop moving. I am heading out into the middle of traffic..."
It's right about then, when you suddenly realize that the car next to you is actually backing up. Your perceptions were fooled. You haven't even moved an inch. You have been standing still the entire time.

After the threat of having their permits revoked, Bricolaged Designs finally pulled it all together and got the amended plans approved by the Department of Buildings. Not wasting any time or taking any chances someone might change their mind, they went ahead and poured the concrete slab for the ground floor today. I suspect bigger and better things to follow. Now that they are out of the hole, let's see if they can keep within the R6B 50' zoning height limitations.























PROSPECTING



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Still Unbuilding

Quality Housing includes recreation areas.






























This is, a professionally certified job.

"I hereby state that I have exercised a professional standard of care in
certifying that the filed application is complete and in accordance with
applicable laws, including the rules of the Department of Buildings, as of
this date. I am aware the Commissioner will rely upon the truth and
accuracy of this statement. I have notified the owner that this
application has been professionally certified. If an audit or other exam
discloses non-compliance, I agree to notify the owner of the remedial
measures that must be taken to meet legal requirements. I further realize
that any misrepresentation or falsification of facts made knowingly or
negligently by me, my agents or employees, or by others with my knowledge,
will render me liable for legal and disciplinary action by the Department
of Buildings and other appropriate authorities, including termination of
participation in the professional certification procedures at the
Department of Buildings."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Windsor Terrace's Rainbow Row

























Draw a line down the middle.

There are about two dozen or so of these little 12 1/2 foot wide homes on or in the immediate vicinity of 17th Street and 8th Avenue. Some have been renovated, others frankly, are not in very good shape. When seen side by side, you get the odd feeling that you have stumbled upon what may be some kind of domestic dispute over what color the new aluminum siding should be.

Absent Mindfulness











There's nothing like seeing a movie at BAM's Rose Cinemas, especially when seated snugly beneath that super ornate blood red plaster ceiling. Imagine a giant nurturing placenta with stadium style seating. It's one of my favorite places to view films. I wouldn't mind seeing a monochromatic themed film festival there someday, maybe a double feature High Plains Drifter and Le Ballon Rouge could start the thing rolling.

I just saw the movie trailer for I am Legend starring Will Smith at the Rose. I'm no continuity geek, but seeing Will (Robert Nevil) wading chest high through waves of amber grain in the middle of NYC's Times Square got me thinking about our last remaining vacant lots in my part of Brooklyn. In the movie it appears it only takes 1001 days post Apocalypse for Mother Nature to take back the streets, yet in my neck of the woods there exist(ed) much older vacant lots with nothing more to show for their time snoozing than a 5 o'clock shadow's worth of straggly growth. How could this be? Maybe in Brooklyn the "clean in-fill" they use to dress the site after a demolition comes from some place like the ballast tanks of a Chernobyl super freighter, or worse still, Williamsburg, but whatever its origin, this top soil seems to have an uncanny ability to inhibit plant life of any kind.
Their is a two block stretch of 17th Street between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue in Windsor Terrace, that up until very recently had several of the finest "before and after" natural history tableaux-like examples of urban self-reforestation one could expect to find (behind protective glass) in a world class museum. A pristine botanical timeline of sorts, of what's photosynthetically possible, or not, over time.

L.E.S.
Flashback twenty years ago when I first moved to New York... I found employment with a pair of doctors who were developing property in Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. They were buying up 5 story walk-ups for something like $30,000 a pop and converting them to cooperative apartments, and when the market collapsed, rental apartments again.
I started work for them doing general construction. My first job was on a gut renovation on Avenue B and 12th Street clearing out the occupied glue-traps each morning. “The rats were bothering the electricians,” I was told. "Get rid of them."
My boss would buy the glue from an exterminator, wholesale, in 5 gallon buckets to save money. It’s basically the same kind of thick clear super sticky goop you’ll find in the ready-made hardware store bought traps, but you needed to provide your own mounting surface. To make it work you had to first dip your bare hand in water, then quickly grab a fist full of snot from the bucket and fling it down on some scrap piece of plywood. We used plywood because it was heavy enough to keep the stuck rats from running off. By wetting your hand, the water acted as a kind of resist, providing a few seconds of free working time. If you hesitated for too long before slinging you could end up catching yourself.

