Breaking news — literally! Work Starts on Riverside Apts Garage

BHB/Sarah Portlock

BHB/Sarah Portlock

Loud, earth-shattering deconstruction work started today in the courtyard of the Riverside houses as part of a plan to build an underground garage there — that is, scoping work for the project.

“We’re doing work in anticipation of the project,” explained a man who said he represented the building’s owner. The buildings sit on Joralemon Street, between Columbia Place and Furman Street.

Crews and big front-end loaders were out on Wednesday, digging holes on either end of the courtyard to investigate how they should construct the hotly-contested garages, one worker said. They are investigating pipe layouts and how they will have to support the 118-year-old building’s foundations. The holes will then be filled in once the scoping work is done.

The building’s owner, Joel Weiner, received city approval in November to build out the 90-car garage underneath the courtyard, and top it with a garden. But that was after the city rejected the first idea, which was a two-story, 134-car aboveground garage.

The change in plans was all it took to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve the project, agency spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon had told The Brooklyn Paper.

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  • alex

    No comments about this controversial garage? Shocking. In any case, I live in the building and learned about the construction from this post. At least it’s not too disruptive to residents–yet.

  • riversider

    I live there too. They broke the sewer pipe coming from the rear of 24 Joralemon, which is why it was not filled right away. I guess they did learn a little more about the layout of the pipes.

    I also walked into the courtyard this morning to investigate and take a few photos, and was told I had to leave by a man working for the contractor. Although there was only red tape around the hole, I was told I was not allowed in the courtyard at all. He told me I might be trespassing even after I told him I live here. He then started approaching from across the courtyard. It was not until another tenant started yelling out the window he turned around and retreated to his car. It was pure and simple harassment and I felt threatened.

  • Ari

    I also live in the building and I work from home and the vibrations yesterday were pretty dramatic and the building shook really hard, and I’m in building at 20 Columbia and the hole is a good 30 yards away.

    Today was quieter,they clearly weren’t digging another test hole. But there was some noise.

    My only real concern here is how these buildings will hold up with heavy construction taking place so close. I fear these 110 year old buildings will need some serious reinforcement to handle this work.

  • former riversider

    i’m a former resident of this building. i just moved out of 24 joralemon in dec and lived there for over 10 years in a courtyard facing unit. this insane garage is something that the owners of the building have been threatening to build for YEARS! and the tenents assoc. have been fighting it for years. i can’t believe they are actually going through with it. not only are the plans for the garage (which i’ve seen) INSANE but it will only partially be underground… and they will be distroying the original victorian fountain and some 100+ year old trees in the courtyard to make room for it. they money they are spending on this garage would be better spent making the necessary renovations to beautiful historical building that is falling apart at the seams….don’t even get me started about the RATS that feast on the garbage bags down there.
    thank god i moved before all this construction.

  • Martin Schneider

    This is yet one more example of the failure of the Bloomberg- controlled Landmarks Commission to protect landmarks and instead, give a hand up to developers.

  • Guy

    This “developer” owns the building. It’s The Pinnacle Group owned by Joel Weiner. The largest rental landlord in the 5 boroughs, they have a lot of other investements & are billionares, but it doesn’t seem to be enough I guess.

  • nate

    I don’t get it, who is forcing all these unhappy people to stay in this building if they hate it so much? This is a free country, you’re free to move wherever you like. There are plenty of nice affordable neighborhoods in brooklyn and Queens where one could start and lead a happier life. Although it is true that there are few options if you want to live rent-free.
    I for one am thrilled they are buildig a new public garage. We really need it.

  • former riverside tenent

    frankly nate, in this case you have no idea what your talking about. some of the residents have lived their entire lives there. why should they be forced out of their homes. pinnicle group is a notorious slum lord in our city and literally kicks out 90 year old women from their apts so they can jack up rents on apts with little or no renovations done to them. yes parking is needed in the neighborhood but this isn’t the place for it. the space they are digging up is so rediculously small and is practically UNDER the BQE. this building has amazing history and is an important landmark in the community. THATS why people live there. why don’t you take a walk down there and check it out sometime. i suggest going around 9:00 on garbage night.

