Brooklyn Heights Blog » Real Estate http://brooklynheightsblog.com Dispatches from America's first suburb Fri, 21 Sep 2018 11:24:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Is 186 Remsen Doomed to the Wrecking Ball?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/87060 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/87060#comments Mon, 17 Sep 2018 02:54:57 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=87060

I wish I could have gotten a better photo of what I consider to be a magnificent building, but the lighting and shadows were against me, as was a bit of sidewalk shed protecting pedestrians from falling debris generated by renovation work on the building at the corner of Court and Remsen. “Magnificent?” I know some readers are thinking. “That old pile?” Old it is, completed in 1887. It was designed by Parfitt & Parfitt, two English brothers who also gave us the Montague and the Grosvenor, on Montague Street. I’ll also confess that I have a love for Victorian Romanesque architecture, of which I think this is a fine example. In 2012, its history was related as a Brownstoner Building of the Day.

As for its recent history, when I arrived in the Heights in 1983 it was the National Headquarters of the NAACP. After the NAACP departed for Baltimore, the building was taken over by the Little Flower Children’s Services. Then it became vacant, and has remained so for some years. I kept hoping St. Francis College, its next door neighbor to the west, would find some use for it. Now, according to this New York YIMBY post, it’s been acquired by Upventures LLC, who have filed plans for a fourteen story hotel on the site. The plans do not contemplate keeping the existing building and adding to it, but demolition plans have not yet been filed.

186 Remsen, which is between Court and Clinton streets, is outside the Heights Historic District, but it is inside the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, which means that any plan to demolish 186 Remsen would need approval of the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

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Alice’s Tea Cup Coming to Hicks and Middaghhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86982 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86982#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2018 02:52:33 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86982

We’ve been alerted by reader Andrew Porter that

[t]he whimsical teahouse, bakery and restaurant Alice’s Tea Cup will open this year at the corner of Hicks Street and Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights, across from PS 8.

The photo is from their present location at 102 West 73rd Street, in Manhattan.

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The “Martians” Are Coming! Matt Damon Touches Down in Brooklyn Heightshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86891 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86891#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2018 04:57:15 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86891

Last summer Brownstoner reported Actor/Producer, Matt Damon was in contract at The Standish on Columbia Heights for over $16.6 million. The deal has been widely-reported as the largest residential sale in Brooklyn to date. Now, it appears the Oscar and Golden Globe winning “Martian,” his wife, Luciana Barroso and their children have finally landed at the 6,218 square feet 12th-floor penthouse. The sprawling abode is a combination of three units and boasts a 3,366-square-foot terrace.

The intel comes from a Facebook friend of your correspondent who also resides on Columbia Heights. When the source witnessed “many truck loads of stuff being moved in” earlier this week, they conducted a bit of their own “Good Will Hunting.” They inquired of “nosey neighbor” who confirmed, “You know, Matt Damon moved in yesterday.”

The Standish Arms Hotel, a former Jehovah’s Witnesses’ dormitory, was sold to Boston-based Taurus Investment Holdings in 2007 who developed the circa 1903 Beaux-Arts building as rental apartments. In addition to its architectural history, The Standish Arms was the fictional home of Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent and was referenced in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” In 2014, Westbrook Partners and DDG teamed up to buy the building for $60 million, converting it into 29 luxury condominiums and rebranding it as simply, The Standish. As of February 2018, the project was 85% sold.

Damon’s move, of course, is well-timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. The movie star notoriously  made Page Six in August of 2016 when St. Ann’s School rebuffed his 11th hour inquiry to enroll his three youngest daughters for that coming academic year. It is unknown whether the children will attend the hallowed institution this September.

Photo Credit: StreetEasy

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Is a Bistricer/Chetrit Feud Behind Lack of Progress on the Bossert?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86787 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86787#comments Sat, 04 Aug 2018 22:09:20 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86787

In early July the Eagle reported, in a story we linked to here, that one of the hotel’s owners, either David Bistricer or Joseph Chetrit, had said that “a major announcement” about the hotel would be made soon. It was presumed that this would be of a firm opening date for the hotel, which has been postponed several times since six years ago. No such announcement has been made, and no visible work has been done on the hotel for some time. The Bossert’s renovation process is beginning to rival in length the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Now the Brooklyn Paper reports that, after the paper’s unsuccessful attempts to get information from the developers and their property manager, an unidentified “local community leader” has said he or she believes the developers, Bistricer and Chetrit, “have been bickering — likely about money — and it’s causing the holdup.”