Rats caught on a Friday night had a full two days head start at trying to free themselves by gnawing off whatever body part held them hostage, often leaving me little more to dispose of than a bit of tail, a clump of fur, or a bloody hind leg. Unfortunately for the electricians Monday mornings meant there was a really pissed off 3 legged rodent holed up somewhere waiting to extract his rightful revenge. My favorite- dying inside some hollow chase behind the wall and stinking the place up to high heaven for the next 48 hours.
Not all of them escaped. The rodents I found still breathing got "buried at sea", drowned in a compound bucket full of water. The dead ones got thrown into the dumpster out front, or more likely, launched out the second floor window into the vacant lot behind the building. Sometimes I had-a-heart and tossed them out still hissing.

In the back yard killing field, the chest high weeds did a great job of hiding the carnage. I’m sure the plague ridden vampires who came to shoot up heroin in peace and quite, assumed my plywood-mounted trophies, scattered about the yard, simply belonged to some frustrated amateur taxidermist. It didn't seem to stop the undead from climbing in through the hole in the fence, twice daily, like clock work.

Many of the empty lots on the LES, the ones not being used for shooting galleries or make shift pet cemeteries were far from empty, some having been reclaimed by the Green Guerrillas for community gardens. I remember one particularly large lot behind Clinton Street that had what seemed like an acre of corn growing on it for a while. Back then every block had it’s own Puerto Rican "La Casita" with free range roosters holding court. No Hollywood art direction needed for this set.
Some days on my way to work I would venture out during the day, not unlike Mr. Nevil, "into the wild" and take the diagonal shortcut through Tompkins Square Park past the concrete band shell. The band shell was a miserable hovel. The marinated stench of urine and all matters fecal would singe the nostril hairs of even the most seasoned sanitation worker. It smelled, well... too human.
For some time all abandoned city owned  property was fair game to squatters. For slow food entrepreneur's like cannibal Daniel Rakowitz, even Tompkins Square Park seemed like just another neglected vacant lot among many, where you you could pretty much help yourself to... help yourself to anyone.


.



Brooklyn Bucolic’s Anonymous.




Present Day:
Only a handful of people even knew the new owner of the property. Mr. Absentee Landlord would respond infrequently to the very frequent pink sanitation tickets taped to his rickety plywood fence, but other than that he was seldom seen. Neighbors picked up the slack by cleaning up, painting over the graffiti and shoveling the snow as if it was theirs to worry about. For all those years the lot had remained relatively green, untouched, even resisting the evolutionary forces to adapt and transform into an bio-diverse storage habitat where one needs to park all species of automobile.



















They just finished building this new multi-family condo building on the site. Now when I pass by, I have to grimace. That long vacant land, once a home to a washing machine and delinquent grove of 30’ tall Ailanthus trees is now, in all regards… a concrete parking lot. The man made structure in the background seems like just an afterthought. Some of the SUV's out front probably have the same amount of square footage as their bedrooms, but then you can’t deny curb cut appeal. It looks like parking was your destiny all this time lot. The wheel of life is a double belted steel radial size 315/70R17 after all.




















Five years after the fire.
Seventeenth Street in Windsor Terrace has (had) more than it's fair share of undeveloped land. There is a big empty void  in the middle of the block past Prospect Park West. It’s actually two lots. My friend used to own a home on what's now the vacant lot on the left side of the photo.

One night in May of 2002 their drug addicted next door neighbor, Jeffery Lundy, left his unattended smoldering crack pipe on his mattress, catching it on fire. The apartment he was "living" in was in the process of being renovated and had been completely gutted, the plaster removed back down to the wooden lath covered studs. The entire first floor was nothing more than a bone dry tinder box.
As the fire quickly spread, Lundy simply left the building telling no one. Mr. Richard Lang Sr., the second floor tenant, was killed in the fire.
My friends and their new baby barely escaped with their lives. She remembers, waking by chance in the middle of the night and seeing a strange orange light glowing down through their hall skylight. Shortly after, the wood frame building next door collapsed on top of theirs.

The next morning I went along with them to help retrieve any personal belongings left behind in their mad dash to escape. Their cat Bob for example, who had miraculously survived the fire by hiding under their bed the whole time and then showing up that morning unsinged. Almost everything not destroyed by the fire and smoke was completely ruined by the vast amounts of water used.
The fire department was still working under the belief that there may have been other tenants who perished and had already begun sifting through the vast pile of charred debris for bodies. This was being carried out one careful back hoe scoop at a time. Each load sprinkled in the middle of the barricaded street, a pair of twenty-something looking fire fighters in full protective gear taking turns poking about several blackened mattresses with their pike poles. In the end they didn't find anyone else.









































 


























