BHA’s Stanton: Eagle’s Report Wrong on 30 Henry Condo Height

Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton sent us a dispatch this morning about construction plans for 30 Henry Street. The site has been sold by its owners, the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, to DUMBO based developers the Fortis Group. The Eagle’s own report on the sale claims that Fortis plans to build a 65 foot, 6 story condo there, a potential challenge to current landmark restrictions. (N.B. Their initial application.)

Not so, says Ms. Stanton who has seen the Fortis plans. Her take after the jump.

The BHA was shown a presentation for a new building by Fortis at 30 Henry Street. We were given copies of the plans but I do not have permission to release them to the media. They do not show a 65 foot building. The site falls entirely within the LH-1 boundary (aka 50 ft height limited district). A taller building would not be permitted without a variance which would require an application to the Board of Standards and Appeals in addition to the necessary approvals required by the Landmarks Commission.
The latter is certainly not what was shown to the BHA nor to the Community Board. I would suggest that that Linda Collins needs to double check her understanding of whatever plans she has found on file with the DOB which may have included the floor below grade (cellar). The BHA was shown and we are still expecting a 50 ft building plus the mechanical equipment set back behind a stair bulkhead which would not be visible from the street. (Mechanicals are not counted in the 50 foot limit.)

Speaking about the design, the BHA always favors contemporary design for new construction in the Historic District. While not every owner/architect has felt comfortable about following our recommendation, the Landmarks Commission DOES support contemporary design in historic districts. It should be emphasized that Brooklyn Heights is a veritable treasure trove of 19th century architectural styles, and this historic district can absorb more variety. Note:This topic is currently the subject of an exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society Context\Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts 1967 to Present. which we encourage everyone to see.

With regard to 30 Henry Street, it is a gateway site in the Heights, and one that cries out for a distinctive and much more contemporary design than was shown to the BHA last week. Fortis has hired excellent architects in BKSK, and the BHA has respectfully asked them to ‘return to the drafting board’ to create a building that celebrates our time.

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    It is immediate, up to date information like this that makes the BHB a must see each and every morning. Thanks Homer. This information is very important to know. Super work.


    Good for the BHA, rejecting the initial proposal.
    Without seeing it, we can all imagine that, whatever its height, it follows the sorry pattern of that guy on the corner of Montague and Clinton.
    It is worth underscoring Stanton’s statement about where this building is being built. Unfortunately, it looks like we have yet another developer who doesn’t start by asking Rafael Vinoly to create an imaginative, appropriate, harmonious building that will add glory to the Heights. Nor is he acknowledging that, because it happens to be a main entry point to the Heights for tourists, it should also serve as an attractive and noble entryway to the neighborhood.
    Too often, the developer, even before he pulls out his wallet to make the buy, is asking some kind of landmark/zoning ‘expert’ how can he get around all the rules. He envisions a bonanza, dollar signs wildly dancing in his head. His formula: Build dense. Build high. Stretch the rules. Pack ’em in. Do like those other recent builders and keep the facade real simple, like cheap. Never mind its surroundings. Forget the neighborhood. This is about M-O-N-E-Y.
    This developer is already on probation, thanks again to the BHA. And his plans should remain under the closest scrutiny by an alert and demanding neighborhood.
    But, let’s all stay tuned to this and be prepared to raise holy hell
    if there is any hint of weaseling or broken field running trying to get around the regulations.

  • stuart

    It is the landmarks commission board that decides what flies and what does not.
    The BHA may insist on a starchitect’s oeuvre but the Commission may be very content with a nice low-key building like the new addition at PS 9.

  • Jorale-man

    Yes, I have to agree with Martin. The re-do of the building facade on the NE corner of Clinton and Joralemon is a case in point of architecture that seems to be done on the cheap. It’s not horrible to my eyes but certainly not very attractive (or contextual) either.

    Being a landmarked district, our neighborhood should bring out the highest aspirations of architects and developers and not slapped together buildings that figuratively thumb their noses at the surroundings.

  • carol

    The building on the NE corner of Clinton and Joralemon is not within the Brooklyn Historic District.

  • Claude Scales

    I’m also disappointed by the redo of the building at Clinton and Joralemon, which is outside the Historic District and therefore not subject to the LPC’s jurisdiction. It looks like some of the awful buildings that have gone up along Fourth Avenue. To me, it’s in contrast (and I know I’ll get some strong disagreement on this) to the renovation of the building on the north side of Clinton between Montague and Remsen (also outside the Historic District), which I think is an interesting and contextual design. Disclosure: the architect is a neighbor and a member of my co-op board, but I would say the same even if I didn’t know him.

  • TMS

    What school are the children who will be living in 30 Henry, 20 Henry and the Pier 1 Housing go to? PS8 is busting at the seams as it is. Shouldn’t these developers be required to help fund a new school before they build?

  • hereforever

    TMS – Your point is well taken. Newcomers are welcomed but they are not likely to put down family roots without enough schools. 30 Henry, 20 Henry, 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Pier 1 Housing are all zoned for PS8. So are the two new buildings on the north side of Joralemon at Clinton and north side of Remsen at Clinton. Ditto the Watchtower owned properties now on the market.

  • resident

    I think some of the watchtower HQ buildings would make excellent conversion candidates for schools.

  • stuart

    children come in waves.
    a few years ago, PS 9 was underused. Now, it is crowded, but most of the kids do not have other siblings come up behind them. they will graduate and kids from other families will take their places. The bumper crop years are unknowable and not subject to how many condos are open at any one time. I believe that without the new buildings, the school would be underused. Most families nowadays have only one or two kids. People are still thinking of the days when it was normal for a woman to have ten children. That is still true for certain religious types, but not for the folks who buy condos in the heights.

  • Lou

    I think you guys mean PS 8… Most of my sons friends have younger siblings. PS 8 isn’t going to run out of kids any time soon.

  • David on Middagh

    I imagine that it is politically much harder to scout locations and allocate funds for a school that will be needed in a decade’s time than it is to demographically work from birthrates and immigration trends to make the prediction of need in the first place.