The Brooklyn Paper piece ends with a quotation from BHB stalwart Andrew Porter.

PHoto: SongBird NYC for BHB.

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Grand Canyon to Return to Montague Streethttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86729 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86729#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2018 22:37:00 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86729

Those of you who, like me, miss Grand Canyon’s superb burgers are in for a treat. While the “Restaurant For Lease” sign remains above the former Armando’s site at 143 Montague (see photo by your correspondent taken this evening), the Commercial Observer reports that the restaurant’s owner, who kept open another Grand Canyon in Park Slope, has taken that space and will return to Montague. It will be right next door to Grand Canyon’s old location, now occupied by B.Good.

The one downside to this, although it was probably foreordained by Armando’s closing, is that we will lose the Armando’s sign with its iconic lobster, much loved by many, especially our beloved founder, John “Homer Fink” Loscalzo.

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Is The Bossert Back?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86651 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86651#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2018 21:42:23 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86651

If so, the Eagle is on it.

Following reports of a party on the Bossert’s famous roof (on which the Brooklyn Dodgers celebrated their only World Series win), the Eagle contacted one of the hotel’s owners, who said, “We plan to make  a major announcement soon.”

The hotel has been under renovation since it was sold in 2012, and two years ago, the Eagle reported on an imminent re-opening, only to follow up earlier this year with news of another delay and the news that the hotel operator originally slated to run the place was being replaced.

Stay tuned, and as always, check out the Eagle‘s story to get the details and support local journalism.

 

 

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Arrivederci, Armando’s, and the Lobster; Adios, Taperiahttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86351 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/86351#comments Wed, 23 May 2018 02:59:55 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=86351

The Eagle reports that Ristorante Armando’s, a fixture, with one brief interruption, on Montague Street since 1936, has closed for good. Along with the loss of what, for many in the Heights was a favorite eating place and hangout, will come the loss of the iconic (What other word can I use to describe it?) lobster on its neon sign. Back in March of 2008, when owner Peter Byros (Did I catch im in the lower left corner of the photo above I took early this evening? I think so.) decided to retire, and the space was leased to a fast food chain, BHB’s beloved and sorely missed founder John “Homer Fink” Loscalzo started a “Landmark the Lobster” campaign. The lobster came down, but fortunately went to storage. It remained there only a little over a year, and returned to its place on Montague in July of 2009, when Mr. Byros decided to re-open Armando’s and put it in charge of his daughter, Maria Florea.

According to the Eagle story, the restaurant’s closing was precipitated by the Byros family’s sale of the building to a real estate agent. A sign in the window above Armando’s (see photo) says “Restaurant for Lease.” Maybe the new lessee will put up a new lobster sign (but only if Landmarks approves it).

IMG_0030Meanwhile, across the street, as the Eagle story reports, Taperia has closed again. It’s “again” because, like Armando’s, Taperia was in its space before, then closed, and was replaced — all too briefly in your correspondent’s opinion — by an excellent Argentinian steakhouse. When that closed, Taperia returned, but its tenancy was brief. The spot seems cursed.

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Design/Build for BQE Renovation Approvedhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85921 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85921#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2018 02:20:40 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85921

The Brooklyn Heights Association has let us know that the state budget, passed by the legislature and approved by Governor Cuomo on Friday, includes approval for the use of a design/build procedure for the renovation of the crumbling Brooklyn Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights. As the BHA noted:

This victory is the culmination of months of community effort, led by the BHA, to urge the legislature to enact a measure whose passage failed during the past two years. Had it not passed now, DOT would have proceeded with a Design-Bid-Build approach, which would have cost $113 million more to complete the BQE project and led to trucks being diverted onto local Brooklyn streets in 2026 due to the extended project timeframe.

The BHA thanked State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (whose office also advised us of the approval) for their efforts to secure passage, along with Governor Cuomo for his support. It also expressed gratitude to the local residents who demonstrated their support.