BOO'S PLACE
This by far is my favorite 17th Street lot just down the block from the tragic fire. This place is way off the grid. It still has what remains of a tiny free standing house. Nature has had its way with the property for a very, very, long time. The deep front yard has this giant old crooked tree that dwarfs everything. It's the kind of tree a kid would expect to find a creepy doll carved out of soap into his likeness, a broken pocket watch with chain, or maybe even two shiny sticks of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum with the outer wrappers removed, tucked into a hollow cavity.
Somewhere beneath the underbrush there is a path leading from the cast iron gate to the rotting front porch. Up until this past week, not even our area Chinese restaurant guy dared to enter and drop off one of his menus.
Recent activity however, foreshadows the possibility that the long sleep may finally be over. It seems that an estate was settled and the property's deed changed hands. This is how the place looks this week after some landscaping. Not so scary anymore. Almost civilized.








































Scorched Earth
It's seldom that you are actually there to witness the birth of a vacant lot, temporary as it may be.. There's a hole in the middle of Jackson Place. Raw tar paper bandages cover the exposed wound. Things pass so quickly into obscurity. I have already forgotten most of the details of the building that occupied the space. There are some nice before and after pictures posted on Brownstoner. to help us remember.

























































Another gap (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets. At one time all three houses were empty. Two were eventually renovated. The third one, in the middle of the two, was so neglected and had decayed over time to the point where it had to be torn down. The street tree out front even died and then fell over and crushed a car. Has the ground beneath this lot been salted in spite?























The "parking lot" on 6th Avenue just below Webster Place is probably the largest piece of undeveloped land left in the South Slope. It would make a nice pasture for raising heirloom goats don't you think? Or...  the place where we witness the final showdown between the last man on Earth and flesh eating vampires? Remember this tag line, "God didn't do this, we did."
















Not all land has to be developed. The Community Garden on 6th Avenue and 15th Street, part of The Trust for Public Land. Once a garbage strewn, drug infested, eye sore, now an oasis.






















































On Stress and Mindfulness.
These days while cruising about, the windows rolled down on the Bugaboo, I am becoming aware of these few vacant lots that have resisted condofication. These holdouts. These slackers. Like fallow fields they lie idle. A kind of architectural crop rotation is taking place. Even the weed seeds have failed to germinate, speculating as to whether it's worth putting down roots just yet with all the frantic construction going on. Who knows when the grim excavator will arrive.
But I have come to depend on these quiet spaces. They are my designated environmental cues. Part of my mindfulness training exercises "to be in the moment".
Pass by and take a breath. Inhale... feel my lungs filling with air. Now exhale... feel my lungs empty of air.
Inhale... feel my lungs filling with air. Exhale...wondering what it's like to burn to death...
Obviously I need to keep practicing. Of coarse it helps if you don’t know the tragic reasons why some of the land became vacant in the first place.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Verify in Field

V.I.F. Verify in Field. A notation an architect may include on their building's plans informing the contractor that conditions exist, uncertain measurements and dimensions that will require additional verification while on the actual construction site or field. In a large building there can be an infinitesimal number of these calculations that can only be known by standing in the actual built real-time place. It's in the hands of the practicing contractor now, the physical concrete world of nuts and bolts and depending on his skill level, sometimes plenty of caulk. The simple fact that you can open a bathroom door without it smashing into the toilet can be seen as a blessed affirmation of the contractor/architect symbiotic relationship. When it works the project thrives. When it doesn't, when a cavalier builder/developer goes off for example, on his own wild-hair tangents, disregarding their own engineering designs and structural plans, you should expect trouble. The new and improved "UnBuilding's Department" no longer rewards this kind of arrogant hubris.


video

Pride goes before a fall. Removing a 30' section of the foundation and its poured concrete pile cap. Is this part of the DoB's ongoing efforts to steer the Armory Plaza back on course? One disadvantage to being the "eyes and ears" for the Department, listening to a solid week of 70+ decibel levels of noise.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

IT'S FALL AGAIN!

video

"THE VUE" 162 16th Street






















"Blending in" during construction.
"The Vue" from Fifth Avenue.