  • Debevoise

    I live in the building and was home yesterday and today during the work that was being done. Throughout the days, there was very violent shaking in the building accompanied by smashing sounds coming from the courtyard. I was actually concerned for my safety. Some people may want the garage, but the tenants have leases and are entitled to a safe home for the duration of their leases. I don’t want to be in this building if it should collapse; however, I want to stay here for the duration of my lease.

    The landlord’s intent is to compromise the building’s structural integrity and then get permission to demolish it. This is not about a garage. The Landmarks commission is going to feel pretty stupid when the buildings are demolished. They have been hoodwinked by this criminal landlord. He’s a lot smarter than they are — that’s why he’s a billionaire and they are nonentities.

  • riversider

    Anyone who thinks this is about parking or people living “rent free”, which is not the case, is sorely mistaken. This is about the destruction of a landmark building that stand for the progress we as a city have made from the tenement days in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    The hole they dug that caused the shaking was 25 feet from where the garage will be, but right next to the building they would profit from the most if it were gone. The operator was told by one of the building maintenance men not do dig there because there were pipes. The landlords representative ignored this advice from one of the few people who know this building well and proceeded to dig and break the sewage pipes.

    24 Joralemon (The building they violently shook) is the only free standing building in the complex and if no longer there would completely expose the courtyard from the front end and open up a perfect lot for “progress” in the name of the landlords bank account. It is the only plot that would offer water views.

    When you crunch the numbers that a 90 car parking garage would bring for income vs. the cost; and see the zeal they have used to push their agenda, it just doesn’t make sense.

    There are over 200 spaces still available across the street for $200 a month right now. If you need parking so bad, just go and get it, it’s there.

    As for rent free, I pay market rent for a studio that is less than 450 square feet. They call it a one bedroom and it is one of the larger apartments in the complex. And contrary to what other blogs have said, there is NO rent strike. There is only a handful of tenants who won a court case to get the courtyard restored, over 10 years ago (after it was paved over by the landlord), who have their rent frozen until it is. Good for them, someone has to stand for what is right. Most of them have contributed the money saved to legal battles waged in the name of preservation.

    This fight is about the preservation of ideals and the tangible results they created, Alfred T. White’s Historic Riverside Apartments. These buildings helped make our city great and deserve to be run in a manner consistent with their creators vision, don’t let anyone tell you any different.

    Want to learn more, just Google:
    Alfred T. White Riverside Apartments

  • Anonmyous

    Not sure why this parking garage will solve the parking problems in BH. Whoever doesnt pay for a spot now is not gonna rent a spot in this particular garage. As a previous poster said there are still 200 left across the street @ $200. From what I have seen and what I am paying that is the cheapest I heard of.

  • ABC

    where are the $200 spots? across Furman?

  • Ari

    They’re at 1 One Brooklyn across Furman

  • Nancy

    $200 for parking? Is that per week? is someone in the Riverside houses delusional? Or is it called “the Big Lie”.
    From what I read, this issue has nothing to with history or White or any of that hi-falutin’ stuff. it’s about rental tenants who think they own the building and can get away with being squatters forever. I vote for more parking too!

  • alex

    “it’s about rental tenants who think they own the building and can get away with being squatters forever”

    How is a renter equivalent to a squatter?

  • Squatters

    Dear Nancy,

    Do you own or rent your apartment? If you rent, do you have a lease? If so, why? Why don’t you just go month-to-month with your landlord. What right do you have to the legal protections of a lease?– or were you trying to lock in a rate for a period of time? (the basis of much of our financial system)

    If you have a lease, well, then, I suppose you are just a squatter like everyone else.

    A Lease Holder (aka “Squatter.”)