In related news, the BHA has announced that it will not appeal the New York Supreme Court’s decision to allow construction of the two residential towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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CB2 Hearing on “Out of Context” Downtown Development Wednesday Eveninghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85886 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85886#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 02:29:34 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85886

The Brooklyn Heights Association and others are urging local residents to attend Community Board 2’s public hearing at 6:00 PM this Wednesday, March 28 at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, on the appliction by a developer to build two residential towers, one 74 and one 38 stories, on a site bordered by Flatbush Avenue, Scheremrhorn and State streets, and Third Avenue. For renderings of the proposed buildings see here (the aerial rendering shows the even taller 9 DeKalb, on which construction began last year, in the background).

Although the site is some distance from Brooklyn Heights, the BHA and some local residents believe opposition is necessary because approval would signal openness to more dense residential development in the Downtown area, straining local infrastructure and blocking sunlight. Also, Third Avenue could be a major route for trucks diverted from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, if necessary, during the reconstruction of the cantilevered portion below the Heights.

Those who attend are invited to speak. You will need to sign up to speak when you enter, and speeches are limited to two minutes.

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Friend of a Farmer Building On the Market for $3.85 millionhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85846 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85846#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2018 02:42:10 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85846

Cushman and Wakefield have been retained to coordinate the sale of 76 Montague Street, the two-story building most recently home of Friend of a Farmer.

The building will be delivered vacant and could be developed as retail or residential.

According to the listing, “76 Montague Street is an incredible opportunity for investors, developers, and users alike to secure an asset with significant upside in Brooklyn’s most affluent neighborhood.”

More details here.

Massey/Knakel photo from listing.

 

 

 

 

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NYC DOT Engineer Says Keeping Traffic Off Brooklyn Heights Streets High Priorityhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85785 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85785#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2018 03:02:37 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85785

The Eagle’s Mary Frost has an excellent report on last week’s Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting. Here are my takeaways from the meeting:

1. The featured speaker, DOT Deputy Commissioner Robert Collyer (photo) said at least twice that a primary DOT concern is keeping traffic off Brooklyn Heights streets during the BQE renovation.

2. Mr. Collyer said that DOT is considering creating alternate routes for traffic during the BQE project that wouldn’t affect the Heights or other residential areas.

3. One of the objectives of the BQE project, according to Collyer, is to “improve [vertical] clearances” on the highway. Some residents asked if this would necessitate raising the BQE roadways, thereby affecting the Promenade. Mr. Collyer said it would not, and that the preservation of the Promenade was of vital concern.

4. When asked about the proposal to create an entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park from Montague Street, the BHA took no position for or against. Mr. Collyer also remained neutral, but noted the long drop from Montague to the level of the Park and that any entrance/exit would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

5. The BHA is considering options following the court decision allowing construction to proceed on the two high rise residential towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park, including a possible appeal.

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Court Gives Go-Ahead to Pier Six Towershttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85686 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85686#comments Mon, 19 Feb 2018 04:16:36 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85686

Curbed reports that New York Supreme Court Justice Carmen Victoria St. George on Friday issued a ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by the Brooklyn Heights Association in July of 2016 against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and two developers, seeeking to prevent the construction of two high rise residential towers on the uplands of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier Six, near Atlantic Avenue and Furman Street.

The BHA’s suit was based on language in the Park’s General Project Plan providing that no more private development would be allowed in the park than is necessary to provide the Park with funds, in the form of payments in lieu of taxes (“PILOTS”), needed to provide for the Park’s ongoing maintenance and operations. The BHA engaged financial experts who compared the Park’s maintenance and operational needs with what they considered the likely amount of PILOT revenue to be generated by already completed or soon to be so commercial and residential projects. These projects, the experts concluded, would produce more than enough revenue to cover all reasonably expected maintenance and operational costs. The BBPC’s and developers’ experts disagreed.

The Curbed story quotes the judge’s ruling as follows: “[while the BHA’s experts] provided rational alternatives to the analyses of respondents’ experts … [i]t simply means that respondents had more than one acceptable path to take in their review of this complex and multi-part project”. This implies that “build” and “don’t build” were both acceptable results within the terms of the General Project Plan, which seems odd. Perhaps it reflects the court’s sense of frustration following repeated attempts to get the parties to reach a compromise and settle the suit.

