Saturday, January 10, 2009
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As we mentioned earlier this week, the Board of Standards and Appeals held its first hearing on the case of 163 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill yesterday. The developer, GLC Group, was represented by a lawyer, Ron Mandel (from Sheldon Lobel, P.C.), an engineer named Richard Esposito, and a couple more men in suits. The coalition of neighborhood opposition known as the Building Too Tall was represented by City Council Member Letitia James, a lawyer, an engineer, and at least 100 members of the community, including representatives from Historic Wallabout, the Society for Clinton Hill, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a large group of residents from Willoughby Walk, and various other concernced citizens. Both because the outcome of this particular case is important and because it's interesting to learn how the BSA process works, we're running a play-by-play from one of the attendees, who, it should be noted, is against the project in its current form. As you will see, the case hinges largely on determining what percentage of the building's foundation was complete by July 25 when the new zoning went into effect and what, if any, DOB rules may have been broken by the developer and contractor in rushing to meet that deadline.
Lawyer Ron Mandel opened by saying that, contrary to the finding by the DOB that the site was only 40% complete, the foundation for 163 Washington Ave is actually 72% complete (this number was revised from their original claim of 78% after follow up clarification by the BSA in the weeks before the hearing). He also stated that the site was 100% excavated, even though 15 footings for a 2nd floor terrace have not been excavated or poured yet. After questioning on this point by the BSA, Mandel and Esposito suggested that they were not excavated because they needed the area for staging and driving heavy equipment so they didn’t excavate. The question of excavation in regards to the 2nd floor terrace parking cover is important because a) it is attached to the building and is defined as a “roof”, and b) without this 2nd floor terrace the building would not meet the open space requirement and therefore could not be built as planned.
Letitia James spoke before the committee, bringing up many of the technical issues in the case as well as voicing issues and concerns from the community. Then the lawyer for Building Too Tall reminded the BSA that section 11-331 of the zoning resolution states clearly that a foundation has to be 100% excavated to allow vesting. She also stated that the area in question could not have been used for staging because there is a giant mountain of sand in that spot making it impossible to use for anything. The developer could easily have removed this sand and excavated the footings. Furthermore, if the developer had wanted to use the area for staging this sand would have had to have been removed and should have been removed as it was a hazard to Hall street and its residents. She also stated that in regards to meeting the substantial progress requirement the burden in this case is on the developer because they worked at a lazy pace, had numerous safety violations, and did work without permits, therefore they didn’t complete the foundation in time due to their own conduct.
The BSA then asked the developer why work had taken place without permits, including at least two days where workers were photographed at the site pouring concrete and working up to an hour after their required stop time? Esposito said that they had only worked one day after hours (technically without a permit). When asked if they had ever requested any after hours permits he said no. Finally the developer was questioned extensively about their concrete pours including the timing of these pours and how long it takes for each truck to pour. Follow up clarification from the developer was requested for many of the points above and a new hearing was scheduled for December 11th.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
At last night's pre-BSA hearing, the Community Board 2 land use committee voted unanimously to recommend against granting a variance to the developer of 163 Washington Avenue for a 17-story building that no longer conforms to the new zoning rules for the area that went into effect at the end of July; the committee did not buy the developer's argument that the foundation was "substantially complete" when the new zoning went into effect. Several people from the neighborhood (including Councilwoman Tish James, shown here with a rendering of the proposed project at Monday night's Fort Greene Association meeting) spoke against the 163 Washington project. A neighbor who claims her building has sprung multiple cracks since the project also voiced her objection. At the same session, the board voted in favor of allowing a first-time developer to build his five-story building at 72-76 Grand Avenue five feet higher than the new code permits. Both votes are only recommendations, so both developers still have to go in front of the BSA.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Click for a larger image to share!!!! PASS IT ON!
Come to the hearing to testify or just to see what is going on. These cases will then go to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), and CB2 will submit its recommendation.
DATE: Wed., Sept. 19, 2007
TIME: 6 pm
PLACE: Polytechnic University
5 Metrotech Center, Room LC 400
Thursday, August 2, 2007
The GLC Group recently posted a rendering of their plan for 163 Washington. The 17 story building would house 50 condos in a tower behind the well-known restaurant Kum Kau (Myrtle - Hall/Washington).
Considering the recent rezoning of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, which requires new buildings in the project area to be no higher than 50 feet, the ultimate design of the building is uncertain at this point, as was highlighted by Brownstoner last week.
In order to continue as planned, the developer would be required to get authorization from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to renew ("vest") their building permits, which under Section 11-331 of the Zoning Resolution means that the project has to have completed excavation and has to have made substantial progress on the foundations, and the BSA determines whether or not these qualifications have been met.
To learn more about the BSA, click here.