  • riversider

    As a riverside tenant and and someone who also parks at One Brooklyn bridge park, I can attest I am not a “squatter” or a “big liar”. I pay $200 a month to park there (tax included).

    This issue IS about the history and viability of affordable housing, not just a single building. So the amount we pay for rent is a bit relevant. For the record I pay almost $1700 a month for my less than 425 square feet, within spitting distance from the BQE. I have looked around at other apartments (in the heights) in the same price range and ultimately when everything was equal(which it was) it was the history of the building, not the price, that kept me where I am, despite the landlord.

    Let us also remember the garage was approved because it was requested as accessory parking for the use of the tenants, not as a public parking garage.

    There is quite a bit of irony in saying the tenants need valet parking for a six-story walk-up. Most of us don’t even have a car, and I am positive there are not 90 people who live here with a car. At last count the landlord had 6 signature of people who wanted parking, from over 150 apartments. The number is only so high because we were told it was our only chance to get on the waiting list, or the space would go to someone whole doesn’t live here.

    For those who say they want parking that is fine, everyone is entitled to have their wishes. But please explain why you need it more than I need a backyard. I have been waiting 10 years for them to restore it as the court as ordered, and I look forward to the day it finally is.

  • alex

    Other Riverside residents: Question. I just moved in last September so haven’t been around for the summer months, but I don’t really understand why the courtyard is so wonderful. I mean, I understand in principle why the developer’s actions are wrong, and I understand the objection on that basis, but I’m confused when people act like we’re losing a great resource. Do people really hang out back there? Enlighten me.

  • riversider

    Alex, here is a rundown:

    1. In the early 1990’s the courtyard was still 80% grass. Only a small area allowing access to the rear of the buildings was paved, and most of that with gravel. The courtyard was a common area for recreational use.
    2. In about 1991 the landlord obtained a permit to pave the entrance between the BQE and 24 Joralemon. He then proceeded to remove a large portion of the grass and illegally create an asphalt donut around the circumfrence of the existing trees. He then also remove an iron walkway which was integrated into the first story of the building and bricked up the doors that used to give tenants unrestricted access to the courtyard.
    3. The landlord then started charging for monthly parking in the new paved over space.
    4. A group of tenants then sued the landlord for reduction of services, since when they signed their lease the courtyard was for their use.
    5. Fast forward to about 1998. After a lengthy court battle the landlord is found guilty of illegally paving over much of the courtyard and is ordered to immediately stop using the space for public parking. The judge then ordered him to restore the courtyard to the state it was in 1991 before the destruction. As a persuasion to restore the courtyard quickly the rents of all those tenants involved in the case were frozen until services are brought back and the courtyard is restored.
    6. For the last decade years the landlord has tried everything to bring back parking and claim he is restoring services at the same time. The current landlord even took some pictures of bushes tenants planted and claimed there was a new playground in order to fulfill the courts orders. This, luckily, did not work.

    Of course there are a lot of sub plots to teh story missing in this chain of events, but it give a good summary to the current situation.

    I agree with you, the courtyard is nothing to cherish now. Yet many rent paying inhabitants of the building having been waiting almost 2 decades to get the courtyard restored. I personally do not feel that the current plan is acceptable. It is difficult to educate new tenants because they do not always see the struggle as it was, but just how it is now. I understand you initial point of view. There is a lot of history involved, not withstanding A.T. White.

    The one thing that is still wonderful about the courtyard are the trees, some over 100 years old. These alone are worth saving, and add to the quality of life. Without those the BQE would be unbearable to live next too. No trees planted to replace them will do so in my lifetime. To put it simply, we want the courtyard back in its original state!

  • alex

    Riversider, thanks for the context.

  • FutureRiverSider

    i’m thinking about moving in…do you current tenants advise against it because of the construction and/or other reasons? i’ve heard everything from it being a clean & really wonderful place to live with a quick-acting Super, to it being a mouse & roach infested dump with a push-in style break-in 2 wks ago with horrible construction noises. what’s your take???