Curbed reports that the BHA has issued a statement of its “disappointment” with the court’s ruling, noting that it still strongly believes the Pier Six towers “far exceed the Park’s fiscal needs.” It also notes that the BHA “is considering its next steps in its long-term effort to ensure that the BBPC complies with its legal obligations.”

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Pier Six Towers Update: Developers Busy Building and Advertising Despite No Court Decisionhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85618 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85618#comments Tue, 30 Jan 2018 03:48:16 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85618

The Brooklyn Paper reports that the developers of the two controversial high rise residential towers on the uplands of Pier Six, near the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park and on park land, have already done extensive construction work on one of the two towers (see photo in story linked above) and are, as the story indicates, already advertising to (although not yet accepting any money from) prospective condo buyers. This is despite there is as yet no final ruling on a lawsuit brought by the Brooklyn Heights Association and others to prevent construction of the towers, on the contention that revenue from them is not necessary to fund the park’s maintenance. As it stands, a judge has ordered that, while construction may proceed at the developers own risk, they should do nothing “that is irreversible or incapable of restoration to its original condition” until the court issues its final decision.

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Vacant Retail Spaces: Why? What, If Anything, Can Be Done?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85287 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85287#comments Sun, 26 Nov 2017 00:38:55 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85287

You would have to have been in Brooklyn Heights for over five years to remember when the last tenant, Starbucks, moved out of 112 Montague Street (photo) to a smaller space a block away. Since then, apart from being used as storage space for Lassen & Hennigs next door, the space has lain fallow. While there are no similar long-term vacancies on Montague (well; there’s the Bossert, which is not quite vacant because of a few holdover tenants, but that’s another story), there are others not far away.

Why? Greedy landlords? Bricks-and-mortar retail is dying because of the internet? Daniel Roberts in The Bridge has examined the reasons, and finds many in addtion to those just mentioned. A tight market for financing, both for real estate and for start-up businesses is one. Complexities of property ownership–I once read of a building in, as I recall, DUMBO, that was inherited jointly by, I think, five siblings, who could never agree on what to do with it–is another. As for solutions to the problem, many have been proposed, but nothing seems to be a priority for the present city administration.

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Another Court Hearing on Pier Six Towers Tomorrow Afternoonhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85199 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85199#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:14:27 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85199

Cobble Hill community activist Judi Francis has alerted us to another, and probably final, court hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, November 14, on the action brought by the Brooklyn Heights Association to prevent further construction (some work has already begun; at a previous hearing the judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order, but issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the developers from doing anything that can’t easily be undone should the court’s final decision go against them) of the proposed high rise residential towers on two parcels of land near Pier Six and the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since then, a new judge has taken over the case, and at the immediately previous hearing she appeared to be receptive to the case being made by the BHA, urging the parties to seek compromise.

From Ms. Francis:

While always difficult to win an Article 78 [the type of proceeding the BHA has had to institute], we have a strong case, and after 13 years of near complete disregard for the needs of the community (i.e, school overcrowding, no new parklands despite the huge increase in residential population never studied in the park’s original EIS, violations of the Promenade’s view plane by gross overbuilding of the Pierhouses, and admitting they do not need the funds from this housing for the park’s maintenance), the city remains immovable and unwilling to consider alternatives to their housing plan. The city seems to have forgotten that the purpose of this project was to build a park for the recreational needs of residents that are here today, not a housing complex.

The hearing will begin at 2:45 PM at the New York Supreme Courthouse, 80 Centre Street in Manhattan, in the courtroom of Justice Carmen St. George. As Justice St. George has shown interest in the community involvement in this case, Ms. Francis is urging anyone who can to attend.

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Florida Developer Buys Witnesses’ Towers Hotel, Will Convert to Senior Housinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85091 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85091#comments Wed, 01 Nov 2017 03:50:14 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85091

The Wall Street Journal reports that Florida based private equity firm Kayne Anderson has bought 21 Clark Street, better known as the Towers Hotel, from the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society, better known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for $200 million. The building has an interesting history, recounted by our late founder here. According to the Journal story, the new owners will convert it to luxury senior (65 and over) housing.

