Renovation at What Cost?

Nabe Blogger AgeBuster notes that many current brownstone renovators – most notably someone on Willow Street – are going too far when gutting their new homes:

AgeBuster: Endangered Brownstones: Lately, we’ve noticed something distressing. Hedge-fund moneymen (billionaires?) with dollars bulging in their pockets, are buying these brownstones and completely gutting them. They obviously love the Heights as an ideal home base to Wall Street, their business base, right across the river.There has been a case of a money man buying a house, gutting it, rebuilds the insides, finds he doesn’t like it, and moves to another house. Someone has just bought the beautiful Victorian house across the street from us. We watched as the sculpted walls, luxurious staircases, marble fireplaces were thrown like junk into a dumpster outside. Neighbors are upset. Watching the destructon through our windows, we are disconsolate.

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  • yo

    walk down sidney place one day – no less than 5 or 6 buildings on the short block are being completely gutted…

  • AliG

    f*ckers. I live on Remsen and three brownstones on our block are currently being gutted and renovated. Two of them look to be restorative which is nice.
    What gets me is their blatant disregard for their future neighbors. I wake up to their hammering and sawing..and on weekends, too.

  • Andrew Porter

    One building on Middagh which was part of the Brooklyn Heights house tour last year fits that: the one the formerly had asphalt shingles. There’s nothing left of the interior and it’s modern in every aspect. Ditto the place around the corner, on the west side of Hicks between Cranberry and Middagh. Although they restored the stoop, he interior is totally modernized (though they may have retained the fireplaces). This is an alarming trend in the neighborhood, but one that Landmarks would seem powerless to prevent. As long as the exterior is unchanged, or looks like it used to, or is restored to an older, previous condition, no law prevents this.

    On the other hand, I continue to be impressed by the efforts to restore/renew the former office and laundromat house at the SW corner of Hicks and Crtanberry.

  • Cyrus P. Smith

    I’d agree that it’s a shame if period moldings, stairs, mantles, etc. are tossed. However, although I haven’t seen the house on Willow Street mentioned above, I find it hard to believe that even if the owners are getting rid of this stuff, that they’re just dumping it – these pieces have high salvage value.

    As for the house on Middagh Street, I don’t think that points to any alarming trend. I believe that the inside of that house had been given a charming 1950’s interior to match the asphalt shingles on the outside. Even assuming there had been something worth saving in that house at one point, it had been gone for 50 years by the time they did the recent renovation. Don’t know about the place with the stoop you mention but I’d guess the same thing. These were all places that had been converted into rooming houses in the 1930’s when the Heights turned pretty seedy. Not every house is an ugly duckling mansion just waiting to be reborn – some of these places are just plain ugly on the inside and nothing worth preserving.

    The house on the corner of Cranberry and Hicks looks nice. Although I note that if you’ve ever looked inside, they’re doing the same gut renovation that you complain about for the other houses. They took it down to the studs and joists and left nothing.