Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights resident wants more security for $6.3 million brownstone

Says it's a 'bomb ready to go off'

November 25, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Heights resident Jeff Smith points out the unlocked window and basement hatch that have left a $6.3 million brownstone unprotected for weeks. Photo by Mary Frost
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A $6.3 million brownstone in tony Brooklyn Heights has been vacant and unlocked for at least five weeks, and a neighbor worries it will attract vagrants, curious kids and big trouble.

Jeff Smith, a community activist who lives down the street from the gutted mansion at 38 Monroe Place, has filed two complaints with the NYC Department of Buildings, but told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday that he’s not satisfied with the response so far.

“It’s irresponsible,” Smith said on Saturday, pointing out the open garden floor window and unlocked basement hatch. “There are holes in the floor, meaning there are no fire breaks. It’s a bomb ready to go off.”

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“Leaving a building like this has always been a prequel to serious fires in the Heights,” he said, mentioning a previous fire at 27 Monroe Place and a fire at the Hotel Margaret that occurred years ago. “It’s part of a syndrome of valuable properties being exposed to fire, when simple, off-the-shelf technology is available. The bottom line is this building needs alarm and fire suppression devices.”

FDNY came by to inspect, Smith said, but could do nothing because no trash was found in the building. Neighbors also called NYPD recently after strangers were observed entering the building. By the time cops arrived, Smith said, the building was empty.

A man who lives next door told the Eagle that he had entered 38 Monroe himself recently to rescue a cat stuck on the back porch. “I can’t believe you can just literally pull the window open,” he said. “It should be locked up.”

Neighbor Mike Pope told the Eagle that workers had been doing construction at the brownstone over the summer, “but nothing in a while. They gutted it in one week but they’ve done nothing since. They really need to secure the building.”

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Eagle on Tuesday that BHA has reported the problem to the 84th Precinct.

The brownstone is owned by real estate group Kushner Properties, which bought it from Brooklyn Law School in April, 2014. It was part of a group of six prime Heights properties sold by BLS, including one at 27 Monroe Place.

The 1900 building, called a “spectacular Brooklyn Heights 5-story townhouse” by real estate sites, is being converted into a single-family home, according to documents available on the city’s Department of Buildings website.

A spokesperson for Kushner Properties responded to the Eagle on Tuesday, saying, “We take security issues very seriously and are addressing the issues.”

On Tuesday, Smith reported partial success, saying that someone had come by and nailed a board over the broken window and padlocked the basement. He said these measures are easily circumvented, however.

“It’s cosmetic,” he said. They need to put in an anti-intrusion device and fire alarm.”


At the time of the first inspection by DOB on Nov. 24, no building code violations were witnessed by the inspector. According to DOB records, the inspector referred the complaint to NYPD to follow up on the possibility of tresspassers. Following the second complaint, DOB will be sending another inspector to the site to review for unsafe building conditions. If a violation is found, DOB will take steps to attempt to have the owner remedy the condition.

A DOB spokesperson told the Eagle on Tuesday, “Maintenance of a building in a code compliant and safe manner is the responsibility of property owners. The Department of Buildings encourages individuals that witness unsafe construction or building conditions to report them for inspection.”


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