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Hearing on Pier Six Towers Thursday Morninghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85080 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/85080#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2017 16:07:44 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=85080

The next step in the litigation brought by the Brooklyn Heights Association to prevent construction of two high rise residential towers near Pier Six and the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park will take place this coming Thursday morning, November 2, at 9:30, at the New York Supreme Court, New York County, 80 Centre Street, Room 308, in Manhattan. The hearing will be before Justice Carmen St. George, who has replaced Justice Lucy Billings on the case because Justice Billings was assigned other duties.

Opponents of the proposed towers are encouraging all members of the public who can to attend the hearing.

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Oral Arguments in Save the View Now’s Suit Against Pierhouse in Brooklyn Heights Fridayhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84980 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84980#comments Wed, 18 Oct 2017 03:17:20 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84980

Oral arguments in the appeal of the lower court’s dismissal of Save the View Now’s suit to remedy the Pierhouse’s interference with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the protected view plane from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade will be held this Friday, October 20, at the Appellate Division Courthouse, 45 Monroe Place, corner of Pierrepont. The time of the hearing isn’t known, but Save the View urges supporters to arrive at the courthouse by 10:30 AM but be prepared to wait. Save the View’s Steven Guterman says it’s important for the judges to know that there’s community support for their effort.

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Yes, Matt Damon Likely Will Be Your Neighborhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84714 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84714#comments Wed, 13 Sep 2017 03:07:43 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84714

The Real Deal, citing a Wall Street Journal story that’s behind a paywall, reports that actor Matt Damon is in contract to buy the penthouse at The Standish, 171 Columbia Heights. According to the Real Deal, if the sale goes off at the asking price of $16.645 million, it could set a new record for Brooklyn.

Several years ago Damon was considering the purchase of the mansion at 3 Pierrepont Place. It’s said he lost interest after St. Ann’s refused to bend its rules to let his kids in after the admissions deadline.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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Kushner Cos. Drop Out of Watchtower Dealhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84664 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84664#comments Thu, 07 Sep 2017 20:26:31 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84664

The Brooklyn Eagle reports that The Kushner Cos. have dropped out of a deal to buy 90 Sands St. (photo), a building owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Kushner Cos. has purchased a handful of properties that used to belong to the religious organization.

The company, which was headed by Jared Kushner until he stepped away to serve as senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, and its investment partners agreed in 2013 to purchase 90 Sands St. as part of a package of Watchtower properties.

The plan was for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to continue to use the hotel until 2017, then close on its sale.

Now, one of Kushner Cos.’ investment partners, RFR, has made the hotel purchase on its own.

According to the article, Kushner Cos. and its investment partners have spent $1 billion on purchases of Watchtower properties.

Get the full story at the Eagle

Photo: C. Scales for BHB.

 

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Witnesses Dispose Of More Brooklyn Heights Propertieshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84546 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84546#comments Fri, 18 Aug 2017 03:20:41 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84546

The Eagle reports that L.A. based real estate investors Hawkins Way Capital have bought 117 Columbia Heights (photo), a Brutalist intrusion, by Ulrich Franzen, into a row of nineteenth century townhouses, three of which were also bought by Hawkins from Watchtower and, like 117, became residences for Witnesses.

The sale seems to indicate that the last of the major Watchtower properties in the Heights, with the exception of the former Leverich Towers Hotel, which remains on the market, have been sold.

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Worker Injured In Fall From Roof Of 135 Joralemonhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84532 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84532#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 02:47:50 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84532

The Daily News reports that a construction worker, Antonio Garcia, “suffered serious injuries” because of a fall from the roof of 135 Joralemon Street (photo). Mr. Garcia was replacing shingles on the roof of the landmarked 185 year old house when he fell and landed on his head. He was taken to Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, where he is in serious condition.

Mr. Garcia is employed by V Roofing and Construction. The Daily News contacted them, but they would not comment. The General Contractor, American Residential Contractor LTD and a subcontractor, Velu General Contracting, were both cited for not providing adequate fall protection.

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Kushner Companies Sued Over Alleged Rent Violations At 89 Hickshttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84517 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84517#comments Wed, 16 Aug 2017 03:41:13 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84517

Curbed reports that tenants at 89 Hicks Street (photo), which the Kushner Companies bought from Brooklyn Law School, which had used it as a dormitory, in 2014, are suing because they claim the new owners

waged a “deceptive, systematic and pervasive pattern of misconduct to skirt rent stabilization laws,” and may have bilked tenants out of as much as $1 million in rent overcharges.