Here are two responses by local activists to "Views at ‘The Vue’ in South Slope Will Never be Obstructed", by Linda Collins of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporting on the new "The Vue" condominium and it's everlasting panoramic reign over South Brooklyn. I thought I would intercept and post these two letters to the editor on their way to the Eagle just in case they never see the light of day. I have included a link to the Online Petition asking for among other things, the responsible and lawful development in Brooklyn's Park Slope, Greenwood Heights, and Sunset Park, neighborhoods. You can read the petition in it's entirety below or click here.
When I read that headline, ..."Never be Obstructed", I get the creepy feeling that she (well really the developer) means it as a threat to anyone who dares interfere with their vision in any way, the DoB included.
-IMBY



To the Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
,

While I can appreciate your paper’s want to highlight new residential development in the borough of Brooklyn, I feel you have made a grave mistake in publishing what reads as a complete shilling for 162 16th Street, aka “The Vue,” in your article “Views at ‘The Vue’ in South Slope Will Never be Obstructed,” by Linda Collins, published online 10-30-2007 http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=5&id=16399 .
Shame on you!

Ms. Collins did get one fact right when she interviewed developing partner Barry Katz: “A new 10-story condominium building that may have contributed to the downzoning of the side streets in Park Slope and South Slope.” Yes, out-of-scale buildings such as this were the impetus of the South Slope/Greenwood Heights rezoning in November 2005. Grandfathered in under old zoning, however, 162 16th St. has been and is the poster child for development gone wrong in Brooklyn.

This particular structure has plagued the residents of 16th Street and Prospect Avenue in South Park Slope with a myriad of Department of Buildings and Environmental Control Board violations that have directly affected their, and the surrounding area’s, quality of life. Even though this article appears to be an advertorial, I'd like to point out a few facts in this article that are incorrect or misleading:

1. “ . . . 162 16th St. is set back to match the line of adjacent homes . . . " This is not true. The building is not aligned with the street wall. It is considerably set back from adjoining properties on the block. This tactic, lessening bulk to gain height, is what the developer employed to acquire those "views." While allowed under building code, the decision to set the building back from the street wall was not made for any contextual or aesthetic reason, but solely to maximize the building's Floor Area Ratio in a way to get as much height as possible.

2. “ . . . the developers have created off-street parking with 37 spaces for 45 units, greatly lessening the impact tenants’ cars would have on the street and neighborhood.” New York City building code REQUIRES off-site accessory parking for any building over 10 units. Mr. Katz and his partners are giving no benefit to the community; these parking spaces are a requirement. It should be noted that the developer does not have to allocate these parking spaces for the residents of the building. They may be rented or sold to outside parties, in effect worsening the parking congestion for the residents in the area, not improving it.

3. “And the views will not change. The aforementioned downzoning will ensure a lifetime of unobstructed views.” Mr. Katz’s observation, “The views. We are sitting at the top of the slope and from the third floor up, the views are incredible,” underlines Ms. Collins’s statement. But let’s consider the veracity of these statements.

The rezoning of 2005 mandated lower density on side streets of South Park Slope while deeming the major avenues suitable for higher density, especially Fourth Avenue, with an allowable maximum height of 12 stories. As of this writing, a proposed 12-story building is planned right down the street from the “The Vue” on Fourth Avenue, between 16th Street and Prospect Avenue, which would block the view from “The Vue.” Perhaps Mr. Katz and Aguayo & Huebener Realty, the real estate firm representing “The Vue,” should explain that to potential buyers. There are many more proposed “as-of-right” 12-story building projects on Fourth Avenue, any of which may block those “unobstructed views.”

4. “Designed by Karl Fischer Architects . . .” This is incorrect. The architect of record for the entire project is renowned “bad-boy” architect Henry Radusky of Bricolage Designs. After repeatedly and grievously breaking building and zoning code, Mr. Radusky lost his right to professionally certify in New York City in 2003. With 162 16th St., Mr. Radusky and his firm have not only produced another cookie cutter Bricolage building, but have created countless wasted hours of work at the Department of Buildings with multiple plan exams, refillings and repeat inspections for building and zoning violations, dating back to the summer of 2005. In fact, the property was found to have deficient plans as recently as July 2007 and the DOB’s Stop Work Order in response to this recent plan review was only recently lifted. Reviews are still pending.

Any affiliation with Karl Fischer Architects is a ruse and, in my personal opinion, adds no cache to the condos’ sale value, in the fact that Karl Fischer Architects has its share of controversial projects, many of which blight the South Slope along with those of Bricolage Designs.

5. “The building should be ready for occupancy in late 2007 or early 2008.” The building has yet to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy and very well may not receive one if its multitude of building and zoning code infractions are not addressed by the development team and approved by the DOB.

In closing, as a community activist who fought this building and ones like it at 182 15th Street (a failed 12-story “sister” project of Mr. Katan’s, which lost its vesting appeal at the Board of Standards and Appeals in 2006) during the rezoning and to this day and now as chair of Brooklyn Community Board 7’s Buildings & Construction Sub-committee, I find it abhorrent that Ms. Collins and this paper’s editorial staff did not do proper research into this controversial project before publishing a one-sided shill of an article on behalf of this development team. It is the written equivalent of spitting in the face of this community and its long-suffering residents.

I encourage you to do further and responsible research on this property and write a more factual and well-rounded article on 162 16th Street, which presents all sides of “The Vue,” not just the view to the bank seen by the development team and real estate agency.

Sincerely,

Aaron Brashear
Chair, Buildings & Construction Sub-Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 7
Co-Founder, The Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights

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On Wednesday October 30th 2007 you published an article titled-
"Views at ‘The Vue’ in South Slope Will Never be Obstructed" by Linda Collins.
Your paper should be sued for printing this blatant fabrication of lies. The fact that your paper and the writer would make it seem as if the claims in this article had been researched and substantiated, boarders on criminal negligence.
The developer (Isaac Katan) and his Associate Barry Katz have abused the City, the community, and the system, in a continued attempt to rape and pillage their way to millions. The writer (Linda Collins) took the words of, what some believe to be, criminals and without verifying them or asking those affected by their actions, printed them (verbatim) as facts.
Had your paper or the writer done just a very small amount of research you would have found:
-The Architect of this project is the one and only Henry Radusky. The same Henry Radusky who, because of his penchant for violating the building code, was forced (long ago) to relinquish his rights to self certify his work. Also the same Henry Radusky who is being sued (Much the same as his Developer friend Isaac Katan) by just about every one who has bought a building that he was involved in.
-There are not 37 parking spaces and the few spots that exist are not being given to anyone but sold at a considerable profit.
- Your/their claim of making "an effort to blend in" is nauseating. They have done nothing for the community and in fact have shown a total disregard and arrogance toward the concerns of the community. Just go to the block and ask around or take a look at the spot lights blaring into the adjoining properties that they have installed in the parking lot and in front of the building.
-If Mr. Katz (who claims to be doing so much for and with the neighborhood) knew half a much about the community that he has abused as he does about how to "work the system", he would have known that the plumbing supply company was in fact in an old theater, and did not come with the “swath of land running behind the backyards of several of the neighboring houses” . That “swath of land running behind the backyards of several of the neighboring houses” was in fact owned by a fence company who’s owner, and family, lived in the so-called “vacant townhouse” for 4 generations.
It is because of that “swath of land running behind the backyards of several of the neighboring houses” that Mr’s Katz, Katan, Radusky and associates were able to "work the system" to be able to build such an out of context monstrocity on a block of 3 story .
Also it is because of this “swath of land running behind the backyards of several of the neighboring houses” that they should show some consideration for all the neighbors who’s properties are adjoined to this eye sore.
-As for the views. The floor to ceiling windows are in violation of the building code. What will happen when the buyers are forced to lose those views? Also what they aren't telling anyone is that if someone (like Mr. Katan) decides to by on 4th Ave. they would be able to build another 12 story monstrosity to block much of those "VIEWS". Lastly in this regard is the fact that Mr's Katz and Katan have the neighbors to thank for preserving (much of) the views, and yet it the neighbors who they continue to abuse and disregard.
-They (the developers and their associates) have done absolutely nothing to blend in or benefit the community. The open space in the front and again in the back was nothing more than the bare minimum requirement of the building code. What little they did was done in an attempt to comply with the code. Even at that their compliance has been and still is in question. In fact there are still questions as to the legality of everything above the 5th floor.
The community would respectfully ask that you withdraw all of the false claims of this article and publish a new article documenting the truth about this developer and his abuse of not only this but every community that he has done work in.

Thank you

Bo Samajopoulos &

The concerned Citizens of South Slope.

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Responsible & Lawful Development-162 16th St.

The petition

Petition for Responsible & Lawful Development in Park Slope, South Park Slope, Greenwood Heights, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.


To Our Elected and Appointed Officials:

We the undersigned request that you bring to bear all resources available at your disposal to help ensure the safety and security of our community in the face of the disregard demonstrated by real estate developers for our concerns.

Many of the developments that have sprouted up in our neighborhood are of questionable stature and have been built with no regard for the community or even the new owners. We would like to make sure that any remaining work to be done abides by all laws, complies with NYC building code and respectful of community concerns and needs.