The suit was brought following an investigation of the Kushner Companies’ practices concerning rent stabilization requirements by Housing Rights Initiative, a non-profit organization that “systematically and proactively investigate[s] rent fraud in rent stabilized buildings and connect[s] tenants to legal support.”

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, was previously CEO of the Kushner Companies. He resigned when he assumed his present position as Senior White House Advisor.

Photo: N*ked Apartments.

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Update On Pier Six Towers: New Justice Takes Overhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84514 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84514#comments Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:19:32 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84514

Our last report on the Brooklyn Heights Association’s lawsuit against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and the developers to prevent the construction of two high rise residential towers on the uplands of Pier Six noted that Justice Lucy Billings had orally declined to issue a temporary restraining order requested by the BHA to prevent any construction work until the court issues its decision in the case. Nevertheless, Justice Billings warned that any construction done prior to the court’s decision was at the developers’ peril, as the court could decide not to allow it to proceed. The BHA has advised us that Justice Billings has now issued a written version of her earlier oral order, noting that the developers and their contractors should not undertake anything “that is irreversible or incapable of restoration to its original condition” until the court issues its decision.

The Justice also noted in her written order that she had declined to issue the TRO requested by the BHA for several reasons. One of these, noted in our earlier post, is that she did not consider the noise from pile driving to be “irreparable harm” required to justify a TRO. While perhaps not “irreparable,” the noise has aroused some strong complaints from parents whose kids use nearby playgrounds, as The Brooklyn Paper reports. The Justice’s written order further notes that it was based on “the lack of a convincing showing that petitioner [the BHA] is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims.”

Justice Billings also advised the litigants that she has been assigned new duties, and as a consequence, the case will now be given over to Justice Carmen St. George. She said that Justice St. George’s decision would not be affected by whatever construction is done between now and when the decision is issued.

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Will 67 Remsen Be Brooklyn Heights’ Next Mansion?http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84462 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84462#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 03:23:26 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84462

Curbed reports that owner Gili Haberberg wants to convert the ten unit apartment building at 67 Remsen Street (photo) to a mansion-sized (4,700 square feet) single family residence. Haberberg bought the property from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2012 for $3.35 million. It sits next to the back end of the Bossert, between Hicks and Henry streets.

Photo by C. Scales for BHB.

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Library Site Developer Sued Over Commissionhttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84468 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84468#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 03:05:08 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84468

The Real Deal reports that real estate private equity bankers Carlton Group are suing Hudson Companies, developers, on the site of the former Brooklyn Heights Branch Library, of the high rise residential and commercial building that will include a new branch library on its ground and lower floors. Carlton’s suit alleges that Hudson failed to pay $2.2 million in commissions owed for arranging financing for the new building. The Real Deal story quotes a Hudson spokesman as saying the case is without merit.

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FDNY May Take Part Of Former Hillary HQ At One Pierrepont Plazahttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84470 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84470#comments Fri, 04 Aug 2017 02:42:13 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84470

The Real Deal reports that the FDNY is considering taking half of the space at One Pierrepont Plaza (photo) vacated by Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, to replace part of the administrative space in nearby MetroTech that it has now outgrown.

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Is The Brooklyn Heights Historic District a Mistake? Heights Resident Sandy Ikeda Thinks Sohttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83443 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/83443#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 03:24:02 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=83443

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at SUNY Purchase, and a resident of Brooklyn Heights. He’s also a very personable and bright guy, as your correspondent can attest, having gone on two Jane’s Walks through the Heights that he led, one several years ago and one this April. On each occasion he showed extensive knowledge of the neighborhood, including information that I, a resident of thirty years, didn’t know.

IMG_8039For example, I learned that the townhouse on Clinton Street in the photo above served, in the time just after the conclusion of World War II, as a halfway house for Japanese-Americans who had been interned in camps during the war.

IMG_8040Then there’s this plaque on the townhouse at the corner of Clinton and Livingston, that identifies it as having been the clubhouse of the Brooklyn Excelsiors, baseball champions in 1850, and one of whose pitchers may have invented the curve ball. The Excelsiors were lineal ancestors of the Brooklyn Dodgers, my first love in baseball, even though I lived nowhere near Brooklyn at the time.