Specifically, we are asking that:

- any retaining walls that adjoin other properties meet or exceed existing code so that they do not give way or cause drainage problems to the abutting properties.

- Guarantee that access to parking areas are strictly controlled, with a gate and security guards between the street and the lot. Access to many of these parking lots is de facto access to our back yards.

- Prevent light pollution by installing tightly-focused lights of limited height in the parking lots or any portion of the newly developed property that could contribute to light pollution and disturb neighbors.

-Build up the retaining walls to a height (at least 3 foot above the parking lot grade) that is more likely to prevent a car from accidentally, going into the adjoining yards, and possibly hurting or killing any children playing in said yards.

-Allow access (which up until now has been limited) to all utilities so that they may provide and maintain the services which are required for the neighbors day to day living.

****
AS A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE: 162 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Please help ensure the safety and security of our community in the face of the disregard demonstrated by the developer, Barry Katz/Issac Katan of 162 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY aka "VUE." Our points outline above in this multi-neighborhood petition are outlined as specific examples of the illegal activity that Mr. Katz and Mr. Katan have violated, destroying the quality of life of our community at 162 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY. (92 311 complaints / 18 DOB violations / 14 ECB violations / Countless "stop work orders" / DOB BIS page
****

For almost 4 years many developers has been allowed to totally disregard our lives, our homes and many laws. The community has filed hundreds of complaints with little to no satisfactory results. We ask that these meager requests be addressed, before any Certificate of Occupancy (temporary or otherwise) is given to any new buildings.

Your immediate consideration and response is appreciated and needed.

This on-line petition will be submitted to the following:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez
Borough President Marty Markowitz
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum
Councilmember Sara M. Gonzalez
Councilmember Bill de Blasio
Councilmember Tony Avella
Assemblymember Joan Millman
Assemblymember James Brennan
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
Patricia Lancaster, Commissioner Department of Buildings
Amanda Burden, Chair City Planning Commission
Randy Peers, Chair, Brooklyn Community Board 7

Sunday, November 04, 2007

In Your Back Yard. 359 15th Street

It's aways nice to hear from our other reader. Especially when they send along these great rear window's view photos of the unbuilding of 359 15th Street. Last week we gave you a veiled glimpse through the sheer netting that covers the front facade. This week we go from behind to get another peek at just what's up in the rear. When you are ready, gentle reader, we may even show you something from "Behind the Green Tarp". But not yet, be patient, you're not ready.




























So what are you looking at!

Just discovered the bones of the Virgin Mary while excavating next door? We publish some of the best amateur architectural photography on the web. So if you're the Madame Defarge archivist type who sees the executioner's basket as half empty. then feel free to send us your photos with a brief but bitter description being sure to include all the sordid details, flashbacks eagerly appreciated. We love to see and hear about what you are currently seeing and hearing. Because, damn it, if you just have to look at it everyday, don't you think the rest of the world should have to as well?

Here's where. IMBY@nyc.rr.com

Thursday, November 01, 2007

MMG DeConstructive Criticism













Stopping Work

Demolition has begun on 390 14th Street by Staten Island's own Mother of all Destruction, Marie Grasso and MMG Construction.
A STOP WORK ORDER for failure to safegaurd the public and property had been issued on 10/30, then...
a PARTIAL RESCINDED STOP WORK ORDER to remove debris and secure the site was issued on 11/02...
then on the same day according to information on the B.I.S. web page, the STOP WORK ORDER was fully RESCINDED. That's some pretty fast "paper" work and an excellent job at keeping the wrecking ball rolling. So fast that they didn't even have time to post any of this official documentation out front on their construction fence as of yet, including the original demolition permit. I wish we could get that kind of service from the D.o.B. but then maybe we aren't as good of customers as MMG is. Can anyone explain what happened to the DoB violation? I'm not sure how these kind of things work.

Wrecking Havoc

Here's a company, a house wrecker of ill repute, who's bad record precedes itself. If Ms. Lancaster, and her Department of Buildings is serious about "disrupting the business models" of bad girl companies that routinely, blatantly, disregard the safety of the public and property, why not start by suspended MMG's ability to secure new permits in Brooklyn until further notice.


Brownstoner "More Shenanigans at 339 Greene Avenue"

Park Slope Courier- "2 Hurt, Yet 16th St. Demolition Continued" by Charles Hack

Starting from a clean asbestos-free slate.
Once the 25'x100' lot, with its existing two story wood frame house, is cleared the owner and developer 390 Sim Development LLC, has plans to build a 4 story, 47' tall residential building with 6 units of housing.