Despite his knowledge of, and obvious love for, Brooklyn Heights, Sandy has argued here that the designation of Brooklyn Heights as a landmarked historic district was a mistake. He says he and others have benefited from it; they “enjoy the quiet and charm of a place nearly frozen in time – we basically live in a museum with restaurants.” The problem, he says, is that the restrictions imposed by landmarking have constrained how owners may use or dispose of their property and, for a more far-reaching effect, have limited the supply of housing over the whole local market, making it less affordable for all.

These were “Jane’s Walks,” and Sandy is an admirer of Jane Jacobs, whose The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities examined the question, “What makes cities work?” She championed the idea of the “neighborhood,” an area incorporating a mix of uses: residential, commercial, and public (schools, libraries, police and fire, parks) and a mix of old and new buildings housing people of diverse economic means. She opposed attempts to impose order or rationality through “urban renewal” schemes that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Neighborhoods, she thought, should be allowed to develop organically.

Jacobs also fought against the construction of highways through urban neighborhoods, which destroyed large parts of them and created divisions where none had existed before. Sandy noted with approval the efforts by Brooklyn Heights residents to keep Robert Moses from routing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway through Brooklyn Heights, an effort that caused Moses to re-route the highway to the edge of the bluff atop which the Heights sits, and to create the Promenade above it. Like Jacobs, Sandy saw Moses’ original plan to route the highway through the Heights as a heavy handed government intrusion into a neighborhood; one that would alter its character for the worse.

How, then, did landmark designation, which was brought about by local residents (though no doubt some were opposed) violate Jacobs’ principles? She believed neighborhoods should develop organically, but also (according to this brief bio) was “[a] firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop.” I didn’t put this question directly to Sandy during our Jane’s walk, but I think his answer would have been twofold: first, by tying their own hands with regard to the disposition of their properties, owners at the time of landmarking were also tying the hands of future generations of owners who had no voice in the matter; and second, that the wishes of the neighborhood’s residents in this respect were outweighed by the city’s need for greater density (which Jacobs also advocated) and the affordable housing this would make possible.

I haven’t found any indication that Jacobs took a position, pro or con, concerning the landmarking of Brooklyn Heights, which occurred a few years before she left New York for Toronto. I have learned, though, that Brooklyn Heights was her first home in New York City. She and her sister Betty lived on a block of Orange Street that, some time after they moved out, was demolished to make way for Moses’ Cadman Plaza housing development.

As Sandy and I walked along the Promenade, I asked him if, had Brooklyn Heights developed “organically,” we would be seeing a phalanx of high rises to our right instead of the backs of townhouses and their gardens. His first response was, “Yes,” but then he quickly added, “Well, you can’t really tell.” That’s true; real estate markets have their ups and downs, as do cities as preferred places to live. It’s also possible that the owners of townhouses along Columbia Heights might have made a pact not to sell to any developer. How enforceable that would be, and how long it could be effective, are relevant questions. It’s not unknown, though, for property owners to refuse a deal that would be lucrative in the short run in order to preserve a pleasant ambiance and the prospect of long term appreciation in value. This is just what happened when the owners at 75 Henry Street, part of the Cadman Plaza high rise complex, voted to say “no” to a developer’s offer that would have resulted in the construction of a new high rise on the location of the Pineapple Walk shops.

IMG_8583

For better or worse, New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is now considered very desirable. My guess is that the Heights, without landmarking, would today have the phalanx facing the water and many, though not all (some still survive in Midtown East), stretches of attractive row houses (as in the photo above) demolished and replaced by tall buildings, casting many shadows over the neighborhood. The Columbia Heights phalanx would make the Promenade a less attractive place to visit. I think the Heights would still be largely a “residential monoculture,” as that seems, in economic terms, the “highest and best use” as determined by market demand. We’d still have restaurants, probably more of them, and perhaps more high end retail.

What Jane Jacobs may not have foreseen when she wrote her first two great books was that her beloved West Village would be overrun by, well, people like me: people who could afford $350 a month (in 1973) for a one bedroom in a gut rehabbed tenement; people with jobs in law firms (like me), ad agencies, or banks, but who harbored artistic pretensions and were looking for authenticity, instead of the sterility of the Upper East Side or, heaven forbid, the suburbs. This began a trend of gentrification that led to what my friend David Coles describes here. Much of the West Village, like the Heights, became a landmarked district. It also became devoid of what Jacobs praised: a mixture of uses and of people of differing economic circumstances.

The Heights went through a similar process of gentrification, well described with respect to Brooklyn generally by Suleiman Osman in his The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn. The early gentrifiers were in the vanguard of those seeking designation of the Heights as a historic district. Today it is a much less economically diverse community than it was in the 1960s and before, and commercial rents have risen considerably, forcing out some locally beloved stores, the latest being Housing Works. I believe, though, that these changes would have happened with or without landmarking. Any new high rises built in the Heights, because of its proximity to water and its pre-existing charm. would have commanded very high rentals or asking prices. Their combined effect would have been to make the neighborhood less attractive, but not enough to make it affordable for those of moderate means.

Jane Jacobs may not have foreseen gentrification, nor the ability of private developers to disrupt neighborhoods by (sometimes surreptitiously) acquiring assemblages of land and purchasing air rights in order to put up massive structures. I asked Sandy if he believed that private, as well as government, entities could impose on neighborhoods in ways that frustrated Jacobs’ notion of organic development. He unhesitatingly replied, “Yes.”

The question is, was the landmarking of the Heights worth it on a cost versus benefit basis? I would say it was. To Sandy’s first objection, that it puts a burden on property owners in the district, I would say: should the burden become too great for a majority of them, they may petition the city to remove it. To the objection that it constrains the supply of available housing, I would say that the constraint, in the case of the Heights, is minor. My further answer would go to less economic than, dare I say, historic and romantic considerations. I think it’s important to save some neighborhoods, like the Heights and the West Village, as reminders, imperfect as they may be, of what the city once was like, and of the history that played out in them; not only, as in the case of the Heights, that Washington’s army camped here in August of 1776 and that he planned his troops’ escape from Long Island here, or that many great artists, writers, and political figures have made homes here, but also in the more impressionistic words of Truman Capote in his A House on the Heights:

These houses bespeak an age of able servants and solid fireside ease, invoke specters of bearded seafaring father and bonneted stay-at-home wives: devoted parents to great broods of future bankers and fashionable brides.

Landmarking couldn’t save residential or commercial diversity in the Heights or the West Village, but lack of landmarking wouldn’t have, either. Indeed, it would likely, in my opinion, have made things worse.

Photos: C. Scales for BHB.

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Two New Floors, Condos May Come To Former Banana Republic Sitehttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84351 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84351#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 01:39:41 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84351

CityRealty reports that plans have been filed by owner Eli M. Dweck and Marin Architects to add two stories to the building at 133 Montague Street, formerly home of Banana Republic (and, when your correspondent moved here in 1983, of a Burger King). The resulting four story building, if the plans are approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, would have 3,187 square feet of street level retail space and 7,474 square feet of residential space above.

Image: Google Street View

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Judge Nixes BHA Request; Pier 6 Developers May Proceed At Own Risk Until Final Rulinghttp://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84329 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/84329#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 03:37:27 +0000 http://brooklynheightsblog.com/?p=84329

The Eagle reports that today New York Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings denied the Brooklyn Heights Association’s motion for a temporary restraining order to keep the developers of the two proposed high rise residetial towers near Pier Six in Brooklyn Bridge Park from beginning construction before the August 4 hearing, at which Judge Billings will consider the merits of the BHA’s suit to permanently enjoin their construction. That suit is based on the theory that the revenue from the two proposed towers is not needed to fund the Park’s maintenance needs.

The BHA’s request for a TRO noted that the earliest phase of construction would involve driving of long steel piles into the ground (see photo of pile driver poised for action at Pier Six site), which would generate noise that would make nearby playgrounds unusable and seriously affect residents of nearby buildings. Judge Billings’ response was, “It’s noise”; meaning it doesn’t meet the standard of “immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damages” required under New York law to issue a TRO. Nevertheless, she warned the developers that any work undertaken before she rules on the merits of the BHA’s case is done at their risk, as she may yet decide that they may not proceed with the construction of the two towers.

Photo: C. Scales for